Sebastian Vettel’s shock move to Mercedes: Toto Wolff drops a major hint

The four-time world champion retired in 2022, but he could soon be back in silver if Toto Wolff's comments at the 2024 Bahrain GP are true

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Sebastian Vettel is one of the finest racers to ever sit in a Formula 1 car having 53 race wins and 57 pole positions – plus four world championships of course – and he could be set to return to the sport with Mercedes as Toto Wolff dropped a major hint at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix.

The German retired at the end of the 2022 season, racing for Aston Martin in the final season of a glittering 16-year career which saw him help catapult Red Bull to glory and win 13 times in the famous red of Ferrari, as he began to focus on his environmentalism activism.

But he has left the door open to return in the year and a bit since quitting, provided he could race at the front end of the grid, and now that might be possible with Wolff‘s team as they look to replace Lewis Hamilton at the end of 2024 as the Mercedes boss suggests he might make an offer.

“Sebastian is a great guy and a giant of this sport,” Wolff said to Sky Sports Germany. “I think he still has the speed.

“After three or four races, we have to decide whether to go for youth or experience. Do we optimise in the short-term and give the youngsters more time to gain experience?”

Who is the youth?

Kimi Antonelli will drive for Prema in Formula 2 in 2024 | Mercedes

This is most likely a message referring to Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The highly-rated Formula Regional European Championship (FRECA) champion is currently a debutant in Formula 2, meaning he skipped Formula 3.

That’s an incredibly big jump to make and with his F2 team, Prema, looking very uncompetitive at the season opener it’s possible that Wolff looks to both take the pressure off the 17-year-old whilst also waiting to see if he can cut it against the top talent of the series.

It could also be a message to George Russell that Wolff doesn’t feel as though he’s quite ready to lead the team without a senior head next to him, though this is fairly unlikely as the Austrian has praised Russell previously.

He is also 26 and is entering his sixth year in the sport and his third year with Mercedes so if he isn’t ready by now, then when will he ever be? Besides, as recently as February 7 Russell‘s boss lauded him as the future of the team and said he views him as the one young driver in F1 that he would actually want in his car.

Why not Hamilton?

Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff embrace in the Mercedes garage at the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP | Sebastian Kawka / Mercedes F1 Team

‘If Wolff is unsure of experience vs. youth, then why didn’t he keep Hamilton?’, one might ask.

Well, the answer to that is Wolff intended to do so until the end of 2025, but the seven-time world champion did not want a short-term contract and elected to choose a longer deal at Ferrari which will span beyond the end of his F1 career.

At the age of 39 and with many social causes close to his heart, Hamilton is likely now thinking beyond his time as a racer and Fred Vasseur‘s team reportedly offered him an ambassadorial role beyond 2026.

So he made the switch from silver to red, whilst Vettel might not be as fussy about any contract lengths and might jump at a good seat, considering he’s been inactive in the sport for almost 18 months.

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