Alonso in ‘new’ talks to replace Verstappen at Red Bull

Tue, 26 March 2024, 07:00

Mar.26 (GMM) “Completely new rumours” involving Fernando Alonso and Red Bull have begun to circulate among Formula 1 insiders.

That is the claim of former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher, despite a much quieter weekend of intrigue and speculation in Melbourne surrounding the Christian Horner scandal and Red Bull power struggle.

Nonetheless, some think what appears to be a minor mistake by a mechanic – potentially something as simple as a loose fastener on a brake caliper – might somehow be related to rumours linking Max Verstappen with the Red Bull exit door.

Schumacher thinks that’s going too far.

“Of course it’s just a small thing, and of course it’s just a coincidence,” he told Sky Deutschland.

“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 legend Mario Andretti, meanwhile, told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “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,” the 1978 world champion added.

And despite the Horner affair going publicly quiet in Melbourne, Schumacher says it’s obvious “that the team is still pretty divided, that there are tensions with Max’s father, and that Max is thinking about an alternative”.

Indeed, Verstappen slammed his pit crew in Melbourne for the “f***ing stupid” act of changing all four of his tyres when he retired with melted brakes that were also on fire.

“I was angry because they wanted to do a pitstop even though the car was on fire,” the Dutchman admitted.

Horner tried to calm the storm.

“That was a completely natural reaction after something like that,” he said. “In the garage he was then very friendly again, even when he came to the wall. He just wanted to understand exactly what was going on.”

Schumacher, however, thinks Horner really is seriously thinking about an alternative to Verstappen. The team boss is rumoured to be furious after learning that the Dutch driver’s long contract at Red Bull through 2028 could be undone due to the secretly-inserted ‘Marko clause’.

“There are completely new rumours now,” Schumacher said, amid reports elsewhere that Horner sat down for talks with Fernando Alonso’s manager Flavio Briatore just prior to last weekend’s event in Australia.

“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 noted after Melbourne: “When Max has a problem, Red Bull do not win. It shows just how important Verstappen is for the team.

“His pole lap in Albert Park was nothing short of monstrous.”

Schumacher thinks Alonso would be an ideal successor.

“We saw what Alonso did again this weekend,” he said after Melbourne. “He was fast, the way he prevented George Russell from overtaking him. I think he knows what he wants and he would fit in well.

“You’d also have to say that, these days, you need experienced people. You have to be able to win right from the start. This is very, very important, especially at Red Bull, and I think Fernando Alonso would be a good alternative to Max.”

As for the 42-year-old Spaniard, Ralf said: “If he could get in a Red Bull at the end of his career, a car with which he can win again, then of course that’s something he definitely wants.”

Schumacher therefore thinks it’s possible that, if the Alonso-to-Red Bull rumours really are true, then Verstappen might bite the bullet and jump to Mercedes.

“Max speaks German,” he smiled, “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.”

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