The Formula 1 grid shake-up for 2021 may have only just begun with rumours emerging Mercedes star Valtteri Bottas may also be on the move.
A German report has claimed the seven-time grand prix winner has allowed his manager to meet with Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul recently over the seat vacated by Aussie Daniel Ricciardo last week.
Ricciardo’s move to McLaren followed hot on the heels of Ferrari’s dramatic parting of ways with Sebastian Vettel and the iconic Formula 1 team’s decision to snatch Spaniard Carlos Sainz away from McLaren to partner young star Charles Leclerc from 2021.
It leaves four-time world champion Vettel without a drive for the 2021 season, reportedly contemplating retirement at the age of 32.
Rumours emerged last week the German has his sights set on a move to world championship rival Mercedes in 2021 in a mind-blowing possible partnership with six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Both Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Bottas are out of contract at the end of the 2020 season.
The swirling rumours have now kicked into overdrive with Germany’s Motorsport-Total reporting Bottas’ agent Didier Coton has met with the Renault team principal to discuss the team’s open seat.
Renault were reported to have also been in talks with Formula 1 legend Fernando Alonso and were earlier linked to Vettel.
Now Bottas’ name has been thrown into the ring.
Incredibly, Coton is based out of the same driver management company as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who juggles his position as Mercedes team principal while managing drivers from other teams.
Despite the management connection, Wolff has repeatedly insisted he is in no hurry to finalise his team’s driver line-up for 2021, despite the rest of the grid making their moves.
Bottas has been on rolling one-year contracts with Mercedes in recent years and the report claims he doesn’t want to be left without a seat in 2021 if Mercedes decides not to renew his contract after all the other seats have already been filled.
The reported link with Renault could also put heat on Mercedes to sign Bottas up quickly if the team does want to keep the Finnish driver as Hamilton’s teammate beyond 2020.
Wolff, however, does not appear to be buckling any time soon.
Wolff doesn’t want Mercedes to get into a situation like Ferrari, Renault and McLaren have, where the teams will have to hide their development work from the drivers that are leaving their garages at the end of this season.
“The fact is, the decision of some other teams to announce driver pairings for 2021 so early comes as something of a surprise because it will give them a headache for a whole year,” he said last week.
Without directly mentioning Bottas, he says the team is still planning to remain loyal to its drivers when it comes time to make decisions for the 2021 season.
“We have to stay true to our line,” he says.
“Loyalty is something incredibly important, part of our values. We are loyal to our current drivers and do not want to negotiate at a time when the season has not even started.”
Wolff last week also left the door open for his team to sign up Vettel following his departure from Ferrari.
“Sebastian is a great driver, a major personality and an asset to any Formula 1 team,” Wolff said.
“When looking to the future, our first loyalty lies with the current Mercedes drivers.
“But naturally we must take this development into consideration.”
Meanwhile, skysports.com reports the Formula 1 grid is still shocked at Vettel’s decision to leave Ferrari after his contract talks with the team broke down completely.
Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean says it was a move he did not see coming.
“I was surprised by some of the decisions, in some ways,” he said.
“I probably wouldn’t have done the same. One of the big surprises is Sebastian because I was quite convinced he would carry on with Ferrari.
“Things unfold in an interesting way.”