Todt junior plays his hand in F1 driver market
GREATER NOIDA, India
GREATER NOIDA, India (Reuters) - Nicolas Todt is a busy man as Formula One's driver market shifts up a gear.
The Frenchman, son of International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt, is manager to Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado as well as Brazilian Felipe Massa and France's Jules Bianchi.
Bianchi has been confirmed at tail-enders Marussia but, with Massa out of Ferrari at the end of the year and uncertainty over Maldonado's future at Williams, Todt has work to do as the season enters the final straight.
Lotus have said Massa is on their list to replace Kimi Raikkonen, who has taken the Brazilian's Ferrari seat, although Germany's Nico Hulkenberg looks the frontrunner once the team get their finances sorted out.
Massa told reporters at the Indian Grand Prix that he was also talking to Williams, which would come as no surprise given that Todt speaks to the team regularly enough anyway on Maldonado's behalf.
"I am talking with a few teams, including Williams, but I have nothing to say at the moment," the Brazilian told reporters.
"I'm pretty much confident that I am going to find an interesting direction. Until you are sure, it is always a little risk, but I am positive that I can find this and I am working for that.
"I will not go to a small team, I will go to the team that has some possibilities to do a good car and I hope I can find this solution."
Former champions Williams have scored just one point so far this year but have a glorious history as one of the most successful teams in the sport and will also be switching to Mercedes power units next season.
Maldonado recognized there were a lot of rumors about his future but said his relationship with Williams was strong.
"For sure, the season has been quite hard for myself and the team," he told reporters. "Next year I have a contract with the team... at the moment I have not taken any decision. We'll see in the next couple of races.
"Felipe is a very good friend of mine. I wish him all the best and to continue in Formula One. For sure, I will continue. I don't know if it is here in Williams or somewhere else.
"We have the same manager. He is looking for a place in Formula One. That's it."
Hulkenberg, currently with Sauber, is central to the next stage of the merry-go-round with the German highly regarded even if his height and weight count against him at a time when smaller men have an advantage.
He has told Lotus he wants a decision by the end of October, although that is looking increasingly unlikely to happen.
The German told reporters, however, that he was not worried about his future.
"At the moment, no. There are opportunities out there and I'm sleeping OK," he smiled.
"I wouldn't like to wait until the end of the season, for sure. I said in Korea that before the end of the month I would like to know what I'm doing. It's coming close now so I have to hurry up.
"I'm under pressure now to do something... these things take time sometimes and you are talking and negotiating and it's just how things go," he added.
Staying at Sauber, who have said they want to bring in Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin if he can get a super-license, may not be an option for a driver who lacks sponsorship backing although a return to Force India could be.
That team has yet to confirm its line-up, currently of Britain's Paul Di Resta and Germany's Adrian Sutil.
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn also faced questions about a possible interest in Russian Vitaly Petrov, the former Renault and Caterham driver who attended a recent demonstration run by Sirotkin in Sochi.
The Indian-born boss would not be drawn on speculation that Petrov, who is keen to get back into Formula One, could be lined up as a standby alternative should Sirotkin be deemed unready for a race debut.
"I haven't spoken to him about his availability," she told Reuters when asked about their meeting in Sochi. "He told me about his trip to Mount Everest. That's what we spoke about."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)