Red Bull unable to offer Hamilton future drive
By Ian Parkes
Friday 24th March, 2023 - 3:30am
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner will not be offering Lewis Hamilton an escape route from Mercedes should the seven-time F1 champion decide to leave.
Hamilton’s future has again become a topic of debate in light of Mercedes’ latest poor start to a season with a car that at this stage is unable to provide the British driver with an opportunity for wins, never mind a record eighth Formula 1 title.
Although F1’s ‘silly season’ is normally reserved until later in the year as out-of-contract drivers fight for a new deal with their current teams or push for a move elsewhere, speculation has recently emerged suggesting a Hamilton switch to Red Bull.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has already expressed his confidence Hamilton will stay, and the 38-year-old has indicated his desire to continue.
But in a world of ‘never say never’, and despite Mercedes’ promises to improve the W14, as unlikely as it seems, a Hamilton move cannot be totally ruled out.
That would pit the two best drivers of the current generation in Hamilton and Max Verstappen up against one another, offering an intriguing test of their abilities in equal machinery.
Asked by Sky Sports News about the possibility of Hamilton joining Red Bull, Horner replied: “What Lewis has achieved in Formula 1 is second to none, but we’re very happy with the drivers that we have.
“They’re committed as a pair for not only this season, but next season as well, so I can’t see where we would be able to accommodate Lewis.
“I’m sure they (Mercedes) are going to sort their issues out, and we’re certainly not writing him (Hamilton) off yet.”
Mercedes and Ferrari to hit back – Horner
Despite Red Bull’s dominance of the opening two races so far, with the team scoring back-to-back one-twos for the best start to a campaign in its 19-year history, Horner is convinced Mercedes and Ferrari will fight back.
“It’s only the second year of these new regulations, so I’m expecting to see an awful lot of convergence during the course of the year, and the grid is going to tighten up,” suggested Horner.
“So we need to make hay while the sun shines at the moment, while we’ve got a competitive car, and just keep pushing through the season.
“But I have no doubt that the opposition is going to be coming back quickly and aggressively, especially as we come back into the European season where updates start to come through.
“We’re hearing about big Mercedes upgrades, I’m sure Ferrari isn’t happy with their current position as well, so we’re fully expecting things to converge quickly once we get back into Europe.”
Horner insists ‘healthy respect’ between Verstappen and Perez
Just one point separates reigning champion Verstappen from Perez at the top of the drivers’ standings as a result of a contentious fastest-lap duel between the duo in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Perez suggested a review was required as to why Verstappen was afforded the opportunity to claim the fastest lap from him as he was told to hold his pace.
Horner, however, countered by claiming Perez blew his opportunity to claim the potentially vital point on the final lap, whereas Verstappen took his.
Insisting his drivers have respect for one another, Horner said: “There’s always a conflict between the two championships.
“The big championship for the team is the constructors’, that’s where the money is distributed within the sport that comes in through the different fees etcetera.
“The drivers’ is the individual championship and that’s the one that carries the prestige.
“For us as a team, the responsibility is to give both drivers the same chance, the same opportunity, the same car, and, of course, it’s then down to what they do on the circuit.
“We’ve got two great drivers in Max and Sergio, there’s a healthy respect between the two of them and I expect that to continue.”
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