Sebastian Vettel will retire from F1 at the end of the 2022 season, meaning Aston Martin will have to find a driver who can replace him.
Vettel’s 15-year career in the sport is to come to an end. A four-time Drivers’ Champion, the German is one of the greatest drivers ever to compete in F1.
When he won his first title with Red Bull in 2010, he became the youngest world champion in the sport’s history, at 23 years and 134 days. The record remains intact today.
Two years earlier, Vettel rubberstamped his talent with an incredible drive at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. In the unfancied Toro Rosso, the German won the race from pole position in changeable conditions – and never looked under threat.
It was the sort of performance we would come to expect from Vettel over the following years. Although 2010 was relatively inconsistent by his later standards – an infamous crash with team-mate Mark Webber at Turkey threatened team harmony at Red Bull – he still won the title in dramatic circumstances at the final race in Abu Dhabi.
In the final race of the 2012 season – the Brazilian Grand Prix – Vettel produced perhaps his finest drive. After a collision at turn three, Vettel found himself in dead last. Knowing he had to drive back through the field to finish ahead of Fernando Alonso, the German charged up to sixth place. With Alonso finishing in second, Vettel took the title by three points.
The following season, he broke more records. He won nine races in a row on the way to a fourth Drivers’ Championship.
After a difficult 2014 season, Vettel moved to Ferrari for 2015. He won a further 14 races with the Scuderia, but could not earn a fifth world title.
Since 2020, he has driven for Aston Martin, alongside Lance Stroll. His best finish was in last season’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he finished second.
At the end of 2022, he will leave behind one of the greatest legacies in F1 history. But who will be in contention to replace Vettel? Let’s take a look:
One of the main contenders for who will replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin is surely Oscar Piastri.
The Australian, who has Vettel’s former Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber as his advisor, stormed to the F2 title last season in his first full campaign in the category.
Piastri is currently signed to Alpine, and is their reserve driver for the 2022 season. But with current driver Fernando Alonso in talks over a new deal beyond this season, and Esteban Ocon locked in until end of 2024, the 21-year-old may have to look elsewhere for opportunities.
Alpine CEO, Laurent Rossi, said: “With Fernando, his contract is over this year. So obviously, we are discussing with him. We are building scenarios for him and Oscar.
“The idea is that the two of them are worthy drivers, and we would love them to drive next year. We are working on scenarios for both of them to drive, and scenarios that are very plausible, very sensible, and that we imagine would satisfy both drivers.”
Whether that scenario involves Aston Martin remains to be seen. But if the team wants Piastri, they will need to act fast.
Nyck de Vries
Another F2 champion, Nyck de Vries is currently signed to Mercedes. However, team principal Toto Wolff has hinted that the team may not be able to give him an F1 opportunity.
He said: “I think if we are not able to provide him with an interesting Formula 1 project, in a way we need to let him go. He’s looking at various options, sports cars, maybe Formula E. But you just must never give up on the opportunity that one day a Formula 1 door can open.”
At 27 years old, De Vries already has a strong portfolio in motor racing. Alongside his F2 win, he secured the Formula E title with Mercedes in 2020/21.
The Dutchman has already been linked with a seat at Williams for 2023. However, Wolff’s recent comments suggest he may have to look elsewhere. Perhaps Aston Martin could be the answer.
After a tricky start to the 2022 season, Mick Schumacher has put in a number of impressive performances in recent races.
He was running comfortably in the top 10 at Canada before a mechanical failure put paid to his Grand Prix. At the British Grand Prix, he finished eighth to record his first points in F1. He also battled with Max Verstappen in the closing laps.
He backed that result up with an impressive sixth in Austria, to further rubberstamp his potential in the sport.
The German is signed to Ferrari as their reserve driver. His current deal with Haas concludes at the end of 2022, but the team are in talks for an extension of a further year.
With Vettel acting as a mentor for Schumacher so far in F1 – and with the pair already great friends – it would perhaps be fitting if the younger German replaced him at Aston Martin, even if Schumacher had to end his deal with Ferrari to make it happen.
Rumours are currently hotting up over Daniel Ricciardo’s future at McLaren, meaning he could be the driver who will replace Vettel at Aston Martin.
McLaren have signed IndyCar star Colton Herta to a development deal. The reigning champion of the series, Alex Palou has also signed for McLaren as well, even though his current team, Chip Ganassi Racing, plans to issue a lawsuit after the deal.
In addition, current Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward has also been linked with a move to the F1 outfit. O’Ward and Herta have both tested McLaren’s F1 car.
Whilst all this is going on, Ricciardo has struggled for form this season. He is 12th in the Drivers’ Championship standings, with 19 points. His team-mate, Lando Norris, has 70 points and a podium finish to his name.
The Australian recently released a statement on Twitter, stating he was still committed to McLaren and would not walk away from the sport.
Still, if McLaren do decide to go in another direction, a move to Aston Martin – where he could be the number one driver – would perhaps be the ideal move to get his F1 career back on track. Ricciardo is another who could be in contention for who will replace Vettel.
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