It’s a tough time to be a 33-year-old four-time former Formula One champion without a ride for the 2021 season. There are so many talented up and comers on the grid these days, and Sebastian Vettel has been shown up by many of them. In the recent shuffle of drivers that happened after his current team—Ferrari—unceremoniously kicked him out it was proven that at the very least McLaren and Renault don’t want anything to do with him.
Back when it was announced that Vettel would be leaving Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season, nobody was quite sure what had happened, but the going discussion was that Vettel had wanted too long a contract extension, or too much money. Last week, Vettel himself let slip that the non-renewal of his contract came as a surprise to him, saying “We never got into any discussions, there was never an offer on the table and therefore, there was no sticking point.”
Once he’d been let go, the driver dance really shuffled team lineups up and down the grid. Ferrari got Carlos Sainz, Jr. from McLaren. McLaren hired Daniel Ricciardo from Renault, where he’d only been since the beginning of 2019. And Renault, this week, filled Ricciardo’s spot with Fernando Alonso. In spite of the fact that Fernando’s most recent championship was 15 years ago, and neither Ricciardo nor Sainz have a title to their name, all three were deemed more valuable to these teams than Vettel. Sebastian admits that he discussed taking the open seat with Renault, but a deal couldn’t be struck.
The former Red Bull ace doesn’t have many more options when it comes to teams looking for drivers for the 2021 season. Obviously someone of Vettel’s [alleged] caliber wouldn’t settle for an offer from a Haas or Williams, I shouldn’t imagine. Which leaves Mercedes, Red Bull, and Racing Point. Vettel himself has stated that Mercedes is an unlikely place for him, as both of its drivers are quite talented and work well as a team.
Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has stated that Vettel would be too expensive for the team, though obviously that could all be a smoke screen. “We cannot and will not afford two top stars,” said Marko of a proposed Max Verstappen and Seb Vettel pairing. Red Bull’s Christian Horner had more to add in a recent discussion, “We’re only at race one, we have two drivers who are doing a super job. It would be difficult to see how we could accommodate him, because we weren’t expecting him to be on the market. We never expected Ferrari to so rudely not offer him another contract.”
For his part, Vettel has told Motorsport.com that if Red Bull provides him with an offer, he’ll likely accept it. He’d be silly not to, but ditching Alex Albon doesn’t seem to be in Red Bull’s plans. Albon has been fighting at the front in recent races, having twice been punted in a dog fight with Lewis Hamilton on equal footing. Further, Albon is a Thai-British driver who is seriously favored by Red Bull’s Thai co-owner Chalerm Yoovidhya. So he’s probably not going anywhere next year.
So that leaves Racing Point, er Aston Martin as it will be known next year. Could the Lawrence Stroll-backed Aston Martin Racing team boot Sergio Perez in favor of a multi-time champion? Well, I doubt they’d kick Lance Stroll to the kerb, what with his father financially backing the team and all. As was proven last weekend, the team has some serious speed with its status as Mercedes-Benz junior team. Perhaps with a bit of help from someone of Vettel’s talent, the team could turn into a championship-caliber outfit?
Vettel certainly didn’t do himself any favors in the opening round of the 2020 season at the Red Bull Ring. He was outqualified by his younger teammate, Charles Leclerc, and thanks to a bone-headed low-percentage move found himself at the back of the grid struggling to fight his way back into the points paying positions. For several laps Vettel was stuck behind an Alfa Romeo Sauber while Leclerc was dicing for a podium. Were it not for the incredible number of retirements in Sunday’s Grand Prix, it seems unlikely Vettel would have scored points at all.
Perhaps there is a valid reason why he hasn’t been offered a contract for next year. Perhaps he should retire.