Ralf Schumacher has reiterated his belief that Nico Hulkenberg would be a good fit as a permanent driver at Aston Martin, and he has suggested that the team should consider firing Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.
Hulkenberg was drafted in by Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel after the four-time world champion fell ill with COVID-19.
The 34-year-old impressively out-qualified team-mate Lance Stroll in Bahrain before falling back in the race.
He was also required to deputise in Saudi Arabia because Vettel had still not recovered, and he was showing exquisite pace in the grand prix before an ill-timed Safety Car put him out of position having started on the Hards.
He did manage to finish the race ahead of his Canadian team-mate, but this was mainly by virtue of his collision with Williams driver Alex Albon.
After watching his compatriot perform so admirably at short notice, Schumacher believes that the Silverstone team would be wise to maintain his services.
“Let’s move on to Aston Martin. If I were them, I would stick with Nico Hulkenberg because he can obviously bring added value and has improved significantly in the race compared to Bahrain,” he wrote in his Sky column.
“And that was despite his tyre strategy being affected by the Safety Car. He did a great job, hats off.”
The six-time race winner in Formula 1 believes that Hulkenberg’s pace should lead to Aston Martin considering axing Vettel or Stroll to make space for him.
“There are really only two possibilities – either he has been underestimated for years or current regular drivers should be reconsidered,” he explained.
It is unknown whether Vettel will be around for the end of Lawrence Stroll’s five-year plan to win titles with Aston Martin, as his contract runs out at the end of this year, and the current performance of the car – which has yet to yield a points finish – most likely will not be convincing him to stay.
“We want to progress and win. So, ultimately, having had the path that I have had so far, I’m mostly interested in winning and that will determine what the future brings,” Vettel previously stated.
Former Force India team principal Colin Kolles has also emphasised that the German will not want to endure what is looking like a season of pain for the British side.
“I don’t think he wants to drive at all. He just doesn’t want to do that to himself,” he said.
Schumacher, however, opines that the four-time champion will be able to extract more performance from the car than we have seen in the opening two rounds of the season
“If Sebastian Vettel comes back now, he can surely get a bit more out of the weakening car because he is also more familiar with the car,” he affirmed.
However, he too warns that Vettel could lose interest if the team are unable to make significant improvements to the performance of the car.
“I could also imagine at least a small upgrade will come from Aston Martin,” he said.
“I can only hope that for Vettel’s sake, because I’m always a bit worried Vettel will quit at some point before he’s permanently just trailing behind.
“But for now, I hope to see him back in the cockpit in Melbourne.”
British journalist Joe Saward has also been critical of Aston Martin recently, responding to suggestions that Lawrence Stroll is interfering with technical discussions by saying he would be “nine parts bonkers” to do so.
He went on to emphasise that Stroll being in charge of the team while his son is racing with them is a “really bad combination.”