Vettel to Mercedes in 2018 (12th Update)

Wolff and Lauda not admitting to the rumor Vettel will drive for Mercedes in 2018
Wolff and Lauda not admitting to the rumor Vettel will drive for Mercedes in 2018

UPDATE (GMM) Niki Lauda has slammed speculation Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel could switch to Mercedes for 2018.

However, one Italian journalist says it was Lauda himself who recently confided to friends that Mercedes has inked a 'pre-agreement' with the German.

"If I was at Mercedes and I could have the best German driver, I would take him," former F1 driver Marc Surer told the German broadcaster Sky.

But Surer also suspects that Lauda could have deliberated planted the rumor in order to destabilize Mercedes' arch-rival Ferrari.

"I have a lot of respect for Niki," Ferrari chief Maurizio Arrivabene told Auto Bild, "but if you see all of his comments on paper, some are right and some are not."

In conversation with the Finnish broadcaster C More, Lauda slammed the rumors about a Mercedes switch for Vettel.

"It's nonsense, and it drives me crazy," the Mercedes team chairman is quoted by Spain's Marca.

"Ferrari is competitive, he has all the money there, why would he leave?" Lauda said.

And fellow Mercedes chief Toto Wolff also played down claims the German team could be looking to shake up its driver lineup.

"It's all market rumors," he said. "At the moment we are happy with Valtteri and Lewis and our goal is to keep the status quo."

But even Vettel himself is not committing to Ferrari beyond 2017.

"For the first time in a while I am in a situation where I don't know what will happen next year," he said. "But I'm not worried.

"I am focusing on what is happening at the moment and how we can further improve our car for the fight against Mercedes."

Ferrari can keep Vettel if Ferrari can keep pace with Mercedes
Vettel to Mercedes to replace a retiring Hamilton?

05/10/17 Lewis Hamilton’s future in Formula 1 has recently been subject of some speculation, new reports have emerged in Germany suggesting that the triple Formula 1 World Champion might be considering calling it quits when his contract runs out in at the end of 2018, if not earlier.

Well connected Ferrari insider Leo Turrini wrote this week that Mercedes have an option on Sebastian Vettel for 2018 when the German’s contract runs out with Ferrari. Turrini claims the deal was signed before this season started and his source is none other than Niki Lauda.

‘New boy’ Valtteri Bottas delivered his first win for the Silver Arrows, suggesting that the Finn has the pace to be a regular winner and it is highly likely that he his one year contract will be extended.

Thus if Hamilton does decide to quit, within the next two years, Mercedes have their bases covered and are unlikely to be caught flat footed as they were late last year when Nico Rosberg decided to retire after winning the world title.

05/09/17 (GMM) Sebastian Vettel may already have a "pre-agreement" to switch to Mercedes for 2018.

That is the claim of well-known F1 media insider Leo Turrini, who is notoriously close to Ferrari.

Although leading the world championship, German Vettel – whose Ferrari contract expires late this year – is rumored to be in talks with Mercedes.

"Of course they're talking with Vettel," said paddock sage Eddie Jordan.

Turrini, who publishes on his Quotidiano blog in Italian, agrees.

"It is no secret to anyone that after Rosberg's retirement, Mercedes contacted Seb," he said.

"During the pre-season test in Barcelona, Niki Lauda told friends confidentially that Vettel has a pre-agreement with the Germans for next season."

But Turrini said Ferrari subsequently surprised with its strong pace, and therefore could ink a new deal with the quadruple world champion for 2018 and beyond.

04/30/17 Mercedes chiefs have rubbished rumors Sebastian Vettel could be set to switch from Ferrari to Mercedes for 2018.

German Vettel, the world championship leader and Sochi pole sitter, is out of contract at the end of this year.

As for the rumors of a Mercedes switch, however, team chairman Niki Lauda told ORF: "That's nonsense.

"Why should Vettel leave Ferrari now that he wins one race after another? It would be crazy," he added.

But according to the rumor, Mercedes sees Vettel as an ideal long-term replacement for fellow German Nico Rosberg, who retired at the end of last year.

Rosberg's current successor, Valtteri Bottas, has only a one year contract.

"It's very early to talk about a renewal for Valtteri," team boss Toto Wolff told the Italian broadcaster Sky.

