Despite Sebastian Vettel insisting that he has no regrets about having signed to compete with Red Bull Racing next season [see separate story – click here
], Niki Lauda has suggested that the German – Formula 1's newest race-winner following his superb Monza triumph just under two weeks ago – may yet remain at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2009.
When it was announced – ahead of his home grand prix at Hockenheim back in July – that Vettel would be graduating to the Red Bull senior outfit, it was seen as a step-up for one of the most promising young drivers in the top flight in 2008.
Since then, however, whilst the 21-year-old has kept his side of the bargain with a series of standout performances behind the wheel of his STR, the same cannot unfortunately be said of RBR, which has scored a mere two points in the intervening period, compared to its 'junior' squad's tally of 20.
The finger of blame for that slump – which has even seen RBR slip behind STR in the constructors' world championship, the two teams sitting sixth and seventh in the standings respectively – has been pointed firmly at the Renault engine in the back of the RB4, which is understood to be generating considerably less power than the Ferrari powerplant in the similarly Adrian Newey-designed, theoretically identical STR3.
Former three-time F1 World Champion Lauda has consequently hinted that he would not be surprised if Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz allowed Vettel to remain at the small Faenza-based concern in 2009, rather than making the switch to Milton Keynes.
“Vettel should do a comparison test in the winter with the Toro Rosso and the Red Bull and decide then,” the 59-year-old Austrian told Sport Bild
“Mateschitz is a logically-thinking guy. He wants to have success with his brand, so if he sees that it would be best to leave Vettel with Toro Rosso, I am sure he would do that.”
Current RBR incumbent David Coulthard, meanwhile – the driver set to make way for the man from Heppenheim at the energy drinks-backed squad – has asserted that Vettel's test for the team at Jerez last week served another purpose than to merely help him to acclimatise to his new surroundings and colleagues. It was also, the Scot explained, a comparison to see if he could help Red Bull to pin-point just where it is losing out to its sister outfit.
“The other aim was to help crystallise what the differences are between the RB4 chassis and the STR3 that Toro Rosso use, in terms of grip, driveability and so forth,” the 37-year-old wrote in his regular ITV
column. “It was a useful exercise for both Sebastian and the team.”