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‘I’d love it if he came back’: Hamilton backs Vettel to take his seat at Mercedes
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‘I’d love it if he came back’: Hamilton backs Vettel to take his seat at Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton has backed Sebastian Vettel to make a return to Formula One by stepping in to replace him at Mercedes when the British driver moves to Ferrari at the end of this season.

Vettel, the four-times world champion who retired in 2022, has already revealed he has been in talks with teams, including the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff. Speaking before this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton added his support for Vettel to make a comeback with Mercedes.

“I would love for Seb to come back and I think it would be an amazing option for the team,” he said. “German driver, multi-world championship-winning driver, and someone who has amazing values who would continue to take the team forward. I’d love it if he came back.”

Asked whether he would have any input into Mercedes’ decision, Hamilton laughed and said it would be “zero”. However he did hope the team would pursue a driver who would be similarly committed to the ideals the seven-times champion has made a central part of his time with Mercedes, including pursuing diversity and inclusivity within the team.

“The only thing I really care about is that the team takes on someone with integrity and that are aligned with the team and where the team’s going,” he said. “Someone ­compassionate that’s able to work with great people and continues to lift them up. There’s so many great people in this team.”

Vettel is among several options the team are currently considering, including attempting to lure world champion Max Verstappen away from Red Bull, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz, and their own promising junior driver, Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Earlier this week Vettel, who won his four championships with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, then completed six years at Ferrari and two at Aston Martin, confirmed that he had been considering a return to F1.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton embrace at Suzuka last SeptemberView image in fullscreen

“I am speaking to Toto. I don’t know if that qualifies as Mercedes, but about other things,” he said. “I’m talking to a lot of people because I know them, but not [about anything] very specific. I mean obviously [a potential return] does cross my mind, I do think about it, but it’s not the main thought.

“I did speak to a lot of other team principals as well, and not only about racing. There’s thoughts, but nothing concrete at the minute.”

The German has also recently tested the Porsche 963 sports car which is currently competing in the World Endurance Championship and Vettel may be considering a drive with them at June’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

Hamilton’s teammate George ­Russell also said he would happily welcome Vettel to drive alongside him. “Sebastian’s a great person and he’s a four-time world champion and his personality is missed on the grid,” he said. “It’s important that we have the best 20 drivers in the world all competing for race wins and championships. So I’m really happy and open to have anybody as my teammate.”

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Also in Japan, Russell said Alonso went a step too far in causing the high-speed crash the British driver suffered at last month’s Australian Grand Prix, which left him stuck in his stricken car, perched on its side in the middle of the track in Melbourne. Russell maintained that the FIA was entirely correct in penalising the Spanish driver.

Russell had been pursuing Alonso in the closing stages of the race when the Spaniard slowed, then accelerated again on the straight approaching turn six. Speaking in Japan, Russell admitted he had been adjusting a setting on his steering wheel at the time, as he had not been expecting Alonso to slow on a straight, and when he looked up was almost on top of him. He was forced to swerve off at 150mph, hit the wall and bounced back into the middle of the track, leading him to urgently call for the race to be stopped for fear of being struck by another car.

“Every driver is open to change their line, brake earlier, power through the corner, do whatever,” he said. “When we start braking in the middle of a straight, downshifting, accelerating, upshifting again, then braking again for a corner, I think that goes beyond the realms of adjusting your line.

George Russell is helped out of his Mercedes after crashing at the Australian Grand PrixView image in fullscreen

“I was actually looking at my steering wheel in that straight as I’ve done every single lap prior. And when I looked up 100 metres before the corner, I realised I was right behind Fernando rather than half a second. You know, we’ve got so many duties to take care of when we’re driving. If you add into the mix you’re allowed to brake in the middle of the straight to gain a tactical, or get a tactical advantage, that is maybe one step too far.”

Alonso was later penalised by the FIA for driving in an erratic fashion but in Suzuka he maintained he did not believe he had done anything wrong. “I was a bit surprised by the penalty in Melbourne but there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “There is no obligation to drive 57 laps in the same way. Sometimes we go at a slower pace, to save fuel, to save tyres, to save battery, sometimes we go slow into corners or into some sectors of the track to give the DRS to the car behind because that will be a useful tool if the second car behind is at a faster pace.”

Source: theguardian.com