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Formula 1

What Horner's revelation about Hamilton Red Bull talks really means

by Edd Straw
3 min read

A Lewis Hamilton-to-Red Bull scenario is one some may now be picturing following the revelation from Christian Horner, in an interview with the Daily Mail, that talks were held earlier this year.

That a top driver’s management consults with rival teams, particularly one that has the best car in Formula 1, is not big news. It would be a surprise if Hamilton’s management hadn’t done that as part of the due diligence process surrounding any new deal.

Sadly, in the madcap media world of F1 like this, such stories gain disproportionate attention when they really mean very little other than stating the obvious. It’s a shame that in the current landscape stories like this are the ones that catch people’s attention rather than what is really appealing about a wonderful sporting competition like F1.

Red Bull team principal Horner has played his part in this.

"We have had several conversations over the years about Lewis joining," Horner is quoted as saying by the Mail. "They have reached out a few times. Most recently, earlier in the year, there was an inquiry about whether there would be any interest.

"He met [Ferrari chairman] John Elkann, too. I think there were serious talks.

"It was around Monaco [in late May]. There were definitely conversations, perhaps with Vasseur, too. But certainly with Elkann.

"But I can't see Max [Verstappen] and Lewis working out together. The dynamic wouldn't be right. We are 100% happy with what we have."

Such comments are all part of the pantomime-ish back and forth with Mercedes so it’s an easy grenade to lob into the mix and you could argue it’s good knockabout stuff.

But equally, it would be surprising if Max Verstappen’s management hasn’t kept in touch with rival teams simply because that’s what drivers and their management do. The same will be true of any top driver in F1, so the likes of Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and the rest will have kept some line of communication open, no matter how vague.

After all, imagine the consequences of not at least checking in with F1's top team before signing a new deal? It's desperately unlikely, but surprises crop up all the time in the driver market and a driver like Hamilton would always want to avoid closing the door pre-emptively. If a Red Bull drive was in the offing then it would be worth serious consideration, so of course you check. If nothing else, it could offer some handy leverage for negotiations. That's just how the game works and has always worked.

So we end up in this position. A fairly meaningless story stating the obvious emerges, gains traction and the whole circus spins into overdrive, setting social media on fire and allowing those who are so minded to imagine all sorts of weird and wonderful narratives.

The reality is a top driver sounded out a rival while considering options for the future. It’s happened countless times in the past and it will happen again, so given Hamilton has long since signed a two-year deal with Mercedes, the best this should be is a footnote greeted with a 'yeah, obviously'.

There’s endless fascinating storylines in F1 to be delved into and it’s sad for my profession that increasingly often we find ourselves having to write or talk about this kind of thing at the expense of much more interesting and relevant storylines.

To coin an old media phrase, this story is absolutely to be filed under 'dog bites man'.

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