Ralf Schumacher feels Sebastian Vettel would be a strong candidate for the Mercedes seat should Lewis Hamilton vacate it.
While his contract runs until the end of the 2023 campaign, it is not yet certain Hamilton will return to the grid to drive for Mercedes next season.
Since he lost the title fight to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi largely because race director Michael Masi did not follow normal Safety Car protocol, seemingly so as to create a grandstand finish between the two drivers, the seven-time former World Champion has been almost completely absent from the public eye.
That sparked talk he had perhaps chosen not to return to the sport in 2022 and team boss Toto Wolff did not guarantee his driver would, admitting he felt “disillusioned”.
If Hamilton did choose to walk away from the sport, Wolff and co would of course have to find a last-minute replacement for him – and Schumacher thinks Vettel would be a logical choice.
“The experience Sebastian has, the speed he still has,” he told Sky Deutschland by way of explanation.
“And above all, he knows the Mercedes car, or the engine…I think the Aston Martin concept is also very close.”
Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team announces the departure of Otmar Szafnauer.
— Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) January 5, 2022
Vettel’s current contract with Aston Martin runs until the end of the 2022 campaign, but Schumacher feels that with the changes taking place at the British team he could leave early.
In early January, it was announced team principal Otmar Szafnauer, reportedly one of Vettel’s closest allies at the team and someone who played a big part in signing him, was leaving.
Schumacher believes such a departure makes it more likely the four-time former World Champion could head through the exit door himself if Mercedes came calling.
“That would of course be a possibility,” added Schumacher.
“Especially since there has now been a change in personnel at Aston Martin which may not be quite as ideal for Sebastian.
“Because I think Otmar Szafnauer and he…that was a good team.”
Aston Martin fans can at least take some comfort from the fact Szafnauer’s replacement, Mike Krack, has worked with Vettel a little in the past.
“I have been working in motorsport for over 20 years and worked in Formula 1 with Seb Vettel in 2006 and 2007 when I was a BMW-Sauber engineer and he was the team’s test driver. I have huge respect for his speed and ability, and it will be fantastic to be reunited with him,” said Krack.