Red Bull tried to poach McLaren's star asset Lando Norris in an attempt to find a driver who could compete alongside Max Verstappen and push the team towards the constructors' title, it has been revealed.
Mercedes have dominated the sport in the hybrid era, with the energy drink-powered team playing catch up ever since the Silver Arrows took its crown in 2014.
In Verstappen they think they have their champion main driver – a belief backed up by the Dutchman's close battle with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton at the top of the standings throughout the season.
But their Achilles heel has been the lack of a strong enough partner to win points alongside him.
That's why they tried to coax Norris – one of the sport's highest-rated starlets who currently sits fourth in the standings – from McLaren, according to advisor Helmut Marko.
"We’ve had talks with him, but he’s tied to McLaren for the long term," the Austrian admitted to Sport24.
"I’m proud that we dared to bring Max into Formula 1 at the age of 16. He has never made me doubt that our path was the right one. He is always super focused and doesn’t let anything distract him from his goal of winning.
"Norris has caught my eye before. But Max is still at the top of my rankings because he can deliver immediately in all conditions and without a run-up, which he proved again impressively just now in the rain in Sochi."
Mercedes have been able to rely on the dependable and largely obedient Valtteri Bottas to score regular points alongside record race winner Hamilton since the Finn joined from Williams in 2017.
Do you think Norris should trade in McLaren for Red Bull? Let us know in the comments section.
But Red Bull have struggled to find such a powerful ally for their star man, having tried three different racers in that second seat since Daniel Ricciardo left for Renault at the start of the 2019 season.
Pierre Gasly struggled with the pressure and left after six months in the seat, while his replacement Alex Albon didn't fare too much better despite being given 18 months to settle in.
Christian Horner then leapt at the chance to bring in Sergio Perez when he was cast out unexpectedly by Racing Point.
The Mexican has done reasonably well in his first season with the team and earned a new deal for 2022, but Red Bull will need him to improve with Mercedes set to field a blockbuster pairing next season.
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George Russell, tipped to be a future world champion, will race alongside Hamilton in an exciting all-British pairing for 2022.
While it means Mercedes will have two championship contenders at their disposal, the partnership has been likened to that of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in 2007, due to Russell's desire to win the title.
The relationship between Alonso and Hamilton at McLaren turned sour when the rookie Briton upset the Spaniard by matching him for pace and points in his debut season, to the point they both missed out on the title to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Red Bull will hope for similar turmoil at Mercedes next season, but they will have to be at their very best with Hamilton and Russell expected to compete for race wins at every single Grand Prix.
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