Sebastian Vettel’s exit from Ferrari continues to trigger silly season rumours even before a wheel has been turned in the 2020 world championship.
The latest being that Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo has been linked to switch to McLaren for 2021, paving a way for Carlos Sainz to grab the second Ferrari drive.
The Australian ace has been touted to replace Vettel though Sainz has quickly appeared to be in the favoured position to steal the coveted drive.
Although McLaren have been vocal of their wishes to continue with its successful pairing of Sainz and Lando Norris into the 2021 season, Ricciardo has admitted he has engaged in connection talks with the team.
The 30-year-old had once previously been poised for a move to the British outfit for the beginning of the 2019 season, but ultimately opted to sign his services for Renault as he felt the team would struggle to return to competitiveness in the short term.
However, McLaren concluded the 2019 championship fourth in the constructor standings, 54 points ahead of Renault and has looked to have bridged a fair portion of the deficit between the midfield and the top three teams.
Non-executive director at Renault Sport Alain Prost has already conceded the team is likely to lose Ricciardo after 2020 as the Australian has come dissatisfied with the team’s lack of competitiveness.
Ultimately, should Ricciardo leave Enstone for Woking, it leaves an open spot next to Esteban Ocon in the team’s second machine.
Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul acknowledged his preference will be to promote a driver from its junior academy, where F2 drivers Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard are the most likely prospects.
It could well be the seat that Vettel, if he chooses to remain in the sport, slides into.
Though there have also been prevalent rumours suggesting that double world-champion Fernando Alonso could sedate his ‘on-again off-again’ love relationship with F1 and return to the team for a third time and which delivered him his world titles in ’05 and ’06.
“I see a scenario which is Sainz to Ferrari, Ricciardo to McLaren, and then that leaves a seat at Renault that probably would be Alonso,” said former F1 driver Martin Brundle told Sky Sports F1.
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi remains one of the last plausible replacements for Vettel at Ferrari for next season.