Reports from the German media last night claimed that Daniel Ricciardo has won the race to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull next season, with an announcement due in Belgium next weekend.
Webber confirmed at the British Grand Prix that he would be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season and walking away from Formula One in favor of a move to Porsche’s newly-revived LMP1 programme, which will see the Australian driver race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next season. However, this did spark a race to fill his vacant seat, with Red Bull originally shortlisting Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen for the seat before ruling Vergne out of the running.
The thinking behind the decision for Red Bull has always been relatively simple: Raikkonen is the quicker driver but may upset the internal relationships at the team (i.e. Sebastian Vettel); Ricciardo would not, but is not as able as Raikkonen. Also, snubbing Ricciardo would undermine the use of Scuderia Toro Rosso as a feeder team.
According to German publication Sport Bild, the team has refused to deny that Ricciardo is on the verge of signing for the team whilst making more vocal comments over the likelihood of Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen making the move. Team advisor Helmut Marko has also marked the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps as being the date after which more information will become apparent.
Red Bull are known for wanting to confirm their driver line-up earlier rather than later, making an early announcement feasible.
This news would also trigger the formation of next season’s driver market, allowing Antonio Felix da Costa to take up the second seat at Red Bull alongside Vergne, although questions still hang over Felipe Massa’s head as rumors circulate suggesting that Kimi Raikkonen could be looking for a way out of Lotus.
Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.
Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.
HUSTLING HELIO: Castroneves hunting for 2021 rides in IMSA, IndyCar
Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.
“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.
“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”
The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.
Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.