Having spent much of the past few months insisting that a decision on Mark Webber's replacement would come by the end of August, Christian Horner's claim that an announcement is now not likely until Monza at the earliest adds further grist to the F1 rumour mill.
Horner told journalists at Spa-Francorchamps that Red Bull was still contemplating 'more options than you could possibly think' and, while similar comments made at the Hungarian Grand Prix coincided with sightings of the Briton deep in conversation with Fernando Alonso's manager, the repeat could bring another leading light into the frame.
Jenson Button's contract with McLaren is due to expire at the end of August – a week before the Italian Grand Prix – and the Briton admitted on Thursday that the option contained in the deal has yet to be taken up by the Woking squad. However, while the rumourmongers immediately linked Button to potential vacancies at Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus, the 2009 world champion insisted that he was happy to remain where he was.
"I think I have a contract for next year but I don't think it has a signature on it yet!" he teased, "I really want to be here next year. You might think that's strange after this season, but I think this will be a much stronger team next year.”
Asked whether he could be tempted by either Red Bull or Ferrari, Button reiterated his admiration for the Italian squad, which he has previously described as being a dream destination for any F1 racer.
"I think Red Bull is done, but Ferrari is a massive opportunity for a driver,” he conceded, “It's a team that has a lot of history, [and] I think they will be fighting for championships in the future. I hope that someone who deserves that drive gets it….
“I just want to win the world championship again. If I thought [Ferrari] was the right option, and I had the opportunity there, that would be great for me. But is it the right option? I think here [at McLaren] is my right option."
With games of bluff going on all over the paddock during F1 silly season, declaring Red Bull as 'done' may be a diversion on Button's behalf, particularly as Horner pointed out that there was no fixed timescale for the Milton Keynes to make up its mind between the likes of the Briton, Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo, the latter having been tipped as the favourite to partner Sebastian Vettel for much of the summer break.
"You have to make sure you consider all the options and there's more options than you could possibly think," Horner noted, "There's been quite a lot of interest, so we'll just take the time. 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… [But] there is no transfer window in F1 - we are not obliged to make a decision until we choose to. 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."