Ugly rumours that we very much don’t want to countenance here at Brits on Pole are starting to surface regarding David Coulthard’s future with Red Bull Racing.
A week ago we reported how suspicions that double world champion Fernando Alonso is in talks with the team could spell bad news for the veteran Scot.
F1 gossip emerging today has Alonso partnering Webber at Red Bull while DC is relegated to Toro Rosso and Sebastien Bourdais sent back to Champ Car for another year. But how well does all this hold water?
It had been suggested that, as part of Alonso’s exit deal from McLaren, Ron Dennis specified he must sign for a privateer rather than a manufacturer’s team, effectively ruling out hot favourites Renault.
But this has since been denied by none other than Norbert Haug, Mercedes Benz’ president in charge of motorsport.
Red Bull Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz who, we have observed, often plays Mr Nasty to Christian Horner’s Mr Nice, has reportedly told the Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten: “There are always talks everywhere and with everyone” and “nothing is fixed in F1”.
But in the same interview he acknowledged that his team had fixed contracts with both its drivers.
The latest round of suggested musical chairs follows reports in a Spanish newspaper that Alonso’s agent has met with Mateschitz and Toro Rosso’s Gerhard Berger. But we don’t see why this should mean that Coulthard, rather than his team-mate Mark Webber, should be for the chop.
In fact, since Renault’s Flavio Briatore manages Mark Webber, and has expressed a desire to have him drive for the team before, it seems more convincing that the Aussie could be the beneficiary of a move.
Other lurid reports doing the rounds suggest the pair need splitting apart for their own good – but these stories, too, are not as reliable as they seem on first glance.
At the beginning of November a story surfaced that has been widely read as DC shoring up his position in the team. In an end-of-season review on the Red Bull website he made the following remark: “The general trend of the year has been that Mark has generally been a bit quicker in qualifying and I’ve been a bit faster in races.”
He added, in the same interview: “Ultimately you measure success by the points scored and the results on track.”
Webber’s fans, detecting a knife in the back, have gone mad and are hurling all kinds of invective in DC’s direction – but if you read these quotes in context they tell quite a different story.
After the second statement Coulthard goes on to say how he feels the team will be judged poorly for not winning races and after the first he goes on to talk about Red Bull’s reliability issues and how, despite this, they have managed to keep their noses in front of Toyota.
Like most of the talk surrounding this subject, the idea that he is dissing Webber – a driver that we have great respect for here at Brits on Pole – seems to be little more than spin.
As for Bourdais returning to Champ Car? Not so easy for someone who has said his goodbyes to team, fans and series in advance of this weekend’s season finale in Mexico City.
Discussion about his heir apparent and successor at Newman-Haas Racing have centred around F1 veterans like Robert Doornbos or our very own Justin Wilson, whose team RuSPORT shuts down after the final race.
But if DC is set for demotion, he hasn’t heard anything about it. Coulthard’s management recently commented to The Guardian: “We haven’t heard a word.
“The team has an obligation to enter David in next year’s championship and, if they are moving for Fernando, I’d like to think we would know.”
Since Red Bull burst into the F1 paddock in a blaze of publicity and new money back in 2005, the team have been characterised by sheer, unadulterated front.
It is this that led them to build one of the biggest and flashest motorhomes in the paddock, to publish F1’s only satirical insider newspaper (entitled The Red Bulletin) on race weekends, to tempt ace designer Adrian Newey away from McLaren and to send DC up onto the Monaco podium in 2006 dressed in a sponsors’ Superman cape.
This is exactly the kind of chutzpah that would see them approaching a jobless double world champion, although seeing off his manager Flavio Briatore could be their biggest challenge yet.
So it’s no wonder that rumours abound regarding Red Bull and Alonso. It’s exactly the sort of publicity coup this media-savvy team delights in pulling off. And he may possibly end up there.
But, as things stand, we’re still quietly hopeful that Red Bull is currently enjoying being classed among F1’s players without any serious intention of doing any more than window-shopping.
And, as a result, Coulthard will be keeping his drive in Adrian Newey’s latest masterpiece while Justin Wilson carries all before him for Newman Haas Lanigan in 2008.