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Marko: Pointless to talk now about Vettel to Red Bull

Helmut Marko has played down the latest version of wild speculation linking Sebastian Vettel with a return to Red Bull for 2020, but reading between the lines suggests that it may open again for 2021.

Vettel to Red Bull was a hot topic before the summer break, with gossip even taking place within the energy drinks camp as their chiefs also teased and flirted with the notion of the return of their favourite son.

It got to the point that their sporting director Jonathan Wheatley was quoted saying that the man who won four F1 titles in blue needs the kind of TLC that Vettel had at Red Bull.

Problem is this was said off the record and a naughty journo broke the ‘off-the-record’ code by quoting Wheatley’s opinions on Vettel’s dip in form.

Needless to say, Red Bull went into immediate damage control and wrote GP247: “We have a concern over the following article which quotes our Sporting Director Jonathan Wheatley. Jonathan has not provided any on the record comments and says these will have been made in a personal conversation.”

We removed the quote to avoid embarrassing Wheatley even further for what appears to have been a faux pas, caused by saying too much in hearing-distance of journos with no scruples.

For Jonathan, it will surely be a lesson on who to trust with off the record comments, but the reality is that the team’s sporting director is 100% correct – Maranello is far more explosive environment than Milton Keynes where once Vettel thrived and dominated F1 as a result.

At any rate, Marko has played down suggestions Max Verstappen’s teammate could be the German, “As far as I know, Sebastian has a Ferrari contract until the end of 2020. That’s why it’s pointless now to talk about it.”

At the same time, Marko seemed to acknowledge former Toro Rosso shareholder Gerhard Berger’s suspicion that Vettel may be growing weary, “I am convinced that he can become world champion with Ferrari. The only question is whether he still wants it.

“The politics is a big part,” Marko explained. “He’s not interested in that, but I think you have to be political at Ferrari to achieve your goals.”

But there was no sign of defeatest talk when Vettel faced the press ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, where he told them, “We have never stopped working because sometimes, the slightest change can produce a big improvement. We have not given up, as that’s not our style. We want to win and we will keep trying right to the end.”

Meanwhile, at Spa, rookie Alex Albon admitted to feeling nervous about taking over the demoted Pierre Gasly’s seat.

“These decisions are never easy, but we had to react,” Marko, who founded and still heads Red Bull’s driver programme, told Auto Bild. “Alexander feels ready for it and Gasly should regain his confidence with Toro Rosso. But a decision about 2020 has not yet been taken.”

Former Red Bull charge Daniel Ricciardo said he supports his former boss’ tough decision, “I have nothing against Pierre, but they gave him six months at Red Bull Racing and I don’t think he showed the required progress.”

“It’s not a surprise that Red Bull expects a lot from you and will make certain decisions if you don’t live up to expectations.”

Some in the paddock think new Renault refugee Nico Hulkenberg is hoping for the Red Bull seat, but he is far more likely to go to Haas. (Additional Reporting: Paul Velasco)

Big Question: What chance Seb will return to Red Bull to drive for them?