The Formula 1 Gossip column
The latest gossip and speculation from around the sport after a bumper summer of driver moves
Last Updated: 26/09/18 10:50am
What next for the Mercedes juniors?
Toto Wolff says Mercedes are prepared to play the "long game" with their young drivers Esteban Ocon and George Russell - with their F1 futures still far from certain.
Ocon has impressed in his two years in F1 with Manor and Force India but is without a drive for next year, while Russell, leading the F2 championship, has also seen options evaporate.
"There are many good drivers who merit a drive in Formula One, both young ones and more experienced ones, but at the moment cockpits are a limited commodity," explained Mercedes boss Wolff.
"Both Esteban and George certainly deserve to be in Formula One; we are still working on options and will carefully decide what's best for them.
"If that means having to play the long game, then we will continue to prepare and develop them."
Another 2019 piece falls into place
Antonio Giovinazzi to drive for Sauber in 2019, replacing Marcus Ericsson - although Marcus will remain Sauber's third driver...
Norris to practice for McLaren
McLaren have confirmed Lando Norris will drive in Practice One this weekend. It means Lando is facing another busy weekend in Sochi given he will also be competing in the F2 championship.
Interesting words between Schumacher and Ticktum
Plenty of spice has been added to the battle between Mick Schumacher and Red Bull junior driver Dan Ticktum in their fight for the European F3 title.
After Schumacher secured a fifth successive victory, Ticktum described his rival's form as interesting", adding: "I am fighting a losing battle as my last name is not Schumacher."
And Schumacher has now responded to Speedweek: "I do not listen to something like that. The car is terrific to drive. We've evolved as a team, while others may have stopped at one point.
"I wish him good luck that he stays in the title fight. But I focus on myself, that's my key.
"Everyone evolves during the year. We never stop working and learning. After my win at Spa it was not easy, but we managed to be consistent, especially in qualifying, with good lap times."
Does Vandoorne have a McLaren future?
He may have lost his F1 seat for 2018, but Zak Brown says McLaren would love to keep Stoffel Vandoorne if they have an IndyCar programme next year.
"Yes, I think he's an extremely fast driver, very consistent," the team's CEO told RACER. "I think he'd make a great sports car driver and a great IndyCar driver. I think he'd make a good Formula 1 driver, we just had a difficult two years.
"We're fans of his. McLaren would definitely race with Stoffel in other racing series and I think it would be great to see his story continue with McLaren."
Dale Coyne Racing have reportedly already approached Vandoorne, but McLaren hope to have their own team in some shape or form, and are in discussions with Honda about a partnership.
"It's no secret it has been under serious consideration to enter IndyCar, but as of yet we have made no decisions," said McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran.
"There has been a lot of conversations, particularly internally, but I think it's important as we decide what to do, whether it's IndyCar, whether it's WEC, all of the above or something else, that the programme not only doesn't distract from the main focus, which is Formula 1, but also potentially adds to the whole McLaren racing effort." (Full story - external site)
Alonso likes the look of 2021 F1 cars
He may be leaving the sport at the end of the season, but Fernando Alonso is a fan of the F1 car prototypes for 2021.
Ross Brawn revealed the concept ahead of the Singapore GP.
"If they did a study, they checked and they know it's going to be better in the future, it's the way to go," the two-time world champion said.
"The cars aesthetically look different. More like a Formula Renault or an IndyCar and they seem to follow each other a little bit closer. It's good to copy ideas that work already."
One of the reasons for the huge technical overhaul is to improve overtaking.
"It has been a little bit the nature of Formula 1, it's always been difficult to follow cars," added Alonso.
"I don't think it's been more difficult than 2004 or 2005 and those kind of years. It was probably a bit easier from 2010 to 2016 - when we introduced last year the wide wings and the wide tyres it makes it a little bit more difficult now."
Red Bull could take Russia penalties
With a need to introduce at least one more engine into their pool for the final six races, Red Bull have admitted the next race in Russia may well be the venue for their latest round of engine penalties.
