Who Should Replace Vettel Next Year?
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
A look at the whole list, from obvious candidates to rank outsiders.
It was announced this morning (12.05.20) that Sebastian Vettel would leave Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season, having won 14 times for the Scuderia during five seasons with the team.
Sadly it brings an end to the German’s dream of emulating his hero Michael Schumacher in becoming a multiple world champion for Ferrari however I sincerely hope he is given the chance to try and achieve his dream as a Ferrari champion this year.
The news does pose one of the biggest questions the sport has seen for a while, who will Ferrari choose to replace the four time World Champion? There are many options on the table and over the next few weeks, surely each driver on the grid, and some off it, will be linked to that second red seat.
For this I hope to go through each option Ferrari may consider, even slightly. The options are presented alphabetically, I hope you enjoy.
The first option is Alex Albon, one of F1’s new generation who amazingly is only one year into his F1 career. It feels as though the Thai driver has been around Formula 1 for years, becoming part of Red Bull’s junior driver program at a young age before being dropped and then rehired.
His debut season in F1 started in Toro Rosso before his promotion to the senior team in which he impressed. Surely another strong season in 2020 will give Ferrari some thinking to do about the possibility of putting another young fast driver in their car?
He is good friends with current Ferrari star Charles Leclerc, could this also prove decisive in Ferrari’s though process?
One of Ferrari’s options is to look within their driver academy, with the strongest option being current Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who has been a part of the academy since 2016.
Prior to his F1 debut last season, Giovinazzi was a test and development driver for Ferrari a position which ensured his drive with Alfa Romeo in 2019, due to the links between the two teams. Despite a shaky start to his first full season in Formula 1, Giovinazzi improved as the year went on, matching experienced teammate Kimi Räikkönen towards the end of the season where he achieved a best result of fifth in Brazil.
His Ferrari links surely put him in a strong position to be considered for the role, however will his results in 2019 prove too inconsistent at this stage?
Carlos Sainz is surely one of the favourites for the position having been tipped to move to Ferrari prior to the team choosing Leclerc for 2019. The Spaniard’s record speaks for itself, he had a fantastic 2019 season in a rejuvenated McLaren team in which he became the first non Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull driver to finish in the top six of the championship since 2015.
Unlike the other drivers currently considered he has the experience at a top level and has been a part of a manufacture team twice before, so would potentially adapt to the pressure of Ferrari faster.
Sainz is also known as a fair driver and has a good relationship with teammates, surely another aspect which will work in his favour.
The other favourite for the drive must surely be Australian Daniel Ricciardo who is nearing the end of his two year contract with Renault.
It was considered a risk moving to the French manufacture however he was not keen on playing second fiddle to his popular Dutch teammate and Renault on the up combined with the uncertainties of Honda lingering over Red Bull, Ricciardo felt the time was right top move.
However Renault’s progress stalled in 2019 with the team falling down the constructors table behind McLaren with Ricciardo knowing his clock is ticking to win a crown. Will he be tempted to move again to Maranello?
Like Sainz, Ricciardo's record speaks for itself and is a proven race winner with Red Bull, the only stumbling block may be his salary. At $25 million a year, he is one of the highest paid drivers on the grid, something which Ferrari may be keen to avoid going forward having parted with the second highest earner on the grid in Vettel.
A third former Red Bull driver could also be considered is Daniil Kvyat, who had a superb comeback year in 2019 with Toro Rosso in which he achieved his third podium in Formula 1 at a treacherous Hockenheim.
Daniil’s speed behind the wheel is again something that does not need proving, he beat Daniel Ricciardo in their only full season together in 2015 before being acrimoniously dropped by Red Bull in early 2016 for Verstappen.
Since then he has taken a year sabbatical with Ferrari in which his relationship was very good, with the Italian giants praising the Russian’s work ethic and contribution to the team during the 2018 season. He also speaks Italian, having moved their at the age of 11, and is based less than four hours away from the factory.
His experience with the team and in Formula 1 may aide the Russian become a creditable option for Ferrari.
Time to go a bit left field and look at a current Mercedes junior driver who may be swayed by the famous red cars if he’s given the chance, the very popular and very fast Esteban Ocon. Ocon made his F1 debut for Manor in 2016 before replacing Nico Hulkenberg at Force India in 2017.
Ocon gained the nickname “Oconsistency” as he finished his first 27 races, only failing to finish in Brazil due to being taken out through no fault of his own. This methodical approach to racing, combined with extreme speed may tempt Ferrari, however with Toto Wolff as Esteban’s manager, as well as his strong ties to Mercedes, may prove a massive stumbling block.
However stranger things have happened in Formula 1 and if Ocon has a strong 2020 season, it may tempt Ferrari into making a surprise call.
It would not be right if Fernando Alonso was not linked to the Ferrari seat in 2021. He has been trying to get back into a competitive seat in Formula 1 for many years, even during his time during McLaren so surely he must consider himself an option.
Despite his age, Fernando’s signing would need no explaining, he is a double champion and arguably the most complete driver of his generation.
He would also be an expert mentor for Charles, if Fernando wanted to play that game, however given the chance at a shot of the title, I am certain Fernando will play every card possible to win.
Only time will tell to see if Ferrari take that risk on their former driver.
Another Mercedes junior driver now, as George Russell could be considered, however the same stumbling blocks may hinder him as they may Ocon.
