The two men in the spotlight of the five drivers at Wednesday night’s FOTA Fan Forum at Cedar Street Courtyard in downtown Austin were Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado, both of whom are confirmed to leave their current teams after the final two Grands Prix of the 2013 Formula One season.
Perez and McLaren part ways after a single season while Maldonado will leave Williams after his third. Speaking at the forum Wednesday, Perez admitted the timing of the decision leaves him in the lurch while Maldonado appeared more optimistic.
“The ideal is to find a team to fight for podiums, the ones I miss so much this year,” Perez said. “But it’s relatively a bit far back to find now. This year’s not been what we expected.
“It’s disappointing, but this is life. I have a long career in front of me. I’m only 23; I won’t be in F1 just to be in F1.”
Maldonado, by contrast: “That’s a tough question (as to where he’ll land), but we’re working really hard to solve the situation. We hope to have it clear soon.”
To be fair, the other three drivers in attendance, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Caterham’s reserve driver Alexander Rossi, don’t have their 2014 plans confirmed yet either. Of the three though, Sutil spoke most positively about next year.
“This year we’ve had a good start and a really strong forward direction,” Sutil said. “We had the tire change middle of the season and it didn’t help us. We’re finding our way back now as we move on next year.”
Rossi – who hopes to become the next American to race in F1 – had a simple response when asked if he had any interest in racing anything Stateside in 2014.
“No, I don’t,” he deadpanned to raucous applause from the audience.
Gutierrez didn’t field any questions about his future as yet. His form has come on in the second half of the season at a few races – Singapore and Japan in particular – although he’s still shaded Nico Hulkenberg.
The event itself played a bit like BBC’s “Top Gear” – hundreds of folks packed into a tightly condensed space and posing questions in an open, informal forum, hosted by English broadcaster Jonathan Greene. It was also live streamed online.