Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2015

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and More

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    Max Verstappen "will be (in) a world championship-winning team before he is 20," mused Martin Brundle, the former grand prix driver, as the teenager announced his arrival in Formula One in the early weeks of 2015, per Sky Sports' James Galloway.

    As he compared the youngster, competing in just his third F1 race, to the likes of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher—among the greatest drivers to have ever lived—Brundle's prediction appeared to be a little premature.

    But after completing the most spectacular of rookie seasons, Verstappen is on course to meet Brundle's expectations and is attracting interest from two-time world champions Mercedes and Ferrari, the most successful teams in F1 history.

    Two of Verstappen's most alluring characteristics, however, are his maturity and sense of perspective, with the boy wonder admitting he is in no rush to join the biggest names in the business.

    Daniel Ricciardo, whose Red Bull contract expires at the end of 2016, will also be on the driver market, but he is taking a similarly relaxed approach to his future.

    While the Australian is eager to put himself in a championship-winning position and build on his three victories in 2014, Ricciardo is wary of following in the footsteps of Fernando Alonso, whose career has paled into insignificance at McLaren-Honda.

    As Alonso's difficulties continue, Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has stuck the boot in, claiming Sebastian Vettel is a better team leader than the Spaniard ever was during his five seasons with the Italian outfit.

    Luca di Montezemolo, though, has defended Alonso, claiming Ferrari's failings prevented the two-time world champion from becoming a perfect servant to the Prancing Horse.

    Meanwhile, Aston Martin are now losing interest in a deal with Force India, while Nico Rosberg has words of encouragement for another potential teenage sensation by the name of M. Schumacher.

Max Verstappen 'Relaxed' About Future Amid Ferrari, Mercedes Rumours

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    Max Verstappen has admitted he is flattered by rumours linking him with a move to Ferrari, but he is happy to continue his development at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2016.

    After becoming the youngest-ever driver to start a Formula One race at the age of 17 in the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen went on to enjoy one of the most remarkable debut campaigns in the sport's history.

    Two fourth-place finishes in Hungary and the United States were the highlights from a results perspective, but it was the style of Verstappen's performances—his raw speed, maturity and overtaking prowess—that has seen him come to be regarded as a future world champion.

    Verstappen's achievements were recognised at the recent FIA prize-giving ceremony, where he was presented with three separate awards.

    He has also been commended by his peers, with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel—the most successful graduate of the Red Bull junior-driver scheme Verstappen represents today—telling Autosport's Dieter Rencken and Lawrence Barretto he has been "surprised" by the Dutchman's success.

    As a result, the boy wonder has been linked to a move to a leading team in 2017, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, per BBC Radio 5 Live (h/t F1 journalist James Allen), recently issuing a "hands-off" warning to Ferrari and Mercedes.  

    And while he has taken satisfaction from being linked to some of the biggest teams in the pit lane, Verstappen, now 18, is unmoved by the speculation and claims Toro Rosso is the ideal environment for him to gain more experience, telling Barretto in a separate Autosport article

    I just stay quite relaxed about it.

    It's very positive that people start to speak about you like that.

    It's very nice to hear, but I'm happy with where I am right now.

    I still have a lot of things to learn and I think it's the perfect way to do it here.

    [...]

    To get into Q3 all the time is a good fight and I really enjoy it, so I don't mind to do it for another year.

    Of course, you have some different careers in F1, like Lewis [Hamilton]—he started in a top team and he stayed always in a top team.

    I think especially at my age, if you don't have so much experience in lower categories, single-seater categories, it's good to do it like this.

    Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, has told Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble of his interest in Verstappen, but he is adamant the Silver Arrows will "not interfere" with the 18-year-old's Red Bull contract.

Daniel Ricciardo Wary of Following in Fernando Alonso's Footsteps

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    Along with Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo should be in contention for a move to a front-running team for the 2017 season.

    And just like his Red Bull stablemate, the Australian is willing to take a patient approach when it comes to deciding his future, admitting he is fearful of making the same mistake as Fernando Alonso in the final months of 2014.

    After five seasons with Ferrari, Alonso negotiated his release from the Prancing Horse ahead of the 2014 Japanese GP, per Sky Sports' Pete Gill, before trying to swap seats with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, as reported at the time by Jonathan Noble in a print edition of Autosport magazine

    But when that ambitious plot failed, and Sebastian Vettel quickly filled the vacancy at Ferrari, Alonso was left with no option but to join the uncompetitive McLaren-Honda team for 2015.

    Ricciardo emerged as a future world champion after taking three assured victories in 2014 and, despite Red Bull's fall from grace, grew in stature in 2015 by claiming two podium finishes in the team's worst season since 2008.

    With his current contract set to expire at the end of 2016, the 26-year-old is certain to play a major role in "silly season."

    Yet Ricciardo, whose career has been overseen by Red Bull, will refrain from making a decision until the second half of next season, admitting he is mindful of the perils of putting himself on the market, especially ahead of the 2017 regulation changes.

    He told F1i.com's Phillip van Osten

    It’s something I have to play by ear.

    In 2017 there are a lot of rule changes and the last thing I want to do is an Alonso, jumping ship and then the ship you’ve left is the one you want to be on.

    In an ideal world I will stay at Red Bull and we will find the dominance again. But that’s something for later in the season.

