By: Ashley McCubbin
Even though the focus is surely on the current 2020 Formula 1 season now with some races complete, it does not mean discussion has not been happening in regards to the year ahead. After all, the bucket was already shaken courtesy of Ferrari.
The destination for Sebastian Vettel in 2021 remains the big discussion after it was revealed he would be replaced at Ferrari by Carlos Sainz. The latest rumor could possibly place him at Racing Point, after he confirmed on Thursday, July 16 there have been conversations.
“At this stage, I think it’s talks,” he stated. “I said last week I have been in talks with Renault for example, it’s also talks. At a later stage with anyone I think it would become a bit more concrete. The truth is that there is nothing to announce and nothing more concrete than loose talks.
“Rumours are called rumours for a reason. Anyway, now only a couple of day after Austria, there’s not much that has changed. The fact is there is no news. If you ask about Racing Point, everyone is talking about Racing Point, the first two races have been impressive, the performance on track.
It was initially believed that Racing Point would be off the table, considering Sergio Perez is under contract through 2022, and it’d be strange to see Lance Stroll drive for somebody other than his father’s own team. But the focus on them is no surprise as they were strong last weekend, to the point that Renault protested whether their car was legal.
Meanwhile, Perez admitted to the media on Thursday that he has been approached by a rival team in regards to 2021 and beyond, even with his current standing contract.
“I know I’ve got a contract, I know that during the week there were obviously the rumours that came out [about Vettel] and we actually got contacted by a team in the paddock – I won’t say any names – and also other teams [in other] categories, which was quite a surprise because we have a contract for the next years here. But at the moment there are just rumours around,” he stated. “I think it’s just part of the game. The team has taken a big step forward so it’s good to have big names related to the team because that means that we’re making a good job, we’re making progress and I think the team should be proud of it. And the rest? I’ve been in Formula 1 10 years so I’m used to this stuff.”
For the record, Stroll did openly state he was “not locked in for next year,” and does not what is happening moving forward.
“I’m really just focused on this year and this weekend in particular, then it’s up to management to decide what’s best for the team,” he added.
One team that has ruled out the possibility of signing Vettel is Red Bull, with Christian Horner electing to focus on the young stars currently in their fleet. Max Verstappen is already signed for 2021, but Alex Albon has yet to be confirmed.
“We had a brilliant time with Seb, he’ll forever be a part of our history, but we didn’t expect him to be on the market this year, and our commitment is to our existing drivers,” Horner said. “We think we have a great pairing in Max and Alex, and we think that has great potential for the future as well, so unfortunately it’s not something that we’re going to be able to accommodate.”
On the flip side, things look to be comfortable with Mercedes as more than likely, unless something drastic happens, both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will be back for 2021.
“I can say that we have started talking about it,” Bottas said. “I think we all realise that time actually goes quick with these triple headers and pretty intense schedule for all of us. Obviously, nothing is signed yet and I think things are moving along in the right direction. The main thing as I said last weekend is to keep focused on the championship, big things to be achieved this year, so keep focus on that and I’m sure things will move on eventually.
Haas F1 Team has some of the biggest questions surrounding it, with not just the drivers but the team’s future in general. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both know their contracts are up, but so is Haas’ commercial agreement with the series.
“There’s a lot of question marks here but let’s get rid of the elephant in the room: is Haas going to be here next year or not?” said Grosjean. “I hope for Formula 1, I hope that Haas will be here on the grid for next year and out of all the new teams that came into Formula 1 it’s obviously the one that is the most successful, the most solid baseline, so there’s definitely a place for Haas in Formula 1 but I’m not the one taking the decision – time will tell.”
Magnussen also noted the team is known for waiting until the late fall for decisions, as it was September of 2019 where confirmation came down of the pair returning for the 2020. It just means this will be a pondered point for awhile.
Williams doesn’t have any questions, as they confirmed George Russell and Nicholas Latifi will be back for 2021. There was a chance to see them move to Mercedes, but as discussed, it seems more likely a change will not happen there.
“I’m not disappointed in Mercedes at all,” Russell said. “There was nothing more they could do, Claire was firm with her decision that she was not willing, or not ready to let me go, and ultimately as I have a contract with Williams, I have to respect that decision.
“So I’m here, I’ll be giving everything I’ve got for Williams this year and into next year, and let’s see what that holds after that.”
Current Confirmed F1 Grid
- Ferrari – Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz
- Red Bull – Max Verstappen
- McLaren – Daniel Riccardo, Lando Norris
- Renault – Esteban Ocon
- Aston Martin – Sergio Perez
- Williams – George Russell, Nikolas Latifi