Formula 1: Surprise team emerges as potential Sebastian Vettel suitor

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /

Sebastian Vettel is set to be a free agent after the 2020 Formula 1 season. Could he end up making a surprise move to Renault?

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is one of more than a dozen drivers who is set to enter the 2020 Formula 1 season with a contract to compete in the 2021 season.

Vettel, who signed with Ferrari ahead of the 2015 season, last signed a contract extension back in August of 2017. He extended his deal with the Maranello-based team by three years, and there have been all kinds of rumors about what his future may hold beyond the 2020 season.

But one rumor that had not emerged until recently involves a switch to a rather unexpected team, and that team is Renault.

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Renault are one of six teams that have one driver under contract for the 2021 season, but they, just like the sport’s other nine teams, have not completely shored up their lineup for next year.

They signed Esteban Ocon as the replacement for Nico Hulkenberg ahead of the 2020 season, and they signed him to a two-year deal. He is set to be the teammate to Daniel Ricciardo, who signed a two-year deal with the team ahead of the 2019 season and is now in a contract year.

There have been rumors that Ricciardo could leave the French marque after the 2020 season and possibly even replace Vettel at Ferrari. Such a move could put Vettel in position to make a surprise move to Renault.

Here is what Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul had to say about the matter, according to Autosport.

"“I don’t want to say no, as he is a great driver, and a great champion. We worked together on the engine side and we won together."

Vettel and Renault did indeed work together on the engine side, and that led to four consecutive championships back at the beginning of last decade.

Vettel drove for the Renault-powered Red Bull Racing team at the time, and he won the titles in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He won 34 races over the course of these four seasons and left for Ferrari after the 2014 season. Red Bull Racing switched from Renault engines to Honda engines after the 2018 season.

Renault’s lone customer team is now McLaren, another team that Vettel has surprisingly been linked to. But they are no longer set to supply engines to any customer teams in 2021, as McLaren are set to switch back to Mercedes power beginning next year.

Abiteboul went on to add, however, that he would prefer to replace Ricciardo with a younger driver, a claim he made last September as well when he hinted that Ricciardo would not be back with the team in 2021.

"“[But] I rather aspire to work with tomorrow’s drivers than yesterday’s. It really is very difficult to sum it up like that, so please don’t sum it up like that about Sebastian. Still, we also have a driver academy, with drivers who might come out of it in 2021 or 2022.“We need to keep this in mind, as we created this academy in 2016 with the goal of having a driver graduate to F1 in 2021. Now 2021 is coming, we have to acknowledge it. Typically, there’s Christian Lundgaard. He’s an option among others: he’s got his F2 season to do, we’ve got our own season to do with Daniel.”"

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More than likely, Sebastian Vettel will not end up driving for Renault in the 2021 Formula 1 season, but the possibility exists. Where will he end up next year? Will he re-sign with Ferrari, move elsewhere or retire from the sport?