No sooner have rumors surfaced that Red Bull pilot Sebastian Vettel might be poached by Ferrari than we hear that Mercedes GP is also casting covetous eyes towards the young German champ. It’s only natural, of course. Whenever a new star arrives on the scene, and proves his worth, the front-running teams begin hatching plots on how they might add the latest marquee name to their own stables.
Almost as soon as Fernando Alonso won his first title, paddock pundits began predicting he would jump ship to Ferrari (he did, of course, in five years time). Likewise, when Lewis Hamilton took home top laurels, gossip had him being considered for a new Ferrari contract. Hamilton has denied any interest in joining the Scuderia, however. Unlike most continental drivers, the Brits seem immune to the lure of the Prancing Horse. Unless McLaren is consistently unable to provide Hammy with a winning car, expect to see the 2008 champ keep his yellow helmet hanging in Woking indefinitely.
The list is endless. Formula 1 teams are always on the lookout for the latest Prost, Senna or Schumacher. The current crop of drivers seems to be blessed with a particularly large cohort of promising talent, so it’s no wonder that that Ferrari, for one, haasving glommed on to Alonso, is now looking to upgrade their other seat, perhaps swapping Felipe Massa for the aforementioned Vettel.
Likewise, according to Red Bull consultant Dr. Helmut Marko, Mercedes is also trying to snare young Seb. Marko recently told Kleine Zeitung, “Knowing that Sebastian has a contract with us, Mercedes expresses quite an interest in him.”
Mercedes has never made a secret of wanting to employ German drivers. They currently have two under contract: Nico Rosberg, and the quintessential uber-driver himself, Michael Schumacher. Mercedes motor racing honcho Norbert Haug has declared that Merc is currently very satisfied with the line-up at the Silver Arrows. As he recently told the German press agency DPA, “We have exactly the drivers we want.” In almost the same breath, however, Haug warned that Vettel was bound to become restless should Red Bull fail to provide him with top notch cars.
Of course, barring a miracle, Schumi will certainly retire again by the end of the 2012 season, at which time Merc will be shopping for a replacement. Don’t be surprised if they make a lunge for Vettel. Unless their car is the class of the field at that time, however, don’t expect to see Vettel in gray livery.
If (a) Vettel can be lured away from Red Bull, and (b) Ferrari has a winning package, and (c) they’re willing to pay Seb the kind of salary that Ferrari drivers have become accustomed to, it’s more likely that Seb will be wearing red. Mercedes is a scaled down team currently, with a budget that isn’t the equal of Ferrari’s, so all other things being equal, or even something less than equal, the luster of the Ferrari heritage, and the magnetic power of liquid euros, are bound to win out.
All such speculations, naturally, presuppose that Red Bull won’t be able to deliver the one thing that will make Vettel stay put, namely a consistently great car. As long as Adrian Newey is at the helm of the design team at Red Bull, don’t count on a drop off in Red Bull’s performance any time soon.