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Pre-Sao Paulo analysis - 2015 driver moves still in limbo

07 Nov 2014

Arriving in Brazil this weekend, the biggest movement in the 2015 driver market remains only partially complete.

Fernando Alonso announced in Suzuka that he has made his decision (to leave Ferrari is the presumption), but neither he nor Sebastian Vettel, who has confirmed that he will be leaving Red Bull, has officially been confirmed for new teams.

While it is thought certain that Vettel is headed for Alonso’s seat at Ferrari, there is ever increasing speculation that Alonso will end up at McLaren. The big question there is who would partner him, and Jenson Button’s comments in Sao Paulo on Thursday suggested yet again that he is the one who will probably be replaced when he said that it was by no means certain that he would accept a fresh deal to stay with the team if it were to be offered.

Like team mate Kevin Magnussen, he is still waiting to hear whether he has a drive with the Woking team, which he joined in 2010 after clinching the world championship here in Interlagos in 2009 for the Brawn team.

In the meantime, Porsche have denied that he will join their world endurance championship sportscar squad alongside F1 refugee Mark Webber, and have said that they intend to keep the same six drivers for their two-car title campaign next year, though the Stuttgart manufacturer could in theory field a third car at the Le Mans 24-hour race.

"It’s a good question that I cannot answer at this moment in time,” Button said cryptically when asked if he would accept a new McLaren contract. "When you are put in a position that many drivers have been in over the year, not sure if your contract is going to be renewed, it opens your eyes to different challenges and different possibilities.

"Whether it is racing, whether it is doing another sport, or something different altogether, for me I am excited about the challenges ahead.”

Button loves triathlons, and has been setting up a young driver management programme with his manager Richard Goddard during the past couple of years. GP2 star and McLaren tester Stoffel Vandoorne is one of their proteges.

"I have a lot that I am excited about, a lot of different ideas, whether it is for next year or the year after,” Button continued. “This is a massive part of my life - F1 and motor racing has been - and it is not going to stop. It will continue. I just don’t know where that is going to be right now. But I never feel like I am being pushed out of the sport, because I will definitely be in the sport in some shape or form. And it is going to be massively exciting."

2014 has been a very hard season for the 34 year-old Englishman, following the death of his father John in January and the increasing speculation about Alonso, and he admitted the latter has been a strain.

“It’s been going on for months now,” he said. “Initially, I was like ‘Okay, what’s all that about?’ But then it makes you think about other opportunities and challenges, in F1 and other motorsport. There’s so much out there, so many challenges I am interested in taking on.”

Meanwhile, Alonso said yesterday that there is no deadline to decide his future.

"One week it's supposedly McLaren saying something,” the Spaniard said. “Last week it was Lotus. Even today, I think I read that I bought Marussia for one dollar, which is absolutely not true.

"As I said in Japan, two or three months ago I took a decision, I followed that direction and hopefully you will know soon."

Magnussen was cagey about his future because, like Button, he simply doesn’t know. But he said that he did not feel let down by the team by the current period of limbo.

“They’re not doing that to annoy me. They have a reason for it. I understand why I’ve not been told yet. Some things are still not sorted out from their side and if they could let me know, they would. I can only just wait and see what happens. I’m not planning anything else, I’m not looking for anything else. I’m planning as if I’m here next year, so that’s what I’m working for and doing my best to get to.”

Meanwhile, following the recent confirmation that Marcus Ericsson will be in a Sauber next year, and Wednesday’s news that Felipe Nasr will take the other seat, Adrian Sutil was careful in his comments and the two-year contract he signed late in 2013.

“There are certain things to talk about, definitely, yes. They’ve confirmed two drivers but that doesn’t mean the drivers can drive and it doesn’t mean that the team’s going to drive. So there’s no real change from last weekend to this weekend. It’s just an announcement and now, of course, my situation, I think I have to do some talking, to sort out the things.”

Sauber’s all-new 2015 line-up also leaves Esteban Gutierrez looking for a drive after two years racing for the Swiss team.