Red Bull have denied the Sakhir Grand Prix has made any difference to their interest in signing Sergio Perez – or, for that matter, George Russell.
Perez is making an increasingly compelling case to replace Alex Albon with Red Bull next year, scaling new heights when he won his first F1 race in 190 attempts last weekend in Bahrain.
Helmut Marko, who calls the shots regarding the driver line-up for Red Bull and their sister team AlphaTauri, has maintained for several weeks now that Albon, despite his struggles, will be given until the last lap he drives this season to prove he should keep his place.
And it appears nothing has changed going into the concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix even though Perez, who is seeking a drive after being pushed out of Racing Point to make way for Sebastian Vettel, is ready and waiting for an offer.
“Sergio Perez’s victory in Bahrain has no influence on our decision,” said Marko, quoted by F1 Insider. “We already knew the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates for the cockpit before.
“After the last race in Abu Dhabi, we will sit down together and then make the best possible decision.”
Also in the Red Bull mix – although it has gone quiet recently regarding him – is Nico Hulkenberg, whom it is believed would get a thumbs-up from Max Verstappen.
But what about a shock new contender who may have emerged with a highly impressive Sakhir Grand Prix drive?
By that we mean George Russell, who is being linked with an earlier-than-expected step up to Mercedes after he was only denied a first F1 victory by a combination of a team pit-stop blunder and a late puncture while closing fast on Perez when standing in for Hamilton.
It has been claimed by German broadcaster RTL’s website that “Marko and Christian Horner have long had their eye on Russell…should Mercedes not bring him into the senior team, they will certainly try to poach Russell.”.
But Marko quashed talk of any interest in the 22-year-old Briton.
He told F1 Insider: “Russell is not an issue for us. Sure, he did a super job last Sunday, but some drivers would have done that in a Mercedes.
“First of all, he is a Mercedes driver, and secondly, he is managed by Toto Wolff. He told us, incidentally, that he has a 10-year contract with Wolff. That is something we cannot accept for our drivers.
“On top, we ourselves have young drivers whom we want to develop and who also have great talent.”