The grid for the 2021 Formula One grid was already put into a spin when Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari couldn’t agree to terms, and another shockwave could be about to hit.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas has opened up the possibility of further driver manoeuvring, after he reportedly allowed his agent to engage in talks with Renault.
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The French manufacturer has an open seat alongside Estaban Ocon to fill, following Daniel Ricciado’s departure to McLaren.
German outlet Motorsport Total first reported Bottas’ contact with Renault, leading to increased speculation about next season’s driver lineup.
Vettel is yet to indicate where he will land in 2021, if he even returns to the grid at all, while Fernando Alonso, who hasn’t raced in F1 since 2018, has also been linked to a return to the French manufacturer where he won his two world championships in the mid 2000s.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already indicated the team’s preference would be to retain their current driver lineup, despite the potential opportunity to sign four-time world champion Vettel.
“We have to stay true to our line,” he says.
“Loyalty is something incredibly important, part of our values. We are loyal to our current drivers and do not want to negotiate at a time when the season has not even started.”
“Sebastian is a great driver, a major personality and an asset to any Formula 1 team,” Wolff said.
“When looking to the future, our first loyalty lies with the current Mercedes drivers.
“But naturally we must take this development into consideration.”
Ricciardo exit opens F1 door for Alonso
Daniel Ricciardo's move to McLaren has opened the door for two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso to return to Renault.
Alonso has admitted a return to the elite series could be an option for him from 2021.
"My next challenge will be at the top level of motorsport, be that Formula 1, endurance racing or IndyCar," Spanish media quoted him telling university students by video link on Monday.
Spaniard Alonso, 38, left F1 in 2018 after growing frustrated at racing for McLaren in an uncompetitive car.
But he has retained close links to F1 and his former team Renault - where he won his world titles in 2005 and 2006 - who now have a vacant seat from 2021 with Australian Ricciardo signing with McLaren.
Alonso's agent Flavio Briatore told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport that Fernando was motivated.
"A year out of Formula 1 has done him good. He has detoxed himself and I see him more serene and ready to return," said Briatore.