Sergio Perez has said that he will stay at Force India next season, but cannot confirm it until all the details are finally signed off. Based on painful experience of thinking he had a new McLaren contract for 2014, only to find that he did not, Perez is not willing to tempt fate.
He had hoped to announce his plans this weekend, but more time is needed to finalise everything. Perez has also been speaking to Renault and Williams was also a possibility.
“It’s nice to have the situation I have with options on the table, but as a driver you would like to clear your mind of that,” Perez told NBC Sports in Singapore this afternoon. “It looks as if I’m going to stay.
“But because of my past experience with McLaren; everything was pretty much sorted then last minute there was a change. In F1 everything can change, but everything seems to be that I am going to stay for another year.”
Perez’ decisión to stay at Force India leaves Renault still looking for a name driver. Valtteri Bottas has been noticeably enigmatic this afternoon, saying that “it’s still not obviously confirmed if I will be with Williams or not” next season and adding that he is still negotiating.
Canadian teenager Lance Stroll is now considered a racing certainty for one Williams seat, but Bottas is coveted by Renault boss Fred Vasseur, with whom he won the GP3 championship. Vasseur and Toto Wolff are close friends and allies and Bottas’ career is managed by Wolff, so there are a number of synergies. But French colleagues say that Renault would have to pay a severance fee to Williams in order to release Bottas, which is considered unlikely. Romain Grosjean is locked in at Haas, so options for a name driver are rapidly running out for Renault.
That said, there was a toughness and edge to Bottas’ tone and body language on this topic today which suggests that he is trying to use Renault’s interest to boost his contract terms.
Although the points table says that Williams has 111 points to Force India’s 108, the real picture is slightly different. Since introducing its revised chassis in Spain, Force India has scored 100 points to Williams’ 61, so if they keep up that strike rate, they will finish 4th in the Constructor’s championship, ahead of the Grove team. It would be the best finish in the team’s history.
“It will be a huge thing for everyone, it would be amazing,” said Perez. “I look forward to being part of that history, I’m not too carried away with it at the moment, but I think it’s definitely possible, If we keep doing the same things to the end of the season we will be in a good position.”
The form book certainly looks positive for Force India going into the street circuit event at Singapore. In Monaco the team bagged 23 points, its largest single race haul of the season, while Perez was on the podium in the other street track, Baku. Williams has struggled on street tracks this season.
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