What are Sebastian Vettel’s options for a Formula One drive in 2021?
The pieces are still falling into place following the announcement of Sebastian Vettel’s split from Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz will take the German’s seat at Maranello, with Daniel Ricciardo filling Sainz’s void at McLaren.
But one big question remains, who will Vettel be driving for in 2021?
The 32-year-old is a four-time world champion, but that doesn’t mean he can walk into any seat on the grid. So what are his realistic options?
Moving to Renault would complete the Sainz-Ricciardo-Vettel merry-go-round. The French side have a seat available for 2021 alongside Esteban Ocon, and signing a driver of Vettel’s calibre would surely boost Renault’s credit on the grid.
The French outfit have struggled to show they can compete at the top in the turbo era, but they are one of the few teams to boast championship-winning experience, and will have one eye on the 2022 rule changes and budget cap.
That may be enough to convince Vettel to join, although rumours abound that Fernando Alonso may return to the team, having won both of his championships with Renault in the mid-00s.
Could Vettel return to his old team? He won all four of his titles with Red Bull, but the team have put all their horses in the Max Verstappen stable, signing the Dutchman onto a long-term deal only last season.
What’s more, Vettel had numerous problems with a younger, faster team-mate last season, clashing frequently with Charles Leclerc.
It seems unlikely that Vettel would want to take on Verstappen. Red Bull suffered plenty of incidents when Verstappen was paired with Ricciardo, and they are unlikely to want to revisit such a spiky partnership.
A Vettel move to Mercedes would really put the cat among the pigeons. Lewis Hamilton is out of contract next season, although both driver and team claim that an agreement is merely a formality.
But rumours persist that Vettel could reach a German-alliance with the Silver Arrows, shuffling Valtteri Bottas aside.
There is little to suggest Mercedes would be willing to part ways with Bottas however, who has helped the team win each of the last three constructors’ titles, without giving Hamilton any on-track issues.
Aston Martin F1
On paper there is plenty to suggest Vettel could join the newly-named Aston Martin operation.
The team, currently known as Racing Point, will be rebranded for 2021, under the ownership of Canadian billionaire of Lawrence Stroll.
Signing Vettel would certainly grab headlines, and there’s every reason to believe that like Renault, Aston could make the jump up the grid under the 2022 rule changes.
But the team recently re-signed Serio Perez to a long-term deal, and given that Lance Stroll, the team’s other driver, is the son of the owner, it seems the seats are full for 2021 and beyond.
Put all the above together, and there is no obvious option for Vettel next season. So, what about retirement? He is a four-time world champion and has nothing left to prove in the sport.
What’s more, a driver of Vettel’s standing is only interested in driving for teams who can compete at the front. If that option is not open to him in 2021, retirement may be his only remaining avenue.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication