The transfer possibilities of the silly season that’s now started in full swing, see’s some interesting if’s and maybe’s, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and even Valtteri Bottas are at the centre of several rumours going around the paddock.
The case of the Spaniard is practically settled, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull and this week Ferrari have announced that they would not consider Alonso. Asked by Sky Sports, Mattia Binotto took the opportunity to deny the rumour of Fernando Alonso’s possible return to Maranello in 2020, and at the same time confirmed the Italian team’s line-up for next season.
The only possible move back into F1 would be Alfa Romeo, but it’s not likely Alonso would return to the sport if there were zero chance of winning Championships.
Daniel Ricciardo, is going to be talked about again this year. Indeed, Ferrari would be very seriously interested in the former Red Bull driver in the event of Sebastian Vettel’s departure.
Rather surprising is a rumoured interest for Ferrari of Bottas should Sebastian either retire from F1 or return to Red Bull Racing (read TJ13’s story on that here), and if Bottas were to move away from Mercedes, the natural assumption would be that Esteban Ocon would fill that void.
However, it’s not that simple. Bosses of the German team have been very impressed with George Russell, even though he wasn’t able to show his full potential at the wheel of the Williams this year. With Russell’s performances, Ocon could well find himself sidelined yet again.
Toto Wolff did not hide his admiration for the British driver:
“George is a very mature person for his age and he drives in an incredible way.
“I am very happy that he is with us, he represents the future of Mercedes.”
Russell signed to the Mercedes’ junior programme in 2017, shadowing Hamilton for two years, before team principal Toto Wolff engineered the youngster’s move to Williams.
Valtteri Bottas is on a one-year retainer as Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes, and while the Finn may be a steady driver, it is clear that he is not in the world champion’s league.
“I am on top of my game.” says Russell
“Right now, I am 100 per cent dedicated to Williams, but if Mercedes called me up, I will be ready.”
“If Toto called me tomorrow and said ‘are you ready to drive for Mercedes?’, my answer would be absolutely,
“I am not going to rely on Valtteri having bad races. I am going to go out there and make it happen for myself. If that is not good enough then I will hold my hands up and say I didn’t do the job.”
Russell exudes a confidence that belies his 21 years. He arrived in F1 with a fine CV, winning the sport’s two feeder championships in successive seasons.
“I don’t like to think about chance,” he continues. “Mercedes have given me targets. Each time, I have met them, and they have rewarded me. I have faith that if I have performed to the right level, there is no reason why I will not get the opportunity.
“You only have to look at what Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have done at Red Bull and Ferrari. You can argue about experience all you want, but sometimes it is not all you need.”
With regard to Ocon, Wolff told Motorsport.com: “Everyone recognises Esteban’s talent, and I truly believe he should have a permanent position in Formula 1 because he is one of the best talents of his generation.
“Unfortunately last year we were victims of a very particular market situation.
“We need to make things clear to allow him to pursue his career in a way that respects the investment and support that Mercedes have given him, obviously without closing open doors from those who showed interest in him.”
Ocon has once again been linked with Renault, as Nico Hulkenberg’s contract is in its final year, and Wolff suggested that his time with Mercedes could be near its end.
Wolff said: “If he is in another team he will be released regardless, he will no longer be a Mercedes driver because if you drive for another team you will be called to give the best for that team.”
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