    In the meantime, Ricciardo has admitted he has no great expectations for 2016, telling MailOnline's Dan Ripley that Mercedes—who have won 32 of a possible 38 races since the beginning of 2014—will be "hard to beat" next year.

Luca di Montezemolo Defends Fernando Alonso's Impact on Ferrari

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    Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press

    Luca di Montezemolo, the former Ferrari president, has defended Fernando Alonso's impact on the team after the two-time world champion was criticised by Sergio Marchionne.

    At Ferrari's pre-Christmas press conference, Marchionne—who succeeded Di Montezemolo toward the end of last year—paid tribute to Sebastian Vettel, who won three grands prix in his first season with the team in 2015, and he couldn't resist a slight dig at Alonso, the German's predecessor.

    Per Autosprint (h/t F1i.com), Marchionne claimed Vettel's success at Ferrari, and his willingness to fully embrace the culture of the Prancing Horse, made him more of a "Ferrarista"—a term used to describe those with full commitment to the Maranello-based outfit—than Alonso ever was during his five-year spell with the team.

    He said:

    There were over 1,200 people (at Ferrari's Christmas dinner) and Seb gave a speech entirely in Italian. He had probably learned it by heart but he spoke in near-perfect Italian. He was like an elementary school pupil reciting a poem for Christmas.

    Over the season, Vettel has left the impression of embracing more and more the Ferrari spirit. Alonso stayed here for five years but I think he was less of a "Ferrarista" when he left than Vettel who has just arrived.

    Alonso won 11 races during his five years at Ferrari but failed to add to his two world titles after missing out to Vettel—then of Red Bull Racing—at the final rounds of the 2010 and 2012 seasons.

    And while Di Montezemolo has been impressed by Vettel, who seems determined to match the achievements of boyhood idol Michael Schumacher, he believes the team's own failure to meet Alonso's standards has blurred his effect on Ferrari, telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble:

    Alonso would have been more [a Ferrarista] if Ferrari, in 2010, had won a world championship that was easier to win than to lose.

    And if in the last race of the season you lose the world championship twice, these things need to be understood.

    [Vettel] is certainly a guy who has shown great ability to work for the team. I think it is crucial for the growth of the team, of its morale and its unity.

    But he needs to not do it with words, but with facts, like Michael.

    As Vettel made a total of 13 podium finishes in 2015, Alonso was restricted to just two points finishes having been hindered by McLaren-Honda's troublesome V6 turbo power unit.

Aston Martin Losing Interest in 2016 Force India Deal

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    Force India are now unlikely to become Aston Martin Racing in time for next season, with the British sports car manufacturer losing interest in the deal.

    On the eve of November's Mexican Grand Prix, Autosport's Dieter Rencken and Lawrence Barretto reported that Force India were set for a change of identity in 2016, which would see the team's name and livery change as part of a technical partnership with Aston Martin.

    An announcement was thought to be imminent after Otmar Szafnauer told Autosport's Barretto and Ian Parkes that a deal was "close," but it appears the agreement has fallen at the final hurdle.

    As reported by Sky Sports, Sky News sources have suggested "shareholders in Aston Martin are understood to have expressed reservations about a putative tie-up" with Force India after a "board meeting last week."

    While a "final decision" has not yet been made, an unnamed source is quoted as saying there is a "definite inclination not to do it" for 2016, but a partnership with Force India "could certainly be revisited in future."

    The article adds the "likely decision not to return to F1 comes in the wake of a global branding campaign fuelled by Aston Martin's prominent presence in Spectre, the recently released Bond movie" with Aston Martin shareholders unsure whether an F1 operation "would improve its wider business performance."

    Meanwhile, director of marketing and communications Simon Sproule has told Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper that Aston Martin has "not made any decision," claiming a final decision will not be made "about either F1 or the broader motor sport strategy until the New Year."

Nico Rosberg Fears for Mick Schumacher's Development in Spotlight

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    As the son of a Formula One world champion, Nico Rosberg is fully aware of the pressures on young racing drivers with famous fathers.

    The need to live up to the family name, however, didn't seem to affect the German, who will start his 11th season in F1 in 2016 having driven for the likes of Williams and Mercedes, claiming a total of 14 grand prix wins to date.

    But Rosberg has acknowledged the pressure he faced as a youngster is nothing compared to Mick Schumacher, the teenage son of Michaelthe most successful driver in F1 history.

    Schumacher Jr. began his car-racing career in 2015, finishing 10th in the ADAC Formula 4 championship with one win to his name, and he is widely expected to progress to F1 in the coming years.

    Rosberg partnered Schumacher Sr. at Mercedes for three seasons between 2010 and 2012, and he has offered his sympathy to his former team-mate's offspring, encouraging the 16-year-old to take pleasure from his racing, despite the intense media interest.

    He told Agence France-Presse (h/t ESPN F1's Nate Saunders): 

    Mick had it worse than I did. It's an incredible amount of hype. I never had it like that and it's a pity as it must certainly take some of the fun of the sport away from him, but it's something he has to accept and live with. I always look to see how he's driving and I hope he can enjoy the racing despite all the hype. 

    Rosberg's Mercedes team-mate, three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, also offered words of support to the youngster, telling the same source: "He certainly doesn't need any advice from me. He just has to look at what his father has done, because he is the greatest legend in our sport."

    Schumacher Sr., who won seven world titles and claimed 91 race victories over the course of his F1 career, continues to recover from severe head injuries sustained in a skiing accident in December 2013.

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