Despite Red Bull insisting that no announcement on the identity of Mark Webber's successor would be forthcoming until Monza next month, it did little to stop the rumours swirling at Spa-Francorchamps at the weekend.
Helping to stir the pot, Webber himself weighed in with his own opinion, telling his native Channel 10
that the decision had been made and it was 'good for Australia'. While mentioning no names, it is clear that the veteran believes that fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo will be slipping into the seat alongside Sebastian Vettel next season, even if the Red Bull protégé is not yet ready to confirm it.
“He really said that?” the Toro Rosso driver queried in an interview with Russia's F1news.ru
shortly after scoring a point in the Belgian Grand Prix, ”We all know Mark.... he likes to make predictions, sometimes they are right, sometimes they're not.
“It's nice that he supports me, so I take his words as a compliment but, I'm sure that, if I had a contract, I would know about it. I don't think we're going to have to wait long for the team [to announce something], but I still haven't heard anything.”
With Kimi Raikkonen and, according to the rumour mill, Fernando Alonso still in the running for the seat, team principal Christian Horner is playing his cards increasingly close to his chest, reprising the same phrases each time he is questioned about the matter.
“I have never known a driver sign another driver,” he said of Webber's comments, “At the end of the day, we've got plenty to take into consideration and, when the time's right, we'll let you know what [the decision] is. We've been surprised at the interest and we're not in any rush. We've got time on our side, to make the right decision.”
With Lotus making more optimistic noises about retaining Raikkonen for a third year, Horner may find his options narrowing before the Italian Grand Prix gets underway – mischievous suggestions that Jenson Button was also being evaluated appear to have disappeared as quickly as they materialised at Spa – but the RBR leader wasn't about to give anything away.
“Kimi is, without doubt, a class driver, but we are also thinking of the future, and there are so many things we have to take into account,” he told Sky Sports