Sebastian Vettel could be the ideal replacement for Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes should the Briton decide to retire, former F1 racer Ralf Schumacher has said.
Having cruelly lost out on his eighth title to Max Verstappen on the final lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, rumours have been spread that Hamilton has been considering his future in the sport, with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff previously saying that his driver is “disillusioned” with Formula 1.
Verstappen claimed his maiden title in controversial fashion following an unusual Safety Car restart protocol by race director Michael Masi, leading some to believe that the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit was “rigged.”
Lord Peter Hain, a Labour peer, is one of a number of people who have criticised the FIA and Formula 1 for the controversial end to the 2021 season.
Specifically, Lord Hain branded the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix “perverted” and “rigged.”
If the seven-time world champion does call it a day, Schumacher believes that Vettel, who ended the 2021 Drivers’ Championship 12th, is someone Mercedes should be monitoring.
“The experience that Sebastian has, the speed that he has, continues to be there,” Schumacher told Sky Sport Germany.
Aston Martin have taken significant inspiration from Mercedes’ car in recent years, even leading to an investigation in 2020 into the then-named Racing Point challenger.
As a result, Schumacher reckons Vettel has acclimatised himself with the nuances of the Mercedes car and thus would be able to slot into the seat relatively comfortably, given that Mercedes also supply Aston Martin’s power units.
“And above all, he knows his way around the Mercedes car – and with the engine. And I think the Aston Martin concept is also very close.”
Schumacher, who won six races in 180 race starts in his F1 career, added that he is not entirely sure that the 34-year-old will feel quite as comfortable with the Silverstone-based outfit now that Otmar Szafnauer has left.
The former team principal was instrumental in bringing Vettel to the team from Ferrari, and his departure last week makes Vettel’s compatriot think that this may persuade him to leave should the right offer materialise.
“That [leaving] would be a possibility, especially since a personnel change has now also taken place at Aston Martin that may not be quite as ideal for Sebastian because I think he and Otmar Szafnauer – that was a good team,” he explained.
Vettel has won 53 races in his career up to now, claiming 38 with Red Bull on his way to four world championships with the Milton-Keynes squad.
He would then take 14 victories with Ferrari, challenging Hamilton for the championship in 2017 and 2018, but missing out on both occasions.
However, he has proven himself as a capable front-runner during his illustrious F1 career, and Schumacher affirms that the Aston Martin man would leap at the chance to be at the pointy end of the grid again.
“If he had the opportunity to get into this team, of course, he would take it one hundred percent, because [it’s] a better chance to race again – that’s what Sebastian wants.
“He wants to win races, he showed that too,” he stated.
Having said that, the 46-year-old conceded that there is no guarantee that Hamilton will retire following the end of the 2021 season and, even if he does, Wolff has plenty of options to consider besides Vettel.
“Lewis Hamilton has not left, and Toto Wolff has some other talents up his sleeve,” Schumacher added.
Vettel claimed a podium finish at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but scored points on just seven occasions as Aston Martin slumped to seventh in the Constructors’ Championship.
He and team-mate Lance Stroll have been retained at the team for 2022.