F1 twist: Alonso in secret talks to take over Verstappen’s seat

The Formula 1 paddock is abuzz with “completely new rumours” that Fernando Alonso could be setting his sights on Max Verstappen’s coveted spot at Red Bull. This surprising development comes from the insights of ex-F1 driver Ralf Schumacher, amidst a quieter backdrop of speculation in Melbourne concerning the ongoing saga involving Christian Horner and internal disputes at Red Bull.

Amidst whispers of a seemingly trivial mechanic’s error — possibly a loosely secured brake caliper — speculation has intensified over Verstappen’s continued allegiance to Red Bull.

Schumacher dismisses the connection between the mechanical mishap and the rumour mill as mere coincidence, remarking to Sky Deutschland, “Of course it’s just a small thing, and of course it’s just a coincidence. But it also shows that this whole discussion about Christian Horner is not leaving the team unscathed. They are talking about a careless mistake when screwing the brakes together, but of course they don’t know any more details yet.”

F1 great Mario Andretti shared his skepticism with La Gazzetta dello Sport about the brake failure being a simple oversight, stating, “Max’s retirement was an accident. But I find it difficult to accept that the brake failure was caused by a mistake by one of the mechanics. But it’s clear that this tense environment continues to affect everyone,” underscoring the strain within the team.

Despite the quieter external narrative around the Horner controversy in Melbourne, Schumacher notes the palpable division within Red Bull, including friction with Max’s father and Verstappen contemplating his options.

Verstappen’s frustration was palpable in Melbourne, as he criticized his team’s decision for a pitstop amidst a vehicle fire, admitting, “I was angry because they wanted to do a pitstop even though the car was on fire.”

Horner sought to defuse the situation, emphasizing Verstappen’s reaction as natural under the circumstances and noting his composure post-incident in the garage, highlighting his desire for clarity on the mishap. Yet, Schumacher posits Horner is earnestly exploring alternatives to Verstappen, sparked by revelations of a potential loophole — the ‘Marko clause’ — in the Dutchman’s contract that extends through 2028.

Amidst these swirling rumours, there’s talk of Horner engaging in discussions with Alonso’s manager Flavio Briatore prior to the Australian Grand Prix. Schumacher highlights Horner’s admiration for Alonso, suggesting a strong intent to integrate Alonso into Red Bull’s driver lineup, especially if Verstappen exits. “Christian Horner has always been a very, very big fan of Fernando’s,” said Ralf. “There are apparently big intentions in the background to bring Fernando into the cockpit next year in order to have another great driver in case Max Verstappen leaves the team.”

La Gazzetta dello Sport encapsulated Verstappen’s critical role at Red Bull, praising his qualifying performance at Albert Park as “nothing short of monstrous” and adding: “When Max has a problem, Red Bull do not win. It shows just how important Verstappen is for the team.”

Schumacher views Alonso as an ideal replacement, citing his performance and strategic prowess during the Melbourne race as evidence of his suitability for Red Bull. He emphasizes the necessity of experienced drivers who can secure immediate victories, considering Alonso a viable substitute for Verstappen.

Ralf Schumacher surmises that Alonso’s ambition to end his career on a high, with a competitive Red Bull car, aligns with the team’s potential interest. This has led to speculation that Verstappen might consider a move to Mercedes, fitting in with both the team’s culture and language.

“Max speaks German,” he said, “and his personality would also fit in at Mercedes. Of course I don’t think it’s progressed that far yet.”

“But theoretically he could get out of his contract, because his contract is more or less linked to Helmut Marko.”

GMM

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