Niki Lauda has denied rumors that Mercedes has started moving in on Sebastian Vettel with the aim of signing the Ferrari driver for 2018.
With several driver contracts expiring at the end of this year – mainly those of Vettel and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso – Mercedes offered only a one-year deal to new recruit Valtteri Bottas following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.
Both Lauda and team boss Toto Wolff have said that it is upon the Finn to clearly demonstrate through his performance and results this season that his talent warrants a second year at the Silver Arrows squad.
While it’s still early days on the drivers’ market, Lauda is denying any plan to lure Vettel away from Ferrari.
“That is not our plan — I must say that quite clearly,” the triple world champion and Mercedes non-executive chairman told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.
However, he doesn’t deny that Mercedes is keeping its options open.
“We’re going to start with Bottas and (Lewis) Hamilton and see how it goes,” said Lauda.
Given its present appealing state of affairs, one doubts how Fernando Alonso could possibly extend his stay with McLaren.
Should the Spaniard decide not to retire, which he has given no indication of doing, he would also certainly have the full attention of Mercedes, although sharing the garage with former McLaren Team mate Lewis Hamilton appears a remote possibility given the difficult relationship which prevailed between the two men at Mclaren.
The silly season always appears to start earlier with every passing year. Mercedes will certainly be playing their cards close to their chest however, and so will Vettel.