"But I like him a lot and he's going well. As for the rumors about Vettel, I think at the moment he has the fastest car, and when you have that, you don't change."

But if Ferrari does have vacancies for 2018, another rumor is that Max Verstappen is first in the Italian team's sights.

However, Red Bull's driver manager Helmut Marko told Auto Bild: "Contrary to rumors, there is no performance clause in Verstappen's contract.

"If we do not release him, he cannot go to Ferrari."

04/18/17 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. Ferrari's hopes of keeping Sebastian Vettel on board beyond 2017 have taken a giant leap forward.

That is the view of F1 legend Gerhard Berger, who before the start of the season warned that German Vettel could elect to leave the Italian team.

But now he says: "With Ferrari performing, there is no reason for him to not stay."

Indeed, quadruple world champion Vettel has won two of the three grands prix so far this year, and is leading the championship from Mercedes' Sebastian Vettel.

"Of course, if there is a stretch where he doesn't win any races, there will be enormous pressure," Berger told the German broadcaster Sky.

"But it looks at the moment that they are on the right track. I cannot imagine anything changing," the former Ferrari and McLaren driver added.

Vettel stares in disbelief at the times put up by the Aldo Costa Mercedes
Vettel stares in disbelief at the times put up by the Aldo Costa Mercedes

03/24/17 (GMM) Sebastian Vettel says he "will not be distracted" amid speculation he could be first in line for a move to Mercedes for 2018.

Mercedes signed up Valtteri Bottas only for this year, with team boss Toto Wolff admitting quadruple world champion Vettel "would fit" at the German team.

Vettel said he is not surprised about the rumors, given his own expiring contract.

"I understand if from the outsider's perspective," the Ferrari driver is quoted by Germany's Auto Bild.

"But at the moment, my only goal is to keep moving forwards with Ferrari, and I will not be distracted from that. To succeed, every single step must be taken.

"There is no shortcut to success," Vettel insisted.

However, Vettel did say he can imagine spending the rest of his career at Ferrari, as it is "more than a mere racing team".

But he insisted he is "Not thinking about" contractual matters at the moment.

F1 pundit Marc Surer, however, said Vettel could start to think about it later in 2017.

"If his third year at Ferrari doesn't lead to success, he is on the market," the former F1 driver predicted to German broadcaster Sky.

Vettel would love to drive an Aldo Costa car
German Vettel would love to drive for the German Mercedes team in a car designed by Aldo Costa car

03/21/17

(GMM) Sebastian Vettel "would fit" into the Mercedes team, according to team boss Toto Wolff.

It is the clearest sign yet that the reigning world champions are already looking firmly into the future, having signed Valtteri Bottas only for 2017 following Nico Rosberg's shock retirement.

Fellow Mercedes chief Niki Lauda this week in fact rejected the Vettel-to-Mercedes talk, insisting "That is not our plan — I must say that quite clearly".

But very different noises are coming from Wolff's mouth.

"2018 opens up alternatives that may be interesting but at the moment we do not waste time and will focus instead on bringing Bottas up to speed," he told Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.

Asked if he was referring to German Vettel, Wolff answered: "I personally have a good relationship with him and he would fit into the team.

"However, Sebastian is someone who is absolutely loyal to his current employer. When Nico retired, he was not one of the interesting applicants for the seat," he revealed.

"He only said 'Oh, this is surprising'. He is focusing on Ferrari with everything he has. What the future brings we will see, but it would be negligent to not have Sebastian on the list," added Wolff.

When told that 'German quadruple world champion Vettel driving a Mercedes' seems like a good fit, Wolff agreed: "Sounds good.

"But as good as it sounds, it matters little now. My favorite scenario is that it works out with Valtteri and Lewis," he said.

01/13/17

Mercedes are now without two key members of their triple title-winning team after the off-season departures of Nico Rosberg and Paddy Lowe.

Lowe stepped down from his role as executive director yesterday after three-and-a-half years in the Mercedes garage.

It came a month after Rosberg had announced his retirement as world champion to leave the team scrambling for a replacement.

All the top drivers were already tied down to contracts – but with Sebastian Vettel just a year away from the end of his deal at Ferrari, could Mercedes have hatched a cunning plan to put him alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2018?

There is no doubt that Vettel could easily leave the Maranello at the end of his current contract.

