(Reuters) – Red Bull gave a “definite no” on Friday to four-times Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel’s hopes of returning to them next year while rivals Racing Point politely closed another door to the German.
Vettel, who is out of contract with Ferrari at the end of the season and facing an uncertain future with dwindling options, said on Thursday he would say yes to a Red Bull drive if one was offered.
Vettel won his titles with Red Bull from 2010-13 and remains on good terms with the Austrian energy drink brand’s senior management.
“We had a brilliant time with Seb,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner told Sky F1 television during practice for the Styrian Grand Prix at Austria’s Red Bull Ring. “He will forever be a part of our history.
“We didn’t expect him to be on the market this year and our commitment is to our existing drivers. We think we’ve got a great pairing in Max (Verstappen) and in Alex (Albon). We think that has great potential for the future as well.
“So unfortunately it’s not something we are going to be able to accommodate. That is a definite no, I’m afraid. Sebastian I think is aware of that.”
Horner’s comments were another rebuff for the 33-year-old after Renault announced the return of double world champion Fernando Alonso in 2021 to fill the vacancy left by departing Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo, Vettel’s former Red Bull team mate, is moving to McLaren next year in place of Ferrari-bound Spaniard Carlos Sainz.
Champions Mercedes are expected to stick with six-times champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, reducing Vettel’s options further.
Horner suggested Racing Point, owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, could be a possibility but the Mercedes-powered team played down such speculation.
“It’s flattering that everyone thinks a four-time world champion should come to our team, maybe that’s because the car’s a bit quicker now,” Racing Point principal Otmar Szafnauer told a video news conference.
“We have long contracts with both of our drivers so it would only be logical that we don’t have space.”
Racing Point’s current drivers are Lance Stroll, son of the owner, and Mexican Sergio Perez who signed a three-year contract extension last August although the details remained confidential.
Vettel listed his options on Thursday as “carry on, have a break or retire”.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)