Alonso to replace Webber at Red Bull (3rd Update) UPDATE #3
(GMM) Red Bull has confirmed a meeting about Fernando Alonso took place with the Ferrari driver's manager at the Hungaroring last weekend.
|Horner has his eye on Alonso|
Initially, the sensational story of a potential move to Red Bull for the two-time world champion was dismissed by some, as Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad also handles the career of rising Red Bull-backed youngster Carlos Sainz Jr.
But when told his meeting with Garcia was obviously simply about the 18-year-old Sainz, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sport Bild: "Nonsense.
"Why would I talk to him about Sainz Jr, who has long been in the Red Bull junior team?"
Sainz Jr drives for the GP3 team MW Arden, a collaboration between Mark Webber and Horner.
Clearly, Garcia and Horner might have something to talk about other than Alonso, but Red Bull is not hiding the fact the Hungaroring meeting was about Ferrari's number 1.
"I can't remember if we talked about Red Bull or Spanish red wine," a mischievous Dr Helmut Marko, the head of Red Bull's driver program, told German television Sky.
With Australian Webber heading to Le Mans, Red Bull is weighing up a new teammate for Sebastian Vettel next year.
Earlier, although Kimi Raikkonen is also still in the running, it was believed Daniel Ricciardo had sped into pole position for the seat.
But Horner insists: "We have never been under pressure to take one of the junior drivers.
"We have won the world championships for the past three years, and we want to ensure we can carry on doing so in the future."
Nothing has been heard from Alonso's manager Garcia since the Hungaroring meeting, but still involved in the 32-year-old's driver career is the former Renault boss Flavio Briatore.
He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "He has a contract and contracts must be respected.
"Alonso has never said he wants to leave."
07/29/13 (GMM) Red Bull is running with the rumor, after Fernando Alonso's manager was spotted in talks with Christian Horner in Hungary.
The suggestion Ferrari's number 1 is about to sensationally switch to Red Bull to replace Mark Webber could have been easily denied, as Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad also looks after the career of youngster Carlos Sainz Jr.
Instead, Horner said: "There are statements about Kimi and statements about Fernando but we have to make sure nothing clouds our judgment about next year."
Actually, most informed experts, insiders and pundits suspect Horner is either using the opportunity to destabilize championship rival Ferrari, or that Alonso planted the story to heap pressure on Ferrari.
Indeed, the Spaniard's rhetoric stepped up a notch on Sunday, after he lost further ground to runaway points leader Vettel in the Hungarian heat.
"We are trying to close the gap," Alonso told Spanish reporters after the race, "but the superiority of the Red Bull is overwhelming.
"And not just Red Bull, also Mercedes, Lotus ...
"If the team can make some good new parts in the summer and we win four or five races in a row, we can still win the title," added Alonso.
On Italian television Sky, he sounded even more critical.
"It is four years we have had a slower car, between half and one second behind the leader, and we have fought to the end for the world championship still.
"I do not think it will be different this year. We will fight until the end."
Alonso was less forthcoming when it came to the Red Bull rumors. "Nothing to say," he insisted.
Asked if he was however contemplating his long Ferrari contract, he added: "It sounds like the same question put another way. Therefore I will not respond."
He denied knowing his manager had met with Horner, and then pointed the finger at F1's intrigued journalists.
"It's nearly August, so four weeks without formula one is a very dangerous period for you guys (reporters)," said Alonso.
"I hope you have a calm summer."
Alonso's management team, meanwhile, indicated the thought of the two-time world champion becoming Vettel's new teammate is ridiculous.
"Yes," an insider told Marca newspaper, "but only if Vettel is in the second car."
Another insider, this one close to Ferrari, told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport the whole story sounds like "a cheap diversion to destabilize".
Horner, meanwhile, ruled out 'swapping' Vettel for Alonso, while F1's reigning triple world champion also indicated he would fight to keep the Spaniard out of the team.
"I am sure that Fernando is a nice guy and I respect him as a driver," said Vettel. "I would rather have Kimi."07/28/13 (GMM) A meeting in Hungary between Christian Horner and Fernando Alonso's manager could have had nothing to do with the Ferrari driver.
Germany's Sport Bild reported earlier that Red Bull had confirmed the meeting in the team's motor home took place at Alonso manager Luis Garcia Abad's behest.
Photos of the meeting were even published, raising the tantalizing prospect of Alonso buying out the rest of his long and lucrative Ferrari deal to join arch-rival Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull in 2014.
But Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Tobias Gruner suggested the story is a false alarm, as Garcia also manages the rising Red Bull-backed junior Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sainz recently tested both the Toro Rosso and the Red Bull at Silverstone, and afterwards insisted he "would not say no" if an opportunity to move into F1 arose for 2014.
"Well, maybe there is a small percentage chance," the GP3 driver told Spain's AS newspaper, "but I am 18 years old and I think if you have talent you still have to be well prepared, to mature as a driver, get experience.
"But if the opportunity came, you can't say no because it could be something that comes only once in life," added Sainz, son of the rally legend Carlos Sainz.
Curiously, when given the chance on Sunday, Red Bull's Horner did not deny the Alonso link, telling German broadcaster RTL that "there will always be speculation when we have a seat available".
Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda, however, suspects the story has been planted to destabilize Ferrari.
"It's the biggest nonsense I've ever heard, a stupid rumor," he said.
"Alonso has a contract for three more years, 2014, 15, 16 -- everybody in the paddock knows that. It's absolutely not true."
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali smiled: "The psychological games are just a part of this sport."07/28/13
(GMM) A shock new contender could have leapt into contention to become F1's newest Red Bull driver in 2014.
|If Alonso moves to Red Bull, he and Vettel will dominate F1|
Germany's Sport Bild claims team boss Christian Horner met with Luis Garcia Abad in the Red Bull motor home in Hungary.
He is Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso's manager.
Sport Bild correspondents Bianca Garloff and Ralf Bach report that Red Bull confirmed the meeting took place, at the behest of Alonso's management.
Photos of the meeting were even published.
Spaniard Alonso is under firm contract to Ferrari for 2014, meaning that the two-time world champion or Red Bull would have to buy out the deal if he really jumps ship to become Sebastian Vettel's new teammate.
"A decision is expected in the next seven days," read the Sport Bild report.