Ferrari failed to win a single race last year and Vettel himself has stood on top of the podium just three times since winning his fourth world title in 2013.

His frustration has been poorly hidden with repeated foul-mouthed outbursts over team radio at multiple targets including race director Charlie Whiting, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and all manner of back-markers.

But his true anger should be directed at the team whose sub-par car and poor recent strategy calls left him able to record just four podium finishes last season.

And instead of attempting to placate their star driver, team boss Sergio Marchionne has instead chosen to criticize Vettel.

“We must give him a winning car, otherwise talking about the future is useless," Marchionne said at the end of last season.

"He wants to win with us, we know that. Can we guarantee that for him?"

"In exchange, he must drive with composure, be more calm, less agitated.

"He must think about winning on the track and beat the other cars, not about getting into personal feuds."

These are perhaps not the words of a man who expects his driver to sign a long-term contract in the near future.

Meanwhile in Brackley, Mercedes are plotting. Valtteri Bottas is the first-choice to fill Rosberg's seat, but he is only at the top of list after much crossing out.

In fact, he is the perfect stop-gap. The Finn is talented enough that if Mercedes are once again dominant, he can guide the car onto the podium enough times to help the team retain their constructors' title.

But there are few in the paddock who believe he can challenge Hamilton for the world title – third is his best ever result in F1.

However, he is a safe pair of hands with four full seasons under his belt already.

And when Vettel becomes available at the end of the season, Mercedes are unlikely to have any qualms about elbowing him out of the way to allow the German to form a stellar partnership.

Convincing Vettel himself should not be a problem, but Mercedes will not want to take any chances.

The departure of Lowe may not have been ideal but if the team replace him with James Allison, they will have someone who knows Vettel inside-out.

Allison worked alongside the driver at Ferrari for 18 months before leaving the team last summer to spend more time with his family after the death of his wife.

But now Sky Sports claim he is ready to return to F1, and if he does so with Mercedes, he will represent just one more reason for Vettel to swap the Prancing Horse for the Silver Arrow.

Hamilton may not like having competition in his own garage but the prospect of him racing Vettel in the same car is a mouth-watering one. Roll on 2018. Daily Express

12/30/16 A reader asks, Dear AR1.com, was the 1971 South African GP the only F1 win Mario Andretti scored for Ferrari in F1? Dan Rich, Belleville

Dear Dan, Yes and no. It was the only points scoring win Mario scored for Ferrari in F1, but that same year the Questor GP non-points race was held on the Ontario Motor Speedway's road course. It was a twinbill event and Mario beat Jackie Stewart's Tyrell Ford in both races giving Mario 3 total wins for Ferrari in F1.

Stewart went on to win the F1 championship that year but Mario was only driving F1 part-time in 1971 and did not contest the championship. Mark C.

12/30/16 Mario Andretti has said he would like to see Sebastian Vettel win the Formula One world championship with Ferrari.

Andretti, who won the championship with Lotus in 1978, drove for Ferrari in 1971, 1972 and 1982 and thinks that Vettel is keen to emulate hero Michael Schumacher – who took five titles during an 11 year spell at Ferrari.

"I would love to see Vettel win a championship with Ferrari because I think he really wants to be there," Andretti told ESPN. "He’s there because it has been his dream, I think Michael [Schumacher] was his hero."

Mario Andretti scored his first F1 win for Ferrari at Kyalami in 1971
Mario Andretti scored his first F1 win for Ferrari at Kyalami in 1971

"He’s a bit frustrated obviously because things are the way they are at the moment. I think he gets on very well with Kimi, which is important as a team. But he’s showing his frustration a bit, you can tell, because he just feels that it could be better."

"He belongs there and I think pretty much everyone would like to see him be successful with Ferrari. I’m one of those, I’m a fan of his in every way. He expressed that to me [that he wants to win with Ferrari] a long time ago when he was first coming into the ranks of Formula One that that’s what he’d like to be and I think he’s where he wants to be."

Without its former design ace Aldo Costa (he's designing the unbeatable Mercedes now) Ferrari is not going to win races
Remember the dominant Ferrari years with Schumacher? Without its former design ace Aldo Costa (he's designing the unbeatable Mercedes now) Ferrari is not going to win races

12/29/16 No constructor has come close to their 16 World Constructors' Championship wins – Williams are second on the all-time list with nine. Ever since Alberto Ascari won their first ever Grand Prix back in 1951, the prancing horse logo of Ferrari has been synonymous with F1.

