Outgoing Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel is in discussions over a deal to join the Aston Martin Formula 1 team for the 2021 season, sources have indicated.
Ferrari announced earlier this year that it would be parting ways with Vettel at the end of the season, with it transpiring in Austria last week that he was never offered a deal for 2021.
The four-time world champion is understood to have been offered a contract by Racing Point team owner Lawrence Stroll, who is naