Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes his Mercedes counterpart has one choice if he wants to keep Esteban Ocon in Formula 1 next season, buy his seat.
In what is one of the hottest topics currently in the sport, the highly-rated Frenchman is staring at a possible departure from the grid at the end of the season, with his place at Force India set to be given to Lance Stroll.
Given his reputation, many see that possibility as a travesty and another example of how talent is set aside over money in the sport, with Stroll's billionaire father Lawrence recently buying the Silverstone-based squad over the summer break.
Options elsewhere are limited, and not helping Ocon's chances are some teams refusing to even consider him because of his association with Mercedes through their young driver program.
The most plausible destination left is Williams, who use the German manufacturer's engine, but facing a considerable drop in revenue through lost sponsorship and reduced prize money, the British team is likely to want drivers with a hefty amount of financial backing behind them.
"If [Mercedes motorsport boss] Toto [Wolff] writes a cheque I'm sure he can get a seat in Williams," Horner told Sky Sports in Singapore.
Another issue Wolff faces, however, is not only does he have Ocon on his books, but also current F2 championship leader George Russell, who would be strongly demanding his on promotion for next season.
"That's going to be a real problem for those guys going into next year," the Red Bull chief continued.
"There's three super talented kids, certainly two very strong ones I think. Ocon would be great to see in F1 and George Russell."
There is another choice Mercedes could opt for with their drivers, however, it could have a big impact on the German manufacturer's own ambitions looking medium-to-long-term.
"Toto might have to cut them free at the end of the day because it's a shame to see those guys not get a Formula 1 seat, just because of who they're contracted to," Horner claimed, with Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso ruling out Ocon for that very reason.
Wolff has let out his frustration over the situation publicly for the first time this weekend too, lambasting Renault for going back on a deal for Esteban after Daniel Ricciardo expressed his desire to join.
“What was going on in July and August was unbelievable, there was so much politics, hidden agendas and lies going on in the background,” he told Sky Sports.
“In July he had two offers on the table with contracts on the table and it was just a matter of choosing which team was the right one.
“He ended up not having any anymore because people simply don’t have the balls to stick to what they say.”
The Austrian did admit the situation looked bleak as well, particularly as seats at the midfield teams start to be confirmed.
“Not all of the good kids are going to end up in cars and Esteban is probably going to be one of them," he said. “We will look after him as he is one of the future stars."
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