We’re fast approaching that time of summer where during a regular F1 season, teams announce their drivers for the following year, and fans get busy mocking them up in different race suits in Photoshop. Thanks to Sebastian Vettel, this period came early in 2020 with the German champion announcing his departure from Ferrari. However, despite triggering the ‘silly season’, Sebastian Vettel is still without a car for 2021. Which of the teams could Seb realistically join for next year, if any?
Let’s first remove those which are flat out not happening. Ironically, two of these teams are Ferrari powered; Alfa Romeo and Haas. Alfa may have offered a soft landing for Kimi Raikkonen, but Vettel has no ties to the Swiss outfit like his old teammate does. And much like Haas, who simply can’t afford Vettel, The Alfa Romeo team has no shot of being a frontrunner anytime soon, and Sebastian won’t be interested in making up the numbers.
The role of AlphaTauri is to nurture talent for Red Bull; a 33-year old has no place there. McLaren has a confirmed driver pairing for next year, so they’re out too. The Williams team is facing a fiscal plight and paying a champions salary wouldn’t keep the bean counters happy. But they could prove pivotal to where Vettel lands in 2021. More on that later.
That leaves us with:
The noise from Mercedes and their views on signing Vettel change depending on which the day of the week it is, or maybe it’s the weather, I haven’t quite figured out which yet. Either way, they are toeing the line of being open to Sebastian Vettel joining and keeping Valtteri Bottas motivated for this season. Throwing their support behind one would scupper the likelihood of Mercedes signing the other.
However, it’s not the Bottas seat that interests me; it’s Lewis Hamilton’s. Despite Hamilton and Mercedes being a single entity for seven years, he is out of contract for 2021. If Lewis claims his seventh title this year, Mercedes could face another champion retiring after reaching their target following Nico Rosberg’s exit in 2016. Hamilton will match or break all the big records this year if he wins the championship. Retiring on a high, effectively doing an F1 mic drop, would leave Mercedes without a number one driver. Enter Sebastian Vettel.
I could bring up the German driver in a German team card, but it’s the lead driver angle I think Mercedes would want. Be it Bottas, Ocon, or Russell driving for them next year, none of them are leaders. With Sebastian Vettel, you have a man who commands respect, knows how F1 works, and embraces leading by example . Plus, Vettel could show the world how it could be him with five more titles if he had the same car Hamilton drove since 2014.
Renault has somehow replaced Honda as the laggards in F1. They have no customers next season with McLaren moving to Mercedes power, and no star driver thanks to Ricciardo leaving for McLaren (sorry Ocon). But they have big ambitions and deep pockets. Vettel’s analytical mind may find the problems and the speed that others have not.
Renault hasn’t had a champion at their team since Alonso left in 2009. Ricciardo’s notoriety as a race-winner is from his ambitious driving, not his car setup and feedback. Sebastian Vettel meanwhile is known to be the last to leave the paddock after debriefing everything with his team. That level of commitment could be worth a lot to Renault. And after all, remember that a Renault engine powered Vettel to every one of his championships.
Vettel and Ferrari didn’t reach the heights they hoped. Some say that’s down to how Ferrari operates not matching with what makes Vettel tick. The same clearly cannot be said for Vettel and Red Bull. Sure, their last year together wasn’t ideal for Vettel, but he didn’t leave on bad terms. Plus, Red Bull face a driver problem with the AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso team now recycling their senior team’s failures.
If Alex Albon doesn’t perform this year, neither Pierre Gasly nor Daniil Kvyat look likely for a(nother) promotion. Red Bull could benefit from a driver who knows how to lead and win. Even if Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel don’t compete for the drivers’ title next year, the two could take enough points off other teams to crown Red Bull as constructors’ champions.
Next year the forgettable Racing Point name is set to make way for one F1 can be proud of; Aston Martin. The Stroll name has gone from a relatively unknown name in the Formula One world, to a valuable one. It’s not driver Lance that’s to thank for that; it’s his billionaire father, Lawrence. Daddy Stroll’s business nous has brought together his recently purchased pink F1 team with his significant stake at Aston Martin, and what better way to show you’re serious than to put a champion like Vettel in your car seat?
Sergio Perez has a long-term contract, and we should expect Lance Stroll to stay where his dad’s money is too. But could business success overcome family if Vettel was open to joining Aston Martin? If Lawrence could find a temporary home for Lance while Vettel brings in expertise, TV exposure, and sponsorship, maybe everyone could be happy?
The Williams team were glad to take on rookie pay driver Lance Stroll in 2017. Surely a financially struggling Williams would take the Stroll money once more for a Lance Stroll with four years of experience? F1 is a ruthless, political place. We may see how far Lawrence Stroll will go to get ahead next year.
Only time will tell where Sebastian Vettel will end up. Retirement is a distinct possibility too; a crying shame if so. I’ve always said that Formula One is as captivating off track as it is on. That’s not a critique of the racing, but a praise to the personalities and the drama involved, and the Sebastian Vettel mystery will continue to keep us entertained throughout 2020.
Originally published at https://www.fortloc.com.