Formula 1

Mercedes Doesn’t Rule Out Vettel, while Racing Point Shuts Door

By: Ashley McCubbin

Where will Sebastian Vettel be racing in 2021? That is the million dollar question right now on the F1 grid after it was revealed he’d be replaced at Ferrari by Carlos Sainz, along with some other fun silly season news.

Although Mercedes is in a strong situation right now with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both performing, Team Principal Toto Wolff isn’t ruling out the possibility of Vettel joining their team just yet.

“It’s not lip service. We owe it to a four-time world champion not to come out and say straight away ‘no’. You need to think about it,” he said. “”On the other side, we have a fantastic line-up and I am happy with both our drivers and George [Russell, Mercedes junior currently racing for Williams], but you never know. One may decide he doesn’t want to go racing anymore and suddenly you have a vacant spot. That’s why I don’t want to come out in June and say ‘no chance, Sebastian’ and that he is not racing for us.”

Wolff went on to say there was two reasons for that, as he would not want to be that blunt in just chasing Vettel away immediately, and has seen “black swans appearing when nobody expected,” referencing Nico Rosberg’s retirement after winning the 2016 championship. Though while keeping options open, he was quick to remind they are “concentrating our discussions on our current drivers.”

“For us, we want to take our time,” he added. “Our priority lies on the Mercedes drivers, Valtteri and Lewis. George and the Williams situation we’re looking on with interest. And beyond that, you need to not discount any driver. That’s why I said I don’t want to discount Sebastian as a four-time world champion because who knows what happens in the next months.

“If I would have told you in January we would not have any racing in the first half of the year, nobody would believe it. So in that respect, we’re just keeping our options open.”

While it appears Hamilton is a lock to return – given his recent championships and success, the second seat remains the discussion point. After all, Wolff expects to “have something pretty soon” once the pair resume regular conversation.

“We didn’t see each other over lockdown,” he said. “We were in different parts of the world, but we were in very regular contact. We didn’t work on any agreement, between us there is a lot of trust. We have been together for a long time and never in these years together have we had to take the contract out and actually read what was written in there as it comes so naturally.

“Once racing resumes we’re going to spend some time together, dig the contract out of the cupboard, look at the timings and the numbers and the rights and hopefully have something pretty soon.”

A Return to Red Bull for Vettel is certainly part of conversation dreams for fans, but Red Bull boss Christian Horner doesn’t look to be entertaining that. Instead, he feels they’re “very happy with the driver line-up we have in place.” Max Verstappen is signed to a long-term contract and emerging as a big star, while Alex Albon looks to be coming into his own.

“Alex was getting stronger throughout last year, we have Max on a long-term contract and our ideal is to continue with those two drivers, obviously not just for the season but beyond that into 2021,” Horner commented. “But obviously that will depend on how Alex performs. All the indications and the progress that we saw last year looks like we have a very strong pairing in Max and Alex.”

Meanwhile, Racing Point can be wiped off the table. CEO and Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer shot down the idea in recent conversation, saying their focus is more so about transitioning to Aston Martin Racing for 2021.

“It’s certainly been an interesting few weeks in the driver market, with some headline-grabbing moves out there,” Szafnauer said. “I’m sure it’s kept the fans entertained and the media busy. But from our perspective, the headline for next season is the name above the factory doors rather than the names in the cockpit.”

With the name shift aside, though, the possibility was slim with the current line-up consisting of owner Lawrence Stroll’s son Lance, and Sergio Perez whose contracted to the end of 2022.

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