Ralf Schumacher says the Abu Dhabi GP may not be Sebastian Vettel’s last race, the former driver confident his compatriot would be “among the front runners” if he returned.
Vettel bid farewell to Formula 1 at the Yas Marina Circuit, the 35-year-old capping his 15 full seasons in the sport with a final point to bring his tally to 3098.
It’s impressive numbers that include four World Championship titles with Red Bull, 53 grands prix wins and 122 podiums.
Earlier this year he also passed the 3500 mark for laps led, leading two at the United States Grand Prix to bring his total to 3501. But that’s where it ends.
Vettel made the call after the Austrian Grand Prix to retire at the end of the season with the father-of-three saying his “goals have shifted from winning races and fighting for championships to seeing my children grow”.
He has since then added never say never.
Schumacher reckons it could happen, and says with Vettel’s experience he could once again become a “front runner”.
The 47-year-old said in his latest Sky Deutschland column: “A comeback by Sebastian in Formula 1 cannot be ruled out. You can see that again in Nico Hulkenberg and also in Fernando Alonso.
“In Formula 1 there are many factors that lead to being fast. One of them is experience.
“New drivers take a long time to get to the level of Sebastian Vettel. Accordingly, with his vast experience, Sebastian already has the chance to come back in a year or two and be among the front runners.
“I don’t know if he actually wants that. Maybe after a year or two with the family he will have the strength to start a comeback.”
Lewis Hamilton has also declared his long-time rival will be back.
“You’re probably going to come back,” he said in the build-up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “We’re seeing other drivers coming back. So, I’m sitting here kind of accepting… yes, it’s your last race but you’ll be back.
“Formula 1 has a way of sucking you back in, we’ve noticed that from so many other drivers.”
But while Helmut Marko agrees Vettel could return, the Red Bull motorsport advisor doesn’t believe it will be as a racing driver.
Marko told Servus TV: “It is his own decision and I am sure that whatever he will do in the future, it will be something that satisfies him.
“It’s not out of the question that he’ll come back in a top management position. I’m almost 80 so that would be something.”
He added: “Let’s let him plant a few trees now, then we’ll see what happens.”
Marko had previously joked with Sky Deutschland that Vettel could take Mattia Binotto’s position as Ferrari team boss.