Red Bull energy drinks magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has moved to ward off the attentions of Norbert Haug, who confessed that he may be keen to prise Sebastian Vettel away from the Milton Keynes-based squad in order to drive for McLaren-Mercedes one day.
As if he wasn't already highly-rated enough, Vettel's stunning triumph for Red Bull in torrential conditions in last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai has undoubtedly made the sport's youngest-ever winner also its hottest property, with many an admiring glance from rival teams.
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Haug even went so far as to suggest that 'perhaps one day he will drive a Silver Arrow', hinting that he is already looking beyond the end of the 2010 campaign – when the German's RBR contract is due to expire – and possibly envisaging a Vettel-Lewis Hamilton 'dream team' in 2011.
Knowing very well that he has a prize jewel on his hands, however – a driver tipped in some quarters to in the fullness of time go on to emulate the exploits of his record-breaking compatriot Michael Schumacher in securing multiple drivers' crowns in the top flight – Mateschitz contends that in Vettel and Mark Webber he has the second-strongest line-up on the 2009 F1 grid. As such, he makes clear, he will not be giving the 21-year-old up without a fight.
“At the moment Sebastian is not for sale,” the Austrian billionaire asserted in an interview with German newspaper Bild
. “Besides Ferrari, we have with Vettel and Webber absolutely the strongest driver pairing in the field.”
The man from Heppenheim was previously linked with a move to Woking in place of former double world champion Fernando Alonso, following the Spaniard's sudden and abrupt departure from the team at the end of 2007.