2016 F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg has recently claimed that Sebastian Vettel could make the jump from Ferrari to Mercedes for the 2018 F1 season. But is that a realistic possibility, or just a farfetched dream?
The Ferrari-Vettel Relationship
Despite a perfect start to their partnership in 2015, things have quickly fallen apart for the Ferrari-Vettel relationship after what was a highly disappointing system from the team. For Vettel, Ferrari cost him the race win on at least two occasions last season. Firstly there was Australia where Ferrari made the wrong call after the red flag, costing him what was almost certainly going to be a win. Then in Canada, Ferrari tried to once again make an extra stop while Vettel was leading, meaning he ended the race 2nd. There were several other mistakes made by the Ferrari pit wall, including Austria and Japan.
Despite Vettel coming out on several occasions defending the team, you have to wonder how well we did take them. We have seen several times over the course of 2016 what happens when Vettel gets frustrated with other cars and driver.
The Ferrari, apart from a couple of occasions, was also uncompetitive and unreliable. The Ferrari struggled for pace in qualifying several times, including Spain, and got out developed by Red Bull. They also had far more retirements than their rivals.
Plus, go back to October where Arrivabene came out and said that Vettel had to earn his Ferrari seat beyond 2017. This suggests that more is happening behind the scenes, and that maybe there is a rift between management and Vettel. Especially when you consider that Kimi Raikkonen hasn’t done a lot to earn his place in the team in the past few seasons, but gets the seat with no problems.
Vettel’s contract with Ferrari ends at the end of the 2017 season, which also coincides with when Bottas’s contract with Mercedes expires. After seemingly failing to lure Vettel or Alonso away from Ferrari and McLaren respectively, it looks like they signed Bottas as a short-term solution. If Mercedes truly believed in Bottas, then they would have surely signed him onto a longer contract. So it definitely looks like Mercedes are waiting for Vettel’s (or even Alonso’s) contract to expire.
As reported earlier today, there has been speculation that Lewis Hamilton could be retiring at the end of the 2017 season. The key word there is speculation however, but that’s not the only angle we can look at it from.
Hamilton could easily leave Mercedes, and that’s a very plausible scenario. It’s been reported that Hamilton threatened to quit after the Spanish GP, and made very strange comments after the Malaysian GP, saying, “someone doesn’t want me to win”, suggesting sabotage by the team. Tensions only increased at Abu Dhabi, where Hamilton defied team orders to go quicker, after Hamilton deliberately slowed up Rosberg into the back of Vettel and Verstappen. If tensions between Hamilton and Mercedes continue to escalate, or if the Bottas-Hamilton partnership follows a similar path to the Rosberg-Hamilton partnership, then Hamilton could easily move teams. Ferrari will be one of those teams that would try to sign him, especially if they lose Vettel.
The Young Driver Program
A huge question is about the Mercedes young driver program. Ocon and Wehrlein will definitely want to replace Hamilton or Bottas when they leave the team. Wehrlein doesn’t seem to interested in hanging around at the back of the grid, after being overlooked by both Mercedes and Force India for 2017, while Ocon is an exceptional talent, who beat Verstappen in F3. Will Mercedes risk losing them, the future of their team, just so they can sign Vettel? Vettel is 29 (30 in July), so it isn’t like Vettel is near retirement.
Bottas exceeding expectations
What happens if Bottas delivers and puts in an excellent campaign? If Hamilton does stay at the team, and Bottas performs, do Mercedes have any reason to not renew his contract? Bottas has been very good for Williams, and should have gotten a seat for Ferrari for 2015. There is no reason that Bottas could not do another to earn a new deal.
Vettel may not leave Ferrari
Finally, what if Vettel and Ferrari have a fantastic 2017 season? If Ferrari get to grips with these regulations better than what fans are expecting, Vettel will probably stay at the team. Another name thrown into the hat by Rosberg is Alonso, who is more likely to leave McLaren, especially if recent reports that the engines will be important are anything to go by.
So right now, a Vettel move to Mercedes is pure speculation, and there are so many stipulations involved that it’s difficult to call. Let me know in the comments on your thoughts on this!
Check out the article on how British fans are worried about Hamilton retiring here http://ltmsport.com/british-fans-fear-lewis-hamilton-retire/