Silver snub: Why Sebastian Vettel won’t be returning with Mercedes

Sebastian Vettel’s potential resurgence in Formula 1 with Mercedes has been ruled out, despite his previous discussions with the team’s principal, Toto Wolff. Sources close to Bild, Germany’s leading newspaper, have confidently stated that Vettel does not feature on the shortlist to fill Lewis Hamilton’s seat next year. “And the German is not one of them,” Michel Milewski, a correspondent, revealed.

Mercedes’ search for Hamilton’s successor has narrowed down to a few notable names, excluding the retired four-time world champion, despite Vettel’s and Wolff’s prior dialogues. Wolff himself has hinted at Vettel’s unflagging appeal at Suzuka, saying, “Sebastian is someone that you can never discount.”

Among the front runners for the coveted position are Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen, the latter considered amidst Red Bull’s internal discord. Hamilton, at Suzuka, emphasized the importance of the team’s ethos in selecting a new driver: “I think the only thing I really care about is that the team takes on someone with integrity and values that are aligned with the team,” adding, “There are some drivers that are more selfish than others. Some that are good drivers but perhaps not the best within team environments.”

Opinions within the F1 community about Vettel’s potential comeback are mixed. Roger Benoit, an experienced journalist, suggests that Vettel’s alignment with the sport has shifted: “Too many things in motorsport simply no longer fit with his new attitude to life, even if his urge to get into the cockpit has returned,” he wrote in Blick. Meanwhile, race driver Jason Watt critiqued Vettel’s recent performances in the pages of Ekstra Bladet in Denmark, implying a decline in his competitiveness: “I think most people can see that it wasn’t pretty when he was next to Lance Stroll in an Aston Martin,” and “Given how Alonso is now dealing with Stroll, it screams to the heavens that Vettel no longer has what it takes to be a Mercedes driver. And whether you get even slower from sitting out for two years seems to be a rhetorical question.”

As speculation about Hamilton’s replacement continues, Mercedes looks more likely to take a chance on Kimi Antonelli, a 17-year-old protege, with Wolff acknowledging that extra days have been added to the young Italian’s comprehensive F1 test program for 2024. Wolff’s ambition for Antonelli is clear: “We want to give him a feeling of what a really good car feels like before we put him in the ’22 car.”

The F1 grid for the next year could see fresh faces, with Oliver Bearman and Liam Lawson being other potential newcomers. The future for drivers like Logan Sargeant, Daniel Ricciardo, Guanyu Zhou, and Valtteri Bottas remains uncertain, with potential changes looming: “They are all threatened with dismissal for 2025. And whether they will stay in Formula 1 at all is something you shouldn’t bet on,” Benoit concluded.


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