Max Verstappen-to-Ferrari Rumours Are (Just a Bit) Premature

Matthew Walthert@@MatthewWalthertFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2015

Max Verstappen has been impressive in his rookie season, but is he actually heading to Ferrari?
Max Verstappen has been impressive in his rookie season, but is he actually heading to Ferrari?Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

Formula One driver rumours are silly. Sometimes, they are the "ha-ha" kind of silly and, sometimes, the absurd kind.

But in an environment as restricted as the F1 paddock, where everyone, it seems, tries to get away with saying as little as possible, those driver rumours are a necessary diversion. If we don't actually know where a certain driver is headed, at least we can guess!

For example, from June 2013, when Valtteri Bottas qualified third for the Canadian Grand Prix in an uncompetitive Williams, until—apparently—last week, the 26-year-old Finn was the rising star to watch in F1. The next big thing.

Yes, there are other young talents in the sport—Daniel Ricciardo, who surprised everyone with three victories for Red Bull in 2014, or Nico Hulkenberg, who isn't that young anymore, but has talent to spare—but in terms of rumoured moves up the grid (or at least to a bigger team—Williams have been pretty close to the front, lately), it seems like Bottas has led the way.

In fact, Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport (h/t Sky Sports) reported a little more than a month ago that Ferrari had bought out Bottas' contract, clearing the way for him to move to the Italian team in 2016.

Valtteri Bottas looked headed for Ferrari—until he wasn't.
Valtteri Bottas looked headed for Ferrari—until he wasn't.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

But then the Scuderia announced they had re-signed Kimi Raikkonen for next season. The move was somewhat surprising, given Raikkonen's unimpressive results since his return to Maranello. In 2014, he was unable to get comfortable with the car and was thoroughly bested by Fernando Alonso. This season, he has been outshone by Ferrari's latest saviour, Sebastian Vettel.

Perhaps that is the reason, though. Vettel might want a team-mate he is confident he can beat, after spending last year in Ricciardo's shadow.

Either way, just a few days after the Raikkonen announcement, another Italian publication, La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t ESPN F1), wrote that Ferrari management's wandering eyes had settled on Max Verstappen...for 2017.

In F1, though, the crystal ball simply doesn't look that far out.

Of course Ferrari are interested in Verstappen. He is just 17 years old and, in his first F1 season (and just his second in single-seaters), is already demonstrating talent and maturity beyond his years.

It's unlikely you could find a team principal who wouldn't be interested in the Dutch teen, if he were available.

But that doesn't mean Verstappen is packing his bags for the short drive from Toro Rosso's base in Faenza to Ferrari's in Maranello just yet. 

Max Verstappen
Max VerstappenCharles Coates/Getty Images

It was just two months ago that Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Planet F1) how much interest he had in Raikkonen's potentially vacant seat. "The Ferrari is the car everyone dreams of driving," he continued.

And that is why it is possible to write a new article, seemingly every week, linking a different driver to the Scuderia (remember, Ricciardo, per Autosport's Ian Parkes and Matt Beer, and Hulkenberg have also been mentioned in the same breath as Ferrari, among others).

So don't count Bottas out just yet. He has just one podium finish so far this year, down from three last season at the same time, but that is largely due to Ferrari's own improvements, as either Vettel or Raikkonen has finished on the podium with the two Mercedes drivers seven times in 11 races so far.

All it will take is one spectacular performance for Bottas to shoot back to the top of the rumour mill. After all, he hasn't suddenly lost all the skill that supposedly had him at the top of Ferrari's list until last week.

As for Ferrari's actual want list when Raikkonen does move on, well, if they keep the secret as well as they did with Vettel's signing last year, we won't know who is taking the Iceman's place until after a decision is made.

But that won't stop everyone from guessing.

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