Formula 1 waits for no one, as speculations mount surrounding Lewis Hamilton’s uncertain future in the sport, Ralf Schumacher says Sebastian Vettel is well primed to fill the most coveted seat in motorsport.
Hamilton’s reaction to the 2021 season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was coupled with his social media blackout and ‘disappearance’ since that contentious night at Yas Marina.
He is still smarting from the manner in which Max Verstappen became World Champion after a contentious final ten minutes of a compelling season.
The shenanigans of Race Director Michael Masi and his FIA Stewards on the night are well documented, divided the entire F1 community in a damned-if-you-do or damned-if-you-don’t scenario that presented itself when Nicholas Latifi pranged his Williams and triggered a bewildering series of unfortunate events that evening.
Fast forward nearly two months and Hamilton is still underground, his team boss Toto Wolff worried he may not return. While some speculate Masi has been axed, with all to be revealed on March 18, after the Mohammed Ben Sulayem-instigated investigation into the final race of last year.
Should Hamilton decide ‘enough is enough’, time to move on and do music and/or fashion, Ralf Schumacher told Sky Germany that Vettel is the ideal candidate for the seat: “The experience that Sebastian has, the speed that he still has is ideal. And above all, he knows the Mercedes car – or the engine. I think the Aston Martin concept is also very close.”
Schumacher: If Vettel had a chance to drive for Mercedes of course he would!
“That would of course be a possibility, 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 him – that was a good team,” reckoned Michael Schumacher’s younger brother.
Vettel endured a torrid final year at Ferrari, humbled by Charles Leclerc when the Silverstone-based outfit came calling with Lawrence Stroll’s mega Aston Martin project. He had a much better year but was plagued with a car that did him or Lance Stroll no favours.
Thus, if Mercedes came calling it is highly likely that Vettel would jump at the opportunity, as would just about every race driver on this planet.
“If he had the chance, of course!” insisted Schumacher. “Obviously if he had an opportunity to get into this team then he would take it 100 percent because of a bigger chance of competing for the World Championship again; that’s what Sebastian wants. He wants to win races, he showed that too.
“But, A, Hamilton has not left yet and, B, he has a few other cards up his sleeve,” predicted, Schumacher, winner of six Grands Prix in 180 races in F1.
Mercedes: The focus is the investigation and the outcomes – and getting the car ready for the season
George Russell is stepping up from Williams to partner Hamilton and replace Alfa Romeo-bound Valtteri Bottas. However, should plans change and the #44 car become available, common sense suggests that Mercedes will be looking for an experienced driver to fill the seat. A thirty-something driver one would imagine.
That theory would be a disappointment for the likes of Nyck De Vries and even Stoffel Vandoorne, both young drivers with huge futures, connected to Mercedes and both hankering for a shot at the big time.
Smart money is on Hamilton not forfeiting the $100-million his two-year extension (announced in July 2021) with Mercedes, giving up on the greatest seat F1 has known, demoted from A-Lister everyone wants to hang out with to B-Lister no one cares about.
Like all true champions, Lewis is a sore loser, the manner in which it happened – he feels robbed – exacerbating his belligerent sulk. He and Max deserved better, most knowledgeable fans were aggrieved by what they saw from officialdom that night. But now it’s time to move on.
Was Lewis ever gone or did he just switch off to recharge?
But quitting now would be selfish to his family who sacrificed so much for him, his team who he admits so often to adoring, his true fans, and F1 in general, as well as (importantly) all the communities and people he helps (and can still help) with his social justice campaigns and, off the radar, all-round general good deeds he is involved in, which only F1 can expose in the manner it does for him.
While Vettel is perhaps being the first big name linked to Hamilton’s departure, the longer he stays silent expect the likes of Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and maybe even Valtteri Bottas to be waiting on their phones to ring or making noises about it through their various media connections.
But unfortunately for those who desire his cockpit, Lewis will be back, in fact, he was never gone he might say, when he emerges again to set the wrongs, of 2021, right by winning the title 2022 F1 Title or at least give it his best shot again.
Anything less than that will leave a stain on his now impeccable and massive legacy because he has still so much more to give on every front, far beyond F1 as long as he returns with his kit bag when things get going again with testing in Barcelona from 23 to 25 February.