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Poker faces win amid transfer talk

25 October 2012


When the line-up for the opening press conference of the Indian Grand Prix weekend was announced, first thoughts turned to the potential for revealing secrets of next season's F1 grid. True to form, however, no-one was giving anything away.

The sextet of Heikki Kovalainen, Kimi Raikkonen, Bruno Senna, Jean-Eric Vergne, Narain Karthikeyan and Nico Hulkenberg are all among the list of drivers yet to firm up their plans for 2013. Although one or two are understood to have options on the table, the rumour mill continues to churn out speculation of their whereabouts, but even the strongest claims were steadfastly rebutted at Buddh International.

Kovalainen, whose future at Caterham remains uncertain despite three seasons of excelling with the Leafield-based team, was the first to be quizzed on his plans, but stuck to the line that has served him so well to this point.

“Nothing's been signed for next year yet,” he insisted, “Personally, my target - and my focus - at each race weekend is for our team. It's quite important that we try to regain that tenth position back from Marussia. It's not going to be easy, but I think we have to do whatever it takes to be in a position to do that if a freak race happens again.

“So, the main focus is on that and, regarding the future with the team and with Tony [Fernandes], we haven't decided yet. I think Tony knows what he gets with me, but then he's evaluating other options I think to see what he wants to do. And I'm waiting. In the meantime, of course, my management is also working. There's nothing really to report, so the main thing I think for myself and, really, for our team has to be to keep pushing to get that tenth position back, as it's quite crucial.”

Countryman Raikkonen is perhaps the safest bet for 2013, with the Lotus team having reportedly achievement the performance objectives needed to keep the Finn on board for a second year, but Raikkonen continued to play a straight bat when questioned on the issue.

“I don't know,” was his reply when questioned about the prospect of an imminent announcement, “I mean, we have options, but nothing is decided - I guess it will be decided at some point.”

Vergne arrived in India off the back of what he regarded as perhaps his best F1 performance, securing eighth place in Korea, and said that he just needed to keep producing that sort of result to ensure Red Bull kept faith in him.

“I haven't thought about [next year] really,” he admitted, “So far, I have a contract with Red Bull, and I think I just have to keep doing the job I'm doing and improve myself every race weekend. I'll think about this race weekend and Abu Dhabi and then think about next season, but I'm quite confident about staying with Toro Rosso.”

Senna's position is perhaps the most precarious, with Valtteri Bottas supposedly waiting in the wings to take his seat next season.

“Nothing has changed from the last time I was here and you asked me the same question,” the Brazilian claimed, “But the focus is still the same: keep pushing and trying to get points for the team and then, hopefully, be on the grid next year.”
Karthikeyan was the last driver to be confirmed to a ride for 2013, snapping up the second HRT seat after testing had begun, but even racing on home soil this weekend could not elicit a firm idea of his plans for next year, although the Indian seemed to know both his goals and limitations.

“I have a good relationship with HRT,” he pointed out, “It's my second year with them. They've built a good factory and everything else and, on paper, next year they'll look the best [option] so, realistically, I'd like to stay here and that's the plan right now.”

Hulkenberg, meanwhile, arrived in India with strong speculation that he had already informed his current team that he would not be returning in 2013, with Sauber touted as the most likely destination, perhaps with support from Ferrari, which actively considered him as a replacement for Felipe Massa before re-signing the Brazilian to an extension. Hulkenberg, however, insisted that he would not be confirming or denying anything.

“I know there is lots of talk about my future but, at this point, I don't want to make a comment on the speculation,” he said, “I'll just focus on this weekend, which is the most important thing. Just no comment.”


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