Driver changes and vacancies hot topic as F1 sets camp in Singapore

SingTel grid girls during pre race weekend function at Marina Bay

SingTel grid girls during pre race weekend function at Marina Bay

The drivers’ silly-season, revolving around who will drive for what team, was still the dominant paddock chatter on Thursday as Formula 1 geared up for the Singapore Grand Prix.

First, Kimi Raikkonen stunned reporters with his honesty when he admitted that he only decided to quit Lotus and return to Ferrari because of money.

“[Lotus] said [that] they haven’t got my salary,” said the Finn, who hinted he would be perfectly within his rights to simply sit out the rest of the 2013 season. “I like to race – that’s the only reason why I am here.”

“It’s hard to say which way it would have gone if [receiving his salary] would have happened, but the deal [with Ferrari] is done now and I’m very happy,” Raikkonen insisted.

Fernando Alonso in Singapore

Fernando Alonso in Singapore

He also rejected all the suggestions that his pairing with the fiery Fernando Alonso next year will surely cause fireworks.

Spaniard Alonso, although having openly pushed for the Maranello team to retain Felipe Massa, also claimed on Thursday that he will actually be happy to have Raikkonen alongside him in 2014.

“When they decided that it was better to change Felipe they asked me what was my opinion,” he said. “My opinion was that Kimi was the best out there in the market, the team chose him so I’m happy.”

Many people, however, will not believe Alonso, but they also might not have believed him in late 2009, when he arrived at Ferrari to face teammate Massa.

Felipe Massa talks with media in Singapore

Felipe Massa talks with media in Singapore

Massa and Alonso had angrily clashed after an incident at the Nurburgring two years earlier, but Alonso said on Thursday that the Brazilian is now “one of the best friends I have here”.

He also said that the fact that Raikkonen is a World Champion will not affect his status at Ferrari, as “Felipe was a World Champion when he crossed the line [in Brazil] in 2008″.

That title was in fact ultimately won by Lewis Hamilton, who has also had his share of run-ins with Alonso.

Briton Hamilton, however, is not predicting Ferrari fireworks in 2014. In fact, while many in Formula 1 “talk about me and Nico [Rosberg] being the strongest package, I think they (Ferrari) will have it now,” he told broadcaster Sky.

Nico Hulkenberg in Singapore

Nico Hulkenberg in Singapore

Elsewhere, Nico Hulkenberg played down suggestions that he was angred when Ferrari told him he had not secured the 2014 seat via text message.

“It’s history, it’s time to move on,” the German said in Singapore, where his talks with Lotus about 2014 will surely intensify.

At McLaren, a team source suggested that Jenson Button will definitely be on board in 2014.

So too, according to the Mexican himself, will be Sergio Perez. “Yeah, everything is pretty much done,” he told reporters. (GMM)

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