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Pre-Monza analysis - drivers contemplate driver market and more

05 Sep 2014

In a relatively quiet news day in Monza yesterday, McLaren’s Jenson Button took issue with suggestions by Lotus’s Romain Grosjean that Fernando Alonso is the key to the 2015 driver market, for the simple reason that he doesn’t believe the Spaniard will leave Ferrari ahead of his contract expiry.

It’s no secret that Button’s seat in the Woking team isn’t safe and media speculation has suggested Alonso could be tempted by a McLaren move and a potential big money deal from incoming engine partner Honda.

However, Alonso recently indicated that he will stay with Ferrari, and yesterday Button declared: “It doesn't change my cause. It doesn't change anything as he was always staying at Ferrari.

"I know drivers say they don't read the press. We only don't read the press when you say something horrible about us, we pretend we don't read the press! Romain’s suggestion surprised me. I don't think he's the key to the driver market, the two McLaren drivers are probably the key to the driver market, I would say."

Button has suggested that he would retire at the end of the season if he doesn’t keep his McLaren drive - if the team were to consider partnering Kevin Magnussen with Alonso or their other supposed target, Sebastian Vettel - but clarified his comments.

"I said if I wasn't racing at the end of the season, then so be it. That's what I said. If I'm not racing at the end of the season, then so be it. I can't do much about that. But it's not that I'm getting ready as I definitely don't want to retire for many years, but when you're asked the question so many times you've got to say something different or else it gets boring."

Meanwhile, hope that he will keep his drive increased when Vettel insisted that he is more interested in helping to get Red Bull Racing back to where they were over the past four seasons, than in jumping ship.

"There was already a lot of talk at Spa on Thursday, and there was talk that I had signed for $150 million for three years. I was asking where the pen was but nobody came back!” the reigning champion joked. "I think it is normal that you have lot of talks. But it doesn't change what you do on a regular day-to-day basis.

"Obviously we are not yet where we want to be, particularly on my side, so there is a lot of work to do which is my main attention. I think at the moment I have plenty of challenge, to be honest.

"My situation has not changed. I am happy where I am. But you never know what is happening in the future. Right now, I don't feel the need to do something different."

Button and Vettel also gave their views on the Mercedes situation, in the wake of the Spa collision between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Button said of that incident, and the FIA’s decision not to investigate it: "They were never going to penalise him anyway, because as we all discussed about four races ago, we needed to be more lenient on drivers because we wanted more aggressive racing. If it had happened four races ago, I'm sure Nico would have got penalised because that sort of incident always got penalised. But these days, in the last few races, it has been viewed that more aggressive racing is better for the sport, so you let things go a little bit more.”

Vettel said he was pleased there has been no official action, and surprised that Rosberg had been penalised by Mercedes in the intervening week.

"I don't think you take off your front wing on purpose. It’s difficult to time and see where your front endplate is to give a puncture to the other guy. Maybe I’m not talented enough to time it perfectly right to puncture somebody and it's something I need to learn, but you will get it wrong more often than you get it right.”

And he couldn’t resist adding with a chuckle: "It was funny to see the team decided to take some decisions in terms of a penalty."

Elsewhere, as Kamui Kobayashi admitted that his on-off role as a Caterham racer has not been ideal as he prepares to return with the team this weekend, 23 year-old Spanish hopeful Roberto Merhi will be watched carefully in FP1 this morning on his first Formula One outing. The FIA has yet to decide whether to grant him the super licence he would need for an F1 race debut, despite his qualifying for such a licence in the past.

"At the moment it looks like they'll let me do free practice one and then let's see for the future," Merhi said yesterday. "If everything goes well then I think it's not a problem, but if it goes wrong it will be a problem, I guess. It’s a hard situation for FP1. You need to be proving that you are a really good driver and you have to build up your confidence in the car, but you have just one hour and a half and two sets of new tyres and you're using one straight away and then one half an hour later. You cannot really drive for a long time and then put one on at the last minute, which would be better.”

David Tremayne