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GP Week : Issue 167
23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Martin Whitmarsh said the other week he hadn’t got a Plan B should Lewis Hamilton decide to leave McLaren, but now it’s reported the team has approached Sergio Perez to sound him out. I’d have thought that would be a pretty short conversation. While Perez’s driving this year warrants a top seat, he’s a Ferrari Academy driver – one that the Italians wouldn’t want to gift their bitterest rivals – and backed by a telecommunications company which is not Vodafone. So I don’t see that it’s feasible. Nevertheless, Perez might feel a bit fed up with Ferrari right now. Luca di Montezemolo says that Perez isn’t ready to join the Scuderia yet. I totally disagree. He snatched his third podium of the season last time out, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s third- place Ferrari and at Monza no less. The cheers the Tifosi gave him, expectant that he will soon be wearing red, confirmed that he would be a very welcome replacement for Felipe Massa. Perez might not be the full Fernando, but he is ready to be trained by the master. He’s done his Bachelor’s at the Swiss finishing school and it’s time to graduate to the big league. It was revealed that Heikki Kovalainen was invited to Maranello last week for a chit- chat, though I’ve heard from one source that this was to offer a polite let-down. We’ll see, because the Heikki talk has been going on for a while and as a stop-gap choice there’s a lot going for him. However, after his lacklustre spell at McLaren I think Heikki killed off any shot he has at a top team. He was barely any closer to Hamilton there than Massa is to Alonso now. ‘Kova’ has proved a great leader at Caterham, and I think that proves he’s better suited to the smaller team role. Great if he can get the promotion, but I wouldn’t sign him if I were Ferrari. The word on the street now is that LdM favours retaining Massa for one more year. Another 12 months of rot coming up. It’s timely that Massa’s joint best result of the year – fourth place (he hasn’t had a podium since Korea 2010) – came in front of the home crowd, restoring Ferrari back to third place in the championship. I don’t understand why Ferrari would extend Massa’s contract for any reason other than him being a nice bloke, nor do I see the necessity for a stop-gap like Heikki, or Mark Webber with whom they were speaking earlier in the year. Perez is ready. He has been all year. And no one will match Carlos Slim’s cash, a nice little bonus which Ferrari – who have expensive tastes – would welcome, I’m sure. As for McLaren, the only available driver who could fill Lewis’ superstar-shaped void is Kimi Raikkonen, but things ended acrimoniously when they worked together before. Ron Dennis and Kimi did not see eye-to-eye. Could Whitmarsh convince the Finn to return, and then handle him in the right way? Would McLaren allow Kimi to escape the enormous PR demands that are currently put on Hamilton and Button, as Lotus do? Probably not. So that leaves Kamui Kobayashi, who has been outclassed by Perez all year; Paul di Resta, who I have to say doesn’t really excite me; and Nico Hulkenberg. I can see Hulkenberg getting on well there, and gelling with Jenson. Given that car, I think he could win a grand prix today. But we won’t know until Lewis puts his cards on the table. OPINION OPINION ADAM HAY-NICHOLLS F1 Editor SEATS IN FIRST CLASS