May 7 (GMM) Rumours are gaining momentum by the day that Sebastian Vettel is inching towards the end of his Formula 1 career.
In multiple recent interviews, a big topic of conversation with the quadruple world champion has been his expiring Aston Martin contract.
The Lawrence Stroll-owned team insist they want to retain him for 2023, but stronger speculation suggests Aston Martin may replace Vettel with Fernando Alonso.
Spaniard Alonso, who says he wants to keep racing for “two or three” more years, may be nudged out of Alpine by the Renault-owned team’s reserve and reigning F2 champion Oscar Piastri.
Former F1 driver David Coulthard says that Alpine aside, the 40-year-old’s options are limited.
“Fernando is still performing at the level of his abilities and showing his hunger and motivation,” he told AS newspaper. “The question now is whether he will have the motivation to continue at Alpine.
“What do I expect to happen? Fernando has no other place to go so I think he should wait another year to see if the team takes a step.”
As for 34-year-old Vettel, his motivation now appears more focused on social and environmental issues – and he is not shy to answer questions about retirement.
“I may stay in racing, but maybe not right away,” he told AFP news agency when asked what he would do if he quits F1.
“I will not be a TV expert. No, no,” Vettel insisted.
It is clear that – like seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton – Vettel is struggling to keep his foot planted at the wheel of a car not capable of winning.
“When I started I didn’t mind finishing outside the top ten,” he admitted. “Today, it’s not what I’m here for. I want to win.
“I don’t have the feeling that I’m not driving as well as I used to. I’ve developed a lot, and my experience helps me not to stress about certain things.”
F1 legend Gerhard Berger, who was Vettel’s first team boss in Formula 1, is not so sure.
“It’s quite clear that he is not as good as he used to be,” he told f1-insider.com. “But that’s normal.
“In the first part of your career, you always take big risks, constantly pushing the car to the extreme limit. Then it evens out. At that point, you are at your peak.
“For me it was between 28 and 30. Then the curve goes down again. So Sebastian is certainly not at his peak anymore, but he has so much experience that he can still be at the front when it suits him,” Berger added.