Rumours have been floating around the Formula One paddock that Timo Glock is on the verge of making a switch to McLaren for 2010 as Lewis Hamilton's teammate. Whether they are true or not - Glock insists he has a contract with Toyota for 2010 which he plans to honour - Hamilton has become synonymous with the German driver's career. The pair were arch rivals as Hamilton won the GP2 title and Glock also played a major role as Hamilton wrapped up last year's world title.
The Briton looked to have been denied the crown at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix by Felipe Massa when he was passed on the last lap by Sebastian Vettel but that all changed as an ever-slowing Glock, struggling on dry tyres in the rain, could not fend off Hamilton's challenge. Hamilton wrapped up the world title and Glock was deemed public enemy No 1 by Brazilians and Ferrari fans. The affair still haunts him.
That last lap at Interlagos is what the former scaffolder is asked about more than anything else. "I've been asked about it so many times - everywhere I go really from race to race, weekend to weekend," he said. "It was a really hard time for me and there were a lot of not nice and untrue things that were said. "Anyone who knows anything properly about F1 will know the truth. Jarno [Trulli] and I just couldn't cope with the wet tyres and we lost so much time. OK, by passing me Lewis won the title but I didn't let him win."
Glock admits to a sense of trepidation about returning to Brazil for this year's race, and he half expects a hostile reception from the notoriously passionate crowd. "It will be my first visit to Brazil since last year - obviously it's not become a big holiday destination," he said. "That said, people seem to like me in the UK." This season, the 27-year-old Toyota driver has barely spoken to either Hamilton or Massa about the incident, although he admitted to having a quick word with his former GP2 rival.
"I told Lewis 'do you know how much of a hard time I've had by you being world champion?' and he just smiled," said Glock. "But you just have to move on." Glock has done just that, earning plaudits for his increasingly assured driving for Toyota. The initial reaction in his first foray in F1 for Jordan in 2004 was that he was not quite cut out for the sport. But he has often got the better of his far more experienced teammate Trulli - enough for McLaren to take notice of his potential.
Any move across the grid to become Hamilton's teammate would have the conspiracy theory crowd in overdrive, but Glock said he is not about to give them that satisfaction. "I'm happy here and I've got a contract for 2010 so it's nothing, just a rumour I guess," he said. The other rumour flying around the paddock concerning Glock is that Toyota may yet pull the plug on their racing operations because of the credit crunch. And Glock could not be more laid back about the prospect of finding himself without a team to drive for.
"If I no longer have a Formula One drive, I'll just go back and work for my dad's scaffolding company," he said. "There are worse ways to spend your life. You get to be in the sunshine a lot of the time, get a nice tan and it's not so difficult." On form, Glock Sr looks likely to have to continue his business in Germany without his son, who is also happy for things to stay the way they are. "My love affairs with F1 have been strange," he said. "I had it once, then had it taken away and I never thought I'd get back to it again. The chance finally came and I'm in no hurry to give that up."
On Sunday, the animosity that Glock felt at Interlagos will be forgotten, at least for a while, as he races in front of his home crowd in the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. As one of five Germans on the grid - the others are Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel - Glock appreciates there are divided loyalties among the country's F1 fans. But the possibility of being the top German driver does not particularly excite him.
"In F1, you just want to be the best of everyone, German, British, Brazilian, whoever," he said. "I don't care about the nationality of my opponents. Back in Germany, though, Sebastian Vettel probably gets the most attention in the newspapers and magazines and that's fine with me. I'm just happy leading a quiet life off the track and trying to move to the top of the pack on it." Winter testing suggested from the start that Brawn GP, and Jenson Button in particular, would be the ones to beat this season. Toyota had raised hopes of race wins - most notably at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where they locked up the front row for the start only to see Button take the chequered flag - but have dropped down the order in subsequent weekends.
Glock is keen to get the team's first win and give the public something other than Brazil to talk about. "As soon as I win, hopefully everyone will stop talking about Interlagos last year," he said. "But that might just not happen this season. Button and Brawn, wow, those guys are just way ahead of everyone else." Off the track, Glock's lifestyle could hardly be more different from Button's. While the British driver has a luxury home in Monaco, Glock lives in a simple apartment in Germany with no flashy car in his garage below.
"I don't have the posh villa, the BMW in the driveway and all the gadgets," he said. "I'm a normal guy, who's treated normally by friends. They don't care what I do. They might say 'good race' or something when I see them but then I'm just one of the guys and I'm happy to keep it that way." email@example.com