Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton
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F1 fans’ minds have been set racing by reports that two unnamed teams are set to swap drivers midway through the season. Lewis Hamilton is among a cluster of disgruntled stars as his torrid start to the year with Mercedes continues, leaving some to wonder whether a shock move could be on the cards.
Hamilton endured another dreadful weekend at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Lacking for pace in Friday’s qualifying, Saturday’s sprint and Sunday’s race, the seven-time world champion found himself at the end of a DRS train and had to settle for P13.
The fact he was lapped by last season’s title rival, Max Verstappen, has prompted more questions about Hamilton’s future, and they could grow louder in light of a recent report. F1 journalist Alberta Fabrega claims to have insider knowledge that ‘the market is moving and something is happening’, adding: “I am not surprised by those who leave, but I am surprised by those who arrive. Well, it is a change of drivers between teams.”
While Hamilton will be ‘weighing up his options’ according to former world champion Mika Hakkinen, the notion that the driver leaving is ‘unsurprising’ renders it unlikely, albeit not impossible, that the Brit will be on the move. Hamilton also dismissed Hakkinen’s comments as ‘nonsense’ over the weekend. There have, however, been suggestions of other big-name swaps.
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While no names have been mentioned, a swap between two drivers already on the grid has prompted talk of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo trading places with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Ricciardo continues to lag behind team-mate Lando Norris despite his massive salary, and Gasly overperformed massively last season by finishing with more than three times as many points as team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.
The Australian only has 11 points so far this season and has plenty of history with Red Bull, who own AlphaTauri. Meanwhile, Gasly had an unsuccessful call-up to Red Bull in 2019 which didn’t work out, suggesting that he could be best served to try his luck elsewhere.
Another name being thrown around with regard to a potential swap is four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. The German has struggled with Aston Martin despite a respectable P8 at Imola last time out, and while not many current drivers stick out as nailed-on swap options, some have touted the prospect of a trade with Alex Albon at Williams.
If Fabrega’s insider claim suggests that Vettel could make way for a driver not currently on the grid, it may signal the 34-year-old’s retirement from F1, which has been a huge talking point in recent weeks. The former Red Bull star racked up four consecutive world titles between 2010 and 2013 and sits third on the all-time chart for race wins.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi is also deemed to be on the edge after a series of underwhelming performances, spins and crashes. Whether P16 at Imola would be enough to push his team over the edge and seek a mid-season change remains to be seen.
If the swap prospect instead refers to the potential arrival of a driver not currently on the grid, reigning F2 world champion Oscar Piastri is among those touted to make the step up.
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