Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has revealed that both Mercedes and McLaren are interested in bringing four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to their teams.
The 27-year-old has had a difficult 2014 campaign up to now is contracted with the Infiniti Red Bull team until the end of the season.
Speaking to the German publication Sport Bild, Dr Helmut Marko said: "Of course they [the Mercedes F1 team] target him. And they are not the only team. McLaren-Honda made Sebastian an outrageously high offer."
Toto Wolff, the boss of the Mercedes team, did not comment specifically on the matter, but did not rule out monitoring the situation of drivers.
"The environment is too competitive to want to go into all our plans in public. We're talking about a handful of top riders. They are fought over by the best teams. We are therefore trying to build a know-how of how the market moves, and then come to a decision. "
Class is permanent
What the comments of Dr Helmut Marko show is that despite a troubled year for Vettel, he is still regarded as one of the top drivers on the Formula 1 grid. He has the ability to attract all of the top teams even though he has only two podium finishes to his name this year.
Form is a temporary thing but class does not leave you just like that. Vettel is a four-time world champion. That is not a coincidence no matter what situation you find yourself. Mentally as much as anything that is a serious triumph at such a young age, and Mercedes and McLaren are clearly sensible enough to look beyond his below par performances in the first half of this year.
Could it be the case that Mercedes are lining up Vettel as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton? It would be a bold move to say the least, but maybe not out of the question. With Nico Rosberg leading the championship by 14-points going into this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix and having been handed a new contract with the team only last week, it is clear the team are fully behind him.
Would they be tempted to bring in Vettel to make an all German driver line up. It would be harsh on Hamilton who since his move to Mercedes has hardly put a foot wrong, showing fantastic pace, delivering race victories and is arguably only second to Rosberg due to reliability issues. But the German team may be tempted by what a same nationality pairing could bring to them.
If, as Helmut Marko states, an excessive offer has been made to Vettel, then could his head be turned by their new challenge? The re-introduction of the Honda engine to Formula 1 next season is an exciting prospect with the power it generates. All drivers want to be in the fastest car. It gives them the best chance of winning the championship, obviously, as Vettel knows all too well about in the last four seasons at Red Bull.
A strong financial package and another shot in a competitive car could be the fresh start Vettel needs. Though there is no guarantee of course that McLaren will be back winning races.
Vettel may after all end up staying with Red Bull, who have supported him for so long and have more plans to continue progressing as a team with a new role for Adrian Newey displaying their ambition. But Vettel will need to overcome the problem that is Daniel Ricciardo who has out-performed Vettel in his first season with the team. Maybe that challenge alone, to prove he is superior is enough to motivate him to stay for now.
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