Over the last week or so, a persistent rumour has emerged that Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes F1 driver and teammate to Lewis Hamilton, has been in talks with Red Bull Racing; Formula 1 Championship rivals and team to chief protagonist Max Verstappen.
If this were to be the case, Mercedes AMG Formula 1 team would be very worried. Bottas, with an intimate knowledge of the team and crucially the car, would be able to provide Verstappens’ team, Red Bull, with valuable information and secrets.
Such is the issue, usually, if a principal senior team member switches teams, ‘gardening leave’ is required to prevent industrial espionage. Not so with drivers…
That said, Bottas would also benefit from such a rumour. The mere threat of such a move could provide the Finn with ammunition and a reason for team boss Toto Wolff to keep the driver on with Lewis Hamilton.
The press and media, putting pressure on Red Bull for a statement, has managed to get one from the reliable Dr Helmut Marko, chief Red Bull motorsport consultant. The Austrian admitted that options were being explored, but did not confirm this rumour.
“What I can tell you is that there are some options, we are considering them, but I don’t want to name names,” the Austrian replied.
“The first intention would be to continue with the four drivers we have. For the announcement, it will probably be at Spa or at Zandvoort if we fall behind. What is already certain is that we will announce our four drivers, both for AlphaTauri and Red Bull.”
Indeed, it appears that Red Bull Racing engineers have been analysing the performances from the 11 races at length.
“There is a gap with Max and he [Perez] is not happy about it. We [Red Bull] would also expect him to be closer or more consistent after so many races. He’s tried to find his own set-up instead of using Max’s, and maybe that’s the best thing for a driver to do.”
“You can’t be too close to Max’s settings. Max doesn’t care when his F1 car oversteers in fast corners. But all our 2nd drivers have had problems with that.”
“Perez has experienced the same thing. He tried his set-up but it didn’t work, it’s a real headache.”