Like Ocon, his speed speaks for itself. After making his debut in 2019 for a poor Williams he was convincingly faster than teammate Robert Kubica throughout the year, even managing to claw his car into the second phase of qualifying on the odd occasion despite a massive speed deficit.
This earned him praise up and down the paddock for his ability to extract the maximum out of the car, something which surely did not go unnoticed by Ferrari.
His junior career was also hugely impressive, having been crowned 2018 Formula 2 champion, beating the likes of Lando Norris and Alex Albon to the title. As mentioned his Mercedes Junior driver connections my hinder any deal for the future.
Probably the current Formula 1 driver with the biggest outside chance is Haas’ Kevin Magnussen who was once topped to drive for Ferrari, although his uninspired 2019 season may affect his chances.
On his day however he is a superb driver who again had a phenomenal junior career in which he won the World Series Renault championship when it was arguably at the peak of its powers.
Since signing for Haas he has convincingly beat teammate Romain Grosjean and his knowledge and experience may aid him in his chances for the drive.
Another driver that Ferrari may look at is young Brit Lando Norris, who made his F1 debut for McLaren in 2019.
Norris impressed by McLaren and the media in 2019, with smart drives and daring overtakes, ending the year just outside the top ten in the championship.
It may be considered a risk to go for someone so inexperienced, as he is younger than friend Charles Leclerc, however it would be fascinating to see how the duo fare in equal machinery.
Without doubt the biggest driver on the grid and on this list is six-times World Champion Lewis Hamilton who has dominated F1 in the last six seasons, only missing out on 2016 by five points.
The Brit has nothing to prove, he is one of the best drivers of all time and has everything in his catalogue, from incredible one lap pace, to smart and calculated drives which accumulate to dominance over a season.
No one was able to touch him in 2019, he has everything he would want at Mercedes however would a fresh challenge prove too much to overcome for Hamilton?
It may be a case of head says no but heart says yes.
Another outside bet is the second Ferrari junior driver on the list, however what headlines it would create.
Mick Schumacher, son of Ferrari legend Michael, is currently about to start his second season in Formula 2 for Prema Racing, and although it would be a bold move to put him straight in at Ferrari, if he has an exceptional year in F2, it may be something Ferrari consider.
He would be a lot cheaper than any of the other options mentioned so far and would surely bring Ferrari a huge amount of positive publicity and marketing opportunities. He will also be able to learn from Charles however will Ferrari be willing to put this much pressure on young superstar Leclerc?
The second river currently not driving in F1 that Ferrari may consider is fellow German Nico Hulkenberg, who lost his seat at Renault for 2020 to Esteban Ocon. Hulkenberg has never hit the heights his potential suggested, although his career has always been a case of “right place wrong time”.
Last year he matched proven race winner Ricciardo all season and beat Carlos Sainz in their only full season together convincingly, so it may be an option Ferrari look at. He has come close to driving for Ferrari in the past, supposedly at the beginning of the new hybrid era before the team chose to rehire Kimi Räikkönen.
Again he may not be as expensive as other drivers currently looked at, however will Ferrari want to go for a driver who has the momentum behind him, rather than a driver who has been away from the sport for a year?
Probably the driver with the biggest outside chance of getting the seat out of all the drivers I
will look at is current Mahindra Racing and Ferrari development driver Pascal Wehrlein.
When in Formula 1 between 2015 and 2017, Wehrlein was a Mercedes junior driver and considered a star of the future as he was able to extract the most out of pretty poor cars. He is also DTM’s youngest ever champion, amazingly winning the championship at just 20 years old.
Ferrari clearly sees the potential of Wehrlein’s ability having signed the German soon after he left Mercedes. Like Kvyat he has experience within the team which may work in his favour.
The final Red Bull affiliated driver who may be considered is Frenchman Pierre Gasly who was dropped to Toro Rosso halfway through 2019 for Alex Albon. Over one lap, Gasly is superb and his ability in midfield machinery is unquestioned.
However his struggles in the senior Red Bull team may work against him, however again, like Norris, Albon and Russell, he is close friends with Charles Leclerc, a factor Charles may push if he has any say in which teammate he has for 2021.
The final Ferrari Academy driver that Ferrari may look at if he has a stellar 2020 season is 2019 F3 champion Robert Shartzman who drove superbly all the way through his title winning season.
The Russian won the championship by a staggering 54 points, dominating the championship which has seen him promoted to Prema Racing’s Formula 2 team alongside fellow Ferrari junior Mick Schumacher.
Out of all the academy and development drivers not currently racing in Formula 1, if he has a strong 2020 he surely has the strongest chance of progressing into the team, only time will tell if his 2020 is as successful as his 2019.
The last driver I am going to look at is current Mercedes driver and Lewis Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who has upped his game over the last two years, to Bottas “2.0”. He pushed Hamilton far in 2019, winning the first race of the season in Australia, ending the season a career high of second.
This form would surely alert the other big teams, as well as his past in comfortably matching Felipe Massa in only his second season in F1.
It would be interesting to see if Ferrari opts for the new Finn on the block.
So there you have it, a seventeen driver shortlist, with a plethora of drivers from a multitude of backgrounds and cv’s included. With so many drivers out of contract at the end of 2020, at least silly season is well and truly go.
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