Red Bull team boss Christian Horner insists that no decision has been taken regarding Sebastian Vettel's team-mate for 2014, despite suggestions that Kimi Raikkonen is now out of the race to partner the German.
The ongoing saga of whether the 2007 world champion would make the move from Lotus to Red Bull appeared to have been put to rest in the build-up to this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, when manager Steve Robertson claimed that talks with RBR had broken down. Horner, however, says that all options remain open to his team until drivers are confirmed as signing elsewhere.
"Kimi's manager ruled him out, I think, [but] I've only seen what you've seen," the Briton told Sky Sports
ahead of Friday practice at Spa-Francorchamps, "Has [Raikkonen] signed for anyone else? It's up to him….”
With the biggest rival to Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo, insisting that he has [ not yet had a contract to join Red Bull
], and the Milton Keynes team admitting that it is unlikely to announce Mark Webber's successor until [ the Italian Grand Prix
] in two weeks' time, it has to be assumed that talks with other parties – namely Raikkonen – are ongoing. Sky
's Martin Brundle has already claimed that Robertson's comments were part of a bigger game of bluff
, while Horner insisted, among his latest comments, that he remains spoiled for choice.
"You have to make sure you consider all the options and there's more options than you could possibly think," he noted, "There's been quite a lot of interest, so we just take the time. It's not going to be much longer - I'd have thought by Monza, or shortly after Monza, we should be clear."
Coincidentally, Ferrari is also rumoured to be making its mind up about Felipe Massa's future 'after the Italian Grand Prix', confirming suggestions that Raikkonen could still be a contender to return to Maranello. Of course, Horner hinted at last month's Hungarian Grand Prix that Fernando Alonso may be a late contender for the RBR vacancy – a rumour perpetuated by sightings of the Briton in conversation with Alonso's manager at the Hungaroring….
"I think the problem is you get to this point of the year and there's so many rumours, hearsay, this, that and the other,” Horner claimed, “I saw [Raikkonen] was going to Ferrari a couple of days ago…
"There is no transfer window in F1 - we are not obliged to make a decision until we choose to. As I say, we want to make sure that we make the right decision and we will take the time that we feel appropriate to make that decision."
Horner also denied that he was under pressure to sign Ricciardo, either as a subservient number two to Vettel or to appease Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko and team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who are rumoured to favour Ricciardo as validation of the company's driver development programme.
"Ultimately, Dietrich has to sign off on any decision of that magnitude, but he will listen to the recommendations that Adrian [Newey] and I put forward," the Briton insisted.
Vettel, meanwhile, appears to have had a change of heart when it comes to possibly partnering Raikkonen, admitting on the eve of the Belgian race that ' would have been good
to team up with the Finn.