Sebastian Vettel had a stellar Formula 1 career, netting four World Championships with Red Bull before retiring at the end of 2022. The sport's allure may yet tempt him back, however, and Vettel is refusing to rule anything out.
Vettel recently spoke to Sky Sports about his career, with the pair joking about the sheer number of ex-World Championships who came back after retirement, citing big names like Prost, Mansell, and Raikkonen. When asked directly about his own potential comeback, Vettel was open but circumspect. "I can't say no, because you don't know," replied Vettel.
At 36 years old, Vettel is at the upper end of the age range for a typical Formula 1 driver. However, he would be far from the oldest driver on the grid if he returned next year. Lewis Hamilton is currently 38 years old, while Fernando Alonso is the granddaddy on the grid at 42 years of age. Both have delivered impressive performances at times this season in the shadow of Max Verstappen's dominance this season.
Vettel stated that he remains largely race-fit, albeit for his own reasons rather than any desire to jump straight back into a Formula 1 car. "I guess my neck is not up to speed, no, it can't be, but everything else is pretty good, I would say," noted Vettel.
The biggest question is where Vettel could go if he did desire a return to the grid. The German driver noted that a potential return would depend on the "challenge" involved. It's unlikely that the former World Champion would desire a return to a backmarker or midfield team, given he retired after two unsatisfying seasons with Aston Martin.
The problem is that there isn't a whole lot of space at F1's front-running teams. Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko ruled out Vettel returning to the team, while Ferrari already has two top-tier drivers on the payroll, having dropped Vettel ahead of the 2021 season. McLaren and Mercedes are both similarly well-staffed for the immediate future, too. A return to Aston Martin is perhaps the most believable, with the team delivering strong pace early in the 2023 season. Lance Stroll is also rumored to be looking for an exit given his inability to keep up with teammate Fernando Alonso, but he has been confirmed to remain at the team in 2024.
Vettel also remains an unknown quantity, given his time out of the sport and a lack of outstanding results in his last few seasons. He's also aware that the clock is ticking. "It probably will depend much on when, and obviously it's not endless, because 36 is not like, 'yeah in 10 years' time'," noted Vettel.
If Vettel were to get back behind the wheel, his legions of fans would surely celebrate his return. It all hinges on whether a competitive team believes that Vettel can still deliver the brilliant drives of his past, and opens up a seat. Keep a close eye on driver movements in coming years, because if the right slot opens up, we could yet see The Finger return to F1.
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