Four-time Formula One champion’s contract with Ferrari up after 2017
Four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel is emerging as a favorite to become Nico Rosberg’s long-term replacement at Mercedes.However, the German has said he is definitely not leaving his Ferrari deal before 2018. That ties in with speculation that a one-year deal for Lewis Hamilton’s new teammate next year — whomever that may be — is likely.
According to Red Bull consultant Dr. Helmut Marko, Mercedes needs to think seriously about 2018 already, because Hamilton might not be committed for the future.
“There are rumors that Hamilton could say ‘Now I’m going to be an actor.’ What will they do then?” Marko is quoted by Kolner Express tabloid.
What seems clear is that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren-Honda’s Fernando Alonso — two other obvious Mercedes targets — are not heading to Mercedes in the foreseeable future.
Verstappen’s current Red Bull deal is believed to be for 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Another top driver who could be out of the picture for the next few years is Alonso, with reports that new McLaren executive director Zak Brown wants to offer the Spaniard a new three-year deal. That plan is also backed by Honda, with F1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa quoted by Diario Sport: “We have to give him confidence that he is choosing the right team for the future.”
Vettel, therefore, could be Mercedes’ obvious top target for 2018.
“Sebastian needs a team in which his preferences for the car are perfectly implemented,” former driver turned German racing pundit Christian Danner told Bild newspaper. “But if he tells the Ferrari engineers something, nothing happens. If he gives the same feedback to Mercedes, they will try to make the car perfect for him. That would be the best conditions for Vettel.”