Ferrari has joined Mercedes in admitting its interest in F1 teen sensation Max Verstappen.
“It is clear that he has a great future in F1,” Mercedes’ Toto Wolff said recently. “It would be stupid not to consider him as the opportunity arises.
“But at the moment this is not an issue,” added Wolff, referring to the fact that Verstappen, 18, is firmly under long-term contract to Red Bull.
The longevity of that deal, however, reportedly depends on whether the young Dutchman is promoted to Red Bull Racing for 2017.
He currently drives for Toro Rosso, so if his paymasters want to keep him at the secondary team, Verstappen may become a free agent.
Indeed, Finland’s Ilta Sanomat newspaper claims Red Bull is planning to free up a seat for Verstappen by relegating Daniil Kvyat to Toro Rosso for 2017.
That is because not only Mercedes but also Ferrari has a potential seat open for 2017, as Kimi Raikkonen’s deal runs out this year.
“There are several interesting guys and he is one of them,” team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, referring to Verstappen, told Corriere della Sera newspaper in Bahrain.
2007 world champion Raikkonen, however, has not been ruled out of the running.
“He did not get the opportunity to prove anything in Australia,” Arrivabene said.
Normally, Ferrari prefers to rely on more experienced drivers than rookies, although Arrivabene said: “We are willing to open the doors to young talents, but if you make hasty or wrong choices you run the risk of burning careers.”
Finally, Arrivabene played down Ferrari’s chances of dominating this weekend in Bahrain, even though rivals Mercedes are talking up the red team’s game.
“It is true that our car has improved a lot,” said the Italian. “But I suspect when I hear Toto and Niki (Lauda) saying ‘Ferrari will surely win in Bahrain’, it is because they can then say either ‘We told you’ or ‘We were very strong’.
“So I prefer to stop with these predictions,” Arrivabene added.
He admitted, however, that the pressure being put on Ferrari to perform in 2016 by president Sergio Marchionne is very high.
“I do not see anything strange (about that),” said Arrivabene. “I would be more worried if we had a president who is happy with second and third place.”