Formula 1 Racing

Who will replace Sebastian Vettel in F1? Assessing the contenders

Nico Hulkenberg, Aston Martin

The German’s retirement news has turned the driver silly season on its head, and opened up a raft of possible scenarios that could impact several teams.

The bottom line is that Aston Martin doesn’t have a definitive plan in place.

While Vettel’s retirement was always a possibility, and was obviously a topic of conversation between the four-time world champion and team owner Lawrence Stroll in recent weeks, they were also discussing terms for a contract extension.

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The team obviously couldn’t wait forever for a decision, but it was only this week that Vettel made his intentions clear, and thus the search for a replacement officially began.

At the end of the day, the decision is Stroll’s, but he’ll make it with input from the top management, including team principal Mike Krack, chief technical officer Andy Green, sporting director Andy Stevenson, and performance director Tom McCullough.

Aston Martin is of course in a special situation in that Lance Stroll is in the other car, and inevitably any decision has to take into account that complex dynamic.

In taking Vettel, Stroll Sr knew he was getting a guy who was a world champion but also a team player who would potentially be a positive influence on his son.

In addition, Aston is a car manufacturer, and there are marketing considerations. The choice of Vettel was influenced by the positive PR he would bring, and inevitably Stroll will want if possible to take someone with a high profile, such as a proven race winner.

Nico Hulkenberg, Aston Martin

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Option 1 – Nico Hulkenberg

Notwithstanding any other considerations, the logical first name on the list has to be that of reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg, who drove for the team in its Force India days in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

He returned to make three appearances as a sub for Racing Point in 2020, and deputised for Vettel at Aston in the first two races of this season when the latter tested positive for COVID-19.

He’s also undertaking a Pirelli test for Aston in Hungary next week, giving him valuable track mileage with the AMR22.

Hulkenberg is available, it will be easy to have him on a one-year deal for 2023 while keeping all options open for 2024, and he is of course well known to the team.

He turns 35 in three weeks, and as such is less than two months younger than Vettel, but as we’ve seen in recent years, drivers these days can race into their 40s.

He can also remain the back-up option in the…

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