Kimi Raikkonen remains on Red Bull's shortlist for a 2014 Formula 1 seat, team principal Christian Horner claims, despite the Finn's manager stating that talks with the team have ended.
In a surprise twist to the ongoing intrigue surrounding the identity of Sebastian Vettel's new teammate, Horner said in Belgium on Thursday that his squad was still some way away from making a decision.
"Nothing is fixed yet," said Horner. "We said we would take the summer to mull things over, but there is no commitment yet.
"I wouldn't rule anything out at the moment. Until we finalize who is going to take the second seat, there is nothing much to say."
When asked why Raikkonen's management believed the Red Bull door was closed, Horner said: "You'd have to ask Steve [Robertson]. I have only seen the comments. We haven't made any commitment to our second seat, and when we do you will be the first to know."
He added: "Kimi is very much his own man. I think at the end of the day I am sure he will do what is best for him.
"We are in a fortunate position where there is an awful lot of interest in the seat and we have got a bit of time until we need to make any firm commitments, so we will use the time to evaluate the market fully."
When pushed to clarify whether Raikkonen was off the list of contenders, he said: "It's up to him. We want to make the right decision and we will take the appropriate time to make that decision."
MORE THAN TWO OPTIONS?
While Red Bull had initially suggested in the wake of Mark Webber's call to leave Formula 1 that its choice was between Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo, Horner suggested that other possibilities could now be on the table. He further intimated in Belgium that the list of choices was bigger than he had initially suspected.
"You have to make sure you consider all the options and there are more options than you could possibly think," he said.
Fernando Alonso emerged as in Hungary, after Red Bull sources revealed it was made aware in a meeting with Alonso's agent that the Spaniard could be available for 2014 despite previously being believed to be firmly under contract at Ferrari. Red Bull was not the only team to have been alerted in Hungary to the possibility that Alonso could be a free agent for 2014 under certain circumstances.
When asked in Belgium if Alonso was still in contention, Horner said: "You will have to ask Fernando. I think he has got a contract with Ferrari."
Alonso's manager Flavio Briatore has made it clear since Hungary, however, that the Spaniard is intent on remaining at Ferrari and has no interest in a Red Bull seat.
RICCIARDO NOT A DONE DEAL
Although Ricciardo has done an impressive job for Toro Rosso, and did well in a test for Red Bull at Silverstone, Horner played down talk that he was a shoo-in for the seat.
"Daniel has done a very good job in the test he has done for us, and the recent races he has done for Toro Rosso," he said. "But that doesn't mean it is a foregone conclusion. It is an important decision for us and we want to take the time to make the right decision and consider all the options. We are in a fortunate position where there are a lot of drivers who would like to be in that car."
Horner expects an announcement about Red Bull's 2014 driver plans to be made around the time of the Italian Grand Prix.