"We need to look at it but the likelihood is Sochi is an obvious place," said team boss Christian Horner.
In F1's four previous visits to the Sochi Autodrom, Red Bull have not qualified or finished higher than fifth.
From four wheels to, er, two...?
Brawn: Verstappen is a future champion
Max Verstappen proved he has the ability, and composure, to be a future F1 world champion with his performance at the Singapore GP, according to F1 chief Ross Brawn.
The Dutchman sealed his first podium finish since his Austrian GP win as he superbly qualified just behind Hamilton before then holding off Sebastian Vettel for second place in the race.
"The young Dutchman squeezed every last drop of performance out of his Red Bull, first when he unexpectedly put it on the front row on Saturday and then on Sunday with an impeccable drive that showed real maturity," said Brawn.
"He even managed to close on Hamilton when they came up behind traffic, but even then he avoided unnecessary risks, perhaps aware that he didn't have a real chance of winning."
Brawn continued: "It shows that the Dutchman has all the hallmarks of a future champion.
"It's not enough to just produce phenomenal performances in some races if others are marred by silly mistakes, but more and more Verstappen's race are characterised by not just prodigious pace but also composure."
Wolff: Merc's Hamilton handling proved right
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton's performance in the Singapore GP proves the Silver Arrows' laissez-faire handling of their driver is the right approach.
"Since six years, I've heard 'how can you allow Lewis to get off and fly around the world?' You know what? He did it to his most extreme in the last 10 days," Wolff told the F1 website. "He loved it. He was in Shanghai on the catwalk, he was in New York a couple of days later, he came here, rock and roll, and he blew everyone away.
"Let's be non-judgemental and allow everyone to judge how he performed best. And he knows best what is good for him" (Full story - external site)
Papers savage 'desperate' Ferrari
The pressure is ramping up on Ferrari, and Monday's papers have not been forgiving when it comes to the team's disappointing Singapore GP.
'Ferrari are struggling to keep their heads clear these days,' writes Jonathan McEvoy in the Daily Mail.
'That is primarily because Hamilton is so quick that they have become desperate. It is why Vettel is questioning his Ferrari pit-wall people more often than before.'
Rebecca Clancy of The Times believes team principal Maurizio Arrivabene is in danger of losing his job.
'By the end of the Asian round of races last year, Maurizio Arrivabene's position as Ferrari's team principal was in question,' she notes. 'Ferrari chose to stick with him, deciding that stability was the key to growth. So it proved to be and the Scuderia came back this season.
'Yet as the rounds tick by, and Ferrari's weaknesses are increasingly exposed, the question over Arrivabene's future looms again. How many more seasons can Ferrari appear to come close, only to lose out through their own failings?
'Costly misjudgments by Ferrari and Vettel on Saturday and yesterday added to the list of mistakes made by both this season.
'With Hamilton and Mercedes showing no signs of weakness, there is a growing sense that Ferrari have already cost themselves any chance of the title.'
There was also immense praise for Lewis Hamilton from Fleet Street.
Giles Richards of The Guardian writes: 'His win at the Singapore Grand Prix was the culmination of a weekend when he put together moments of almost transcendent skill and a ruthless execution when it mattered that was untouchable.
'Reminiscent of Tiger Woods at his peak, Hamilton's performance for Mercedes under the lights of Marina Bay looked a class apart from his rivals. So much so that he now has one hand on the title.'
Kvyat and Wehrlein for Toro Rosso in 2019?
Is Daniil Kvyat heading back to Toro Rosso for a third spell?
Rumours that the Russian, currently a development driver for Ferrari, could return to the team have swirled for the last month after Scuderia bosses were spotted in talks with their Red Bull counterparts at the Belgian GP.
Kvyat has twice driven for Toro Rosso previously. While his first spell ended with a promotion to Red Bull, his second ended in fractious fashion in late 2017. But it now appears he is poised to be welcomed back into the Toro Rosso/Red Bull family.
