Links between Valtteri Bottas and Alfa Romeo for 2022 continue to intensify following the Hungarian Grand Prix.
That is not to say Mercedes are keener to dispense with the Finn’s services after he caused the Turn 1 melee at the Hungaroring by misjudging his braking and slamming into the back of Lando Norris, bringing out the red flag and ending the chances of himself and several rivals.
Instead, comments from respected Auto Motor und Sport reporter Michael Schmidt suggest a Bottas move to Alfa Romeo could be getting closer based on his own observations within the paddock at the Budapest venue.
Especially when it came to the whereabouts of Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur.
Bottas, of course, may well be looking for a new working home, with Mercedes seriously considering promoting George Russell from his ‘loan’ at Williams to join Lewis Hamilton in their 2022 line-up.
“At the moment, Alfa Romeo looks more likely than Williams. I think Vasseur was seen in the Mercedes hospitality 10 times last weekend,” reported Schmidt, referring to Bottas’ next move.
“Williams are looking for an experienced driver [if Russell leaves]. If it’s not Bottas, I think Nico Hülkenberg has a good chance.”
Bottas has been with Mercedes since 2017 when he was signed to replace Nico Rosberg, who retired at the end of his World Championship-winning campaign.
Also present at the Hungaroring was the 31-year-old driver’s manager, Didier Coton.
Asked why Coton had been in the paddock over the weekend, Bottas replied: “I can’t tell you, but they are working.”
A vacancy at Alfa Romeo would arise if Kimi Raikkonen decided to retire at the end of this season, by which time he will be 42 years old.
The 2007 World Champion collected only his second World Championship point of the campaign in Hungary, dependent on whether Aston Martin succeed in their appeal against Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, Sauber, who run the Alfa Romeo team, have a highly promising youngster attached to them in Theo Pourchaire, who does not turn 18 for another couple of weeks.
Pourchaire, winner of the Formula 2 feature race at Monaco in May and sixth in the standings for that championship, has been given an early birthday present in the form of his first Formula 1 test in a 2019 car at the Hungaroring on Wednesday.
“The team think very highly of him,” said Schmidt. “There are people in the team who say he’s the new [Alain] Prost. The question is whether they will promote him to F1 after just one year in F2.
“I think Pourchaire still lacks superlicence points. There are different ways to fill the seat. Ferrari could offer a lot of money to put [Robert] Shwartzman in the seat – that would be a way to make Pourchaire wait for one year.”