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Minardi predicts Vettel to McLaren


Veteran race team owner Gian Carlo Minardi believes Honda's return to F1 next season will yet trigger a number of important driver moves.

Over the course of the Spa weekend the Italian was highly vocal, speaking out on the recruitment of Max Verstappen and the future, or lack of it, of Jenson Button.

Suggesting that Honda will want to make an immediate impact on its return with a "super-top driver to place alongside Magnussen", Minardi said that Button should not be part of the plan.

Pointing out that Nico Rosberg has recently signed a contract extension with Mercedes, Minardi initially said he would not be surprised to see either Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso linked with the Woking team.

Turning his attention to the signing of Max Verstappen, whose father Jos raced for Minardi in 2003, the Italian said he wasn't entirely convinced "the games are over".

"This operation surprised me, as it might cause problems for Carlos Sainz Jr, who is part of the Red Bull family for several years," said Minardi.

"For this reason, I see a different scene, with an extremely young Toro Rosso formed by Verstappen and Sainz Jr, and Daniil Kvyat (going) to Red Bull, in place of Sebastian Vettel," he said

Speaking ahead of Sunday's controversial race, he built on his Vettel to McLaren theory. "Do not forget that we have Honda determined to aim for a super-top driver and, to this day, we certainly have the first three guides unhappy with their situation: Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. In addition, Red Bull Racing is a brand tuned to a young audience and the arrival of the new face of Kvyat alongside Ricciardo could be a very interesting marketing move.

"For some time, I contend that the time has come for the four-time World Champion to abdicate and accept new challenges," he added. "We are close to several changes, in a domino-style. We expect the first move and then all the others will arrive as a result."

Today, in the wake of yesterday's controversy, Minardi expanded on his theories.

"The recent statements of loyalty by Fernando Alonso at Ferrari have effectively removed one of the 'unhappy'," he said. "Therefore, Vettel and Hamilton remain in play.

"From Japan, a very strong manoeuvre is suggested to me," he continued, "it has been played in the last days by Honda, in order to win the pair Newey/Vettel.

"At Spa-Francorchamps, Bernie Ecclestone approached Vettel," he claimed, going on to suggest that "as has happened on other occasions", Mr E might have intervened in the driver market in an attempt to spice up the show.

Suggesting that Ecclestone may have attempted to convince Vettel to make a move, albeit without Newey, Minardi is convinced Ecclestone wants to see the four-time world champion in the Honda-powered McLaren next year.

"The mosaic begins to take shape," says Minardi. "By signing the young Max, Red Bull has accomplished an important marketing action, as well as acquiring a new potential talent.

"Moreover," he insists, "it might also realize the task that practically everyone took for granted: Carlos Sainz Jr. in F1, at Toro Rosso."

Again he claims: "At this point, it comes easy to think about a promotion for the young Russian Kvyat alongside Ricciardo, in case the transition of Sebastian Vettel to Honda will materialize.

"Hamilton's enigma remains," he adds. "Unhappy more than ever after the 'close contact' with Rosberg, he has been defended for the first time firmly by Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.

"Is a new scenario emerging, changing the future strategies of Mercedes?" he wonders. "Does a new pretender loom on the horizon... Valtteri Bottas? A young man who showed his value on track and, who we should not forget has a remarkable manager... Toto Wolff!"

Now concentrating on driver management, the man who gave Fernando Alonso his F1 break, certainly has some interesting theories...

Chris Balfe


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1. Posted by bfairey, 26/08/2014 21:46

"The "stupid" season has opened."

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2. Posted by Chris SA, 26/08/2014 11:08

"Sounds very interesting, I doubt Vettel to Mclaren, but I do see Lewis going back, Ron Dennis would move heaven and earth for Lewis return, Valtteri to Merc. JE Vergne and Grosjean to Williams. JEV hasnt disgraced himself, he is available and doesnt carry a mega price tag."

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3. Posted by Guybrush Threepwood, 26/08/2014 8:53

"The McLaren is a potato even with the best PU by a country mile. Why would Vettel go there when they will not only have a terrible chasis, but an un-tested and un-developed PU compared to the rest of the teams and manufacturers?"

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4. Posted by f1khun, 26/08/2014 7:20

"@ TheBucketOfTruth: "Doesn't Vettel have a contract through 2015"

While we have not seen early contract terminations since Kimi left Ferrari (the first time) back in 2009 and that makes perfect sense: It's very costly to terminate a top driver's contract. Similarly, if Vettel was to leave, he would have to find a way to terminate his contract. But, if Vettel would NOT be happy to continue with Red Bull, then I think common ground could be found. And Honda seems to be prepared to go to great lengths to get a top driver in the McLaren in 2015, so maybe it IS just a matter of money..."

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5. Posted by TheBucketOfTruth, 26/08/2014 4:07

"Red Bull is certainly a powerhouse, but with Newey on his way out it is vulnerable. We'll see how the Honda/McLaren combo looks next season. Doesn't Vettel have a contract through 2015?"

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6. Posted by f1khun, 26/08/2014 4:07

"INTERESTING - 2015 POSSIBLE GRID (with some question marks)

Mercedes: Rosberg & Bottas
Red Bull: Ricciardo & Kvyat
Ferrari: Alonso & Raikkonen
Williams: Hamilton & Grosjean(Massa retires)
McLaren: Vettel and Magnussen (Button retires)
Force India: Hulkenberg & Perez
Toro Rosso: Verstappen and Sainz Jr.
Lotus: Maldonado & ? (Pay Driver?)
Marussia: ? & ? (Pay Drivers) (Chilton retires)
Sauber: Vd Garde & Bianchi (Sutil retires)
Caterham: ? & ? (Pay Drivers)

I am sure I am wide off the mark on places, but there is also some merit here; look at Hamilton & Grosjean @ Williams...."

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7. Posted by Durishin, 26/08/2014 3:05

"Perhaps Ron and Honda are leery of Lewis' whinging."

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