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has indicated an announcement will be made in two weeks' time at the Russian GP.
But while Kvyat would replace the Red Bull-bound Pierre Gasly, what of the team's second seat?
Few in the paddock believe Brendon Hartley will be retained and the new favourite for the expected vacancy is Pascal Wehrlein, who was released from his association with Mercedes earlier this week.
"Franz Tost is a big fan of Pascal Wehrlein and wants to sign him now that he is free of his Mercedes contract," reported Sky F1's Ted Kravitz during his Singapore GP qualifying notebook.
"Kvyat and Wehrlein? Don't bet against it."
At Sauber, meanwhile, Antonio Giovinazzi is considered the likeliest option to partner Kimi Raikkonen in 2019.
Like Kvyat, Giovinazzi is currently contracted to Ferrari. All the indications therefore are pointing to the Scuderia having two development driver roles becoming available at the end of the year. Who will fill those vacancies?
Will Ocon get a 2019 drive?
Plenty for Toto Wolff, Christian Horner and Esteban Ocon to discuss after the Mercedes boss revealed his anger at Ocon's struggle to be part of the 2019 grid... (Full story)
F1 reveals its car of the future
Not yet the end of the F1 road for Wehrlein
His relationship with Mercedes may be ending at the end of 2018, but Pascal Wehrlein says he remains in the hunt for an F1 seat next season.
"I am looking for new challenges and opportunities, and am currently talking to other teams about a cockpit for next season," said the former Manor and Sauber driver.
Wehrlein was linked with a Toro Rosso drive at the expense of Brendon Hartley earlier in the year and appears likely to be one of the many drivers in contention for one of the two seats at the team in 2019.
Ferrari door 'always open' for Schumacher Jnr
The name of Mick Schumacher has been mentioned with regularity during the Singapore GP weekend after the teenage son of Michael's winning run in European F3.
The 19-year-old is not linked to an F1 team yet - but could Ferrari, where his father enjoyed record-breaking success, he a natural eventual fit?
"Concerning Mick Schumacher I think the most important thing is to let him grow, without giving pressure," said Ferrari chief Maurizio Arrivabene.
"Recent results are very, very good and I wish him a great career. With a name like this, that wrote historical pages of Ferrari history, the door of Maranello is always open."
Russell desperate for 2019 F1 seat
Formula 2 championship leader George Russell says he is doing everything he can to secure a 2019 F1 seat as he looks to avoid another season racing in a different category.
"We're definitely looking towards a Formula 1 seat next year," Russell told Sky F1. "How everything has played out so far, it's not been as simple as everyone may have hoped for.
"Given my age no [a year outside F1 wouldn't be bad] - but a year outside of racing single seaters or being in the F1 paddock is not ideal. We're trying to avoid that at all costs. Things are changing day by day, week by week, so I just have to keep pushing on track, performing there and hopefully the rest should come."
Williams' 2019 driver decision a way off
Claire Williams admits Williams are operating on a "race-by-race" basis around Lance Stroll's future at the team and says the Force India situation has distracted them from their 2019 driver considerations.
"It is a bit of a moving target at the moment (around Lance)," Williams told Sky F1. "We're going through those conversations and waiting to see where and when he'll end up. It's more about what happens at Force India than it is about us. We're going race by race. Lance and Sergey are here for us and I'm sure they will be for the next race too.
"Everything that's recently happened with Force India and the Stroll scenario has distracted us from our focus on driver evaluations.
"We are now halfway through that progress. We won't be making a decision anytime soon, you know what we're like at Williams we tend to leave this right until the end of the season."
Vandoorne reflects on McLaren axeing
Stoffel Vandoorne says he was told he was being dropped by McLaren on the Monday after the Italian GP but is putting a brave face on the team's decision.
"It wasn't a huge surprise," Vandoorne told Sky F1. "At least I know what is happening for the future now and can look forward to a fresh start. I've been at McLaren for the two worst years in McLaren's history and it's a shame it didn't work out. It's a shame l didn't get better opportunities."
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