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Episode 20

“What’s Next For Vettel?”

The first actual motorsport news in months has created a media frenzy, and here I am jumping on the bandwagon!

A slightly different blog post this week, but considering the timing of this news (being officially announced the day before my blog day) it would be quite short-sighted of me not to comment on the only notable piece of motorsport news we’ve had in an eternity, so here’s yet another Sebastian Vettel-centric article for you to gorge on:

By now you will most likely have been made aware of the news that the Ferrari Formula 1 team will not be renewing its contract with star driver Sebastian Vettel. The 4-time World Champion will, as a result, leave the Italian team at the conclusion of the 2020 F1 season. Now, the majority of articles written during the fallout of this news centre around the vacancy at Ferrari, but I want to discuss the future that surrounds the driver.

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Below are a few different potential futures for the German, and I have attempted to evaluate the likelihood of each one becoming his chosen path.

Singapore 2019 – Seb’s last F1 win?
  • Join another Formula 1 team:

I’ll start off with the sensible scenarios, otherwise everyone will think I’ve been ingesting something funny during lockdown and immediately cease reading. So then, could Vettel join another Formula 1 team? Seats at the other two top teams are almost certainly unavailable, as the Red Bull boss, Helmut Marko, has specified he doesn’t want to pay for two lead drivers, and Mercedes are unlikely to disturb the harmonious environment Lewis Hamilton has managed to create around himself. Even if either Hamilton or Bottas were to make the shock switch to the vacant red seat, Merc have both George Russell and Esteban Ocon on their books (although Ocon technically isn’t), so Vettel would by no means next in line to pilot a silver car.

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This means Sebastian would have to settle for a midfield outfit. Renault, being the fourth factory outfit, could potentially offer Vettel a deal, especially considering Ricciardo is one of the favourites for the Ferrari seat and Renault have a history of signing headline drivers. Sebastian, however, may be deterred by the lack of improvement the Enstone outfit showed last season.

McLaren would seem like the other sensible midfield choice. Until last season the Woking-based team also liked to have a star driver in their line-up, and they currently hold the other front-runner for the Ferrari vacancy. However, I don’t think the papaya-liveried manufacturer would be as forthcoming as many expect them to be. After seeing the leap forward they made last season after eradicating large-ego’s from their personnel, I would have thought they would be cautious in potentially signing another. To compound this, I don’t think Vettel would relish the possibility of being outshone by another young driver in Norris, considering he left both Red Bull and Ferrari immediately after he was beaten by a younger, less experienced teammate.

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Going through the rest of the teams on the grid, we get to Aston Martin/Racing Point. With Lawrence Stroll’s investment the team they should make big strides to the top of the midfield, if not further, and there’s no doubt that Seb’s experience would help the team maximise their machinery. Daddy Stroll would certainly be able to afford Vettel’s wage demands too, however would the veteran really want the challenge? I don’t think the team would see tangible results in the next few years, at which point Vettel would definitely be too old.

Finally, could Vettel replace Raikkonen at Alfa/Sauber? I could see Kimi retiring at the end of the year, at which point Seb would be a brilliant replacement to fulfil the same role and mentor the Ferrari rookies, but once again would he really be willing to? He said in his statement that money was not a factor in the Ferrari deal breaking up, and I don’t see him sticking around just to collect a pay check. His legacy as a four-time world champion would be damaged too much if he was to stick around for longer than he needs to, so I could see this happening for a year or so, but not for much longer than that.

The look of a man who’s tired of Formula 1?
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  • Retire from Formula 1:

I think this is probably the most likely scenario, after all, his statement read “these past few months have led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life.” Having recently become a father, maybe this means F1 isn’t his priority anymore? It would be a real shame to see him leave the grid, as his personality outside of the car is almost universally loved by fans, media and drivers alike.

But what would he do if he retired? First and foremost, I expect he would immediately spend large amounts of time with his family as, other than during this lockdown, being an F1 driver naturally means a lot of time travelling, and so a lot of time away from home. Longer term, however, there are a few different paths he could go down:

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Naturally, as a four-time Formula 1 World Champion, there would be a fair few motorsport teams that would like him on their books. Combining this with the 2022 rule changes for the World Endurance Championship, could we see him take a year out before returning in an LMDh prototype, or even an LMH Hypercar? This would be the perfect marquee signing to boost the WEC’s profile, and a substantially less-crowded calendar would reduce the strain of travelling. Finding a team wouldn’t be too difficult, either, as Porsche are evaluating a potential return to the championship. A German headline driver in a German team vying to win their 20th Le Mans? Sounds like a good plan to me. I don’t think that he would join Formula E, nor would he venture into the world of rallying, so endurance racing is almost certainly his best bet.

If he was to turn his back completely on racing, could he become a pundit? Well, whilst being fluent in German (obviously), English and Italian, he would be perfectly suited to be picked up by many different broadcasters on odd weekends, and his humour is widely appreciated. His inside knowledge of the elusive Ferrari environment would also be a wonderful insight for the wider audience, and if he was able to pick and choose his weekends (which you would expect), this would be a brilliant way for him to phase out of the F1 bubble, too.

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Finally, and this is really quite unlikely, he could take the Nico Rosberg approach to F1 retirement. Since the former Mercedes man retired at the end of the 2016 season, he has successfully become a full-time YouTuber, boasting 701,000 subscribers. Yes, I do realise how ridiculous this suggestion is, considering Vettel doesn’t partake in social media in any form, but don’t you think his personality would just shine in an online video format?

So, whilst this may be the end of Vettel’s Ferrari career, it certainly isn’t the end of his motorsport career. What do you think, though? Where do you envision Vettel in 2021? At another F1 team? In another racing series? Taking a sabbatical? Let me know with a comment below!

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