Since the end of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, there has been speculation around the paddock. While rumors suggested that Red Bull reached out to Nico Hulkenberg‘s representatives to discuss the German leaving Renault to replace Pierre Gasly, that story was reported to be untrue after Gasly called Helmut Marko after hearing the rumor.
It’s no secret that Gasly has struggled this season as he transitions to one of the top three teams with Red Bull. He has consistently been the slowest of the top six drivers and is being far outperformed by his teammate Max Verstappen. What gives this rumor some gravity is that Red Bull has shown impatience with its drivers in the past.
They brought Verstappen up to F1 at age 17, and while that move has worked out for the most part, no one has even been up to F1 at the age of 17 so there was much speculation as to whether or not he was ready for the big stage. Following that move, Red Bull swapped Daniil Kvyat for Verstappen after four races into 2016 in another shocking move that turned out to be successful. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Red Bull to be looking for a replacement for the struggling Gasly.
But this is where the rumor loses all strength. Since the team brought in David Coulthard from McLaren and kept the former Jaguar driver Mark Webber following Red Bull’s acquisition of Jaguar in 2005, Red Bull has never chosen a non-Red Bull developmental driver from Toro Rosso to drive for the main team. Sebastian Vettel moved up in 2009, as a Red Bull driver from Toro Rosso. Daniel Ricciardo moved up to Red Bull in 2014 from Toro Rosso. Kvyat moved up in 2015 from Toro Rosso, same with Verstappen in 2016 and Gasly in 2019. With one of the best, most filled developmental driver program in all of F1, Red Bull has proven to go with their young guns over established drivers.
When Ricciardo left for Renault, there were rumors that Fernando Alonso would leave McLaren to race for Red Bull instead of retiring. Alonso never got a call. Even Kimi Raikkonen was rumored to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull following the Aussie’s retirement and Raikkonen’s departure from Lotus. That was the most realistic rumor since Raikkonen was sponsored by Red Bull during his Rally and brief NASCAR stints following his departure from F1 in 2009. But still, they went with Ricciardo and Kimi reunited with Ferrari.
Hulkenberg will not drive a Red Bull in the future. The only way in my opinion that a driver not driving a Red Bull-sponsored car can earn a drive for Red Bull is either Ricciardo deciding he made a mistake and goes back to Red Bull, or if Red Bull sells the Toro Rosso team to Honda or another brand, thus ending the Red Bull B-team. The way I see it, unless Alex Albon sets the world on fire as Verstappen did in 2016, Gasly will remain with Red Bull next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bring Kvyat back if things get really bad for Gasly, but that would have to be an emergency situation.
The Red Bull situation aside, the biggest rumor that swept the paddock was that Sebastian Vettel was heavily considering retirement after the 2019 season. The Ferrari driver has had a tough go of things this season and has been under serious pressure from teammate Charles Leclerc, in addition to piloting a Ferrari that is nowhere near as quick as Mercedes AMG Petronas, who is running away with the 2019 season. With all of these problems and increased likelihood that he may never win for Ferrari, reports around the F1 world speculate that Vettel might just take his ball and go home after this year. However like the Hulkenberg rumor, this is has been shot down by four-time champion.
“I have no plans to stop Formula 1, I still have a lot of fun, and I still have something to do at Ferrari,” Vettel told Auto Bild
He is determined to win for Ferrari and with his contract still good until 2020, he will most likely stay and see what car the Scuderia can make for Vettel next season before considering what the next move will become contract end.
I have written about Vettel’s future and potential plan to leave F1 in the past, but there was more education in this speculation since, as mentioned before, Vettel’s contract is up after 2020, and the sweeping F1 regulation change comes the following season, putting Liberty Media’s full plan into place, which Vettel called more of a show than a sport. In addition, that article was written with the assumption that Mick Schumacher would be scoring well enough to get sixth place in F2, allowing him to obtain enough super license points to begin his rise to fill his father’s old seat starting next season, most likely driving for Alfa Romeo. So far, that isn’t happening.
Right now, Vettel is in a good place. He clearly wants to be a Ferrari driver and Ferrari does not have another option but hope that Vettel stays with the team. It is not too often you can get a multiple world champion to drive your car with the determination of Vettel to win a championship wearing the scarlet red. I can see Vettel retiring if he wins the title in 2020. I could also see him staying in F1 until his rosebud Lewis Hamilton leaves F1, giving him less competition for a title and retiring not far after.
He could also stay in F1 well into his 30s. He is only 31 now and loves to race. He has a resume that’ll keep him in F1 almost as long as he wants to, so he can call the shots. The only thing we know for sure is that he is not leaving in 2019 and these reports can only be seen as click bait that has no factual base.