They won six in nine years over the late '70s and early '80s before proving themselves even more dominant at the turn of the century, winning all but two titles between 1999 and 2008.

But not since then have a team brought the trophy back to Maranello and Ferrari failed to win a race for the second time in three years last season.

While they may have finished third in the team rankings, they only had a driver on the podium six times in the entirety of 2016. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have been dominating the sport and those in red have been able to do nothing about it.

It is not a set of results that sits kindly with the Italian team's many fans.

And in fact, it should not be something that pleases anyone with an interest in the future of F1.

"It wasn't very interesting," said Sir Jackie Stewart of the 2016 season.

"Mercedes have made races boring," said Bernie Ecclestone.

If two of the sport's most senior and most revered figures are saying that, who knows what the floating voters and as-yet undiscovered potential F1 fans are saying.

Entertainment is a busy marketplace these days and racing needs its most recognizable team challenging at the front of the grid.

But fans are not the only ones desperate for Ferrari to find some extra seconds over the winter.

Sebastian Vettel used to be the man behind whom everyone was racing for second place. Now he dreams of even getting beyond the first step on the podium.

The German has not won in 27 races, the longest drought of his career. It did not even take him 27 races to record his first win (which came in a Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso at Ferrari's home track, Monza).

Anyone would forgive him for getting itchy feet.

"We need to give a winning car to Sebastian and give him a more comfortable position to drive how he knows to do," Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne acknowledges.

Marchionne does not appear to be worried about the possibility of losing Vettel, whose contract will expire this time next year.

Reports suggest Mercedes could make a play for the four-time world champion once they have plugged the gap left by Nico Rosberg for a year.

It would be a move that hurts Ferrari, who are expected to bring in one of their young drivers, such as Antonio Giovinazzi, to replace Kimi Raikkonen in 2018.

However, if Ferrari can put together a package that allows Vettel to compete for race wins and even a fifth World Drivers' Championship, there is little doubt that he will happily renew with the world's most iconic motor-racing team.

And with Red Bull and their Renault engine suppliers both promising huge improvements, we could have a three-way title race on our hands in 2017.

If we do, F1 can reestablish itself as one of the world's most glamorous and most exciting sports. If not, Ferrari and F1 both risk drifting into pale mediocrity. James Gray Daily Express

Hamilton and Vettel as teammates?  Hmm.....
Hamilton and Vettel as teammates? Hmm…..

12/16/16 (GMM) Sebastian Vettel is emerging as a favorite to become Nico Rosberg's longer term replacement at Mercedes.

But 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 is likely.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff told Sport Bild: "There are some well-known drivers without a contract for 2018, so I think we have to think about drivers like Vettel."

According to Red Bull's 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?" he is quoted by Kolner Express tabloid.

But what seems clear is that Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso – two other obvious Mercedes targets – are not heading to the German giant in the foreseeable future.

Spain's Marca sports newspaper quoted a source as saying Verstappen "is convinced he will be champion in 2017" with Red Bull.

"He wants to win several titles and then cash in", the source added, potentially referring to a later switch to Mercedes or Ferrari.

The report said Verstappen's current Red Bull deal is 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 chief 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 language 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," he added.

Vettel knows to be World Champion for a 5th time he must drive an Aldo Costa or Adrian Newey designed car
Vettel knows to be World Champion for a 5th time he must drive an Aldo Costa designed car

12/15/16 (GMM) He will not replace Nico Rosberg in 2017, but the door to a future at Mercedes is a possibility for Fernando Alonso the year after.

That is the claim of Germany's Sport Bild, claiming that whoever Mercedes does sign to replace the retiring Rosberg will only get a one-year deal.

Still with his finger on the F1 pulse is Gerhard Berger, who earlier this year negotiated the new two-year Mercedes deal that Rosberg is now giving up.

The former Ferrari and McLaren driver said: "Suddenly Ferrari is feeling the pressure.

"Sebastian will closely monitor their progress and take his time in renewing his contract.

"I'm sure deep down he wants the chance to go with Mercedes in 2018," Berger added. "So Ferrari need to try to keep Vettel happy, so they don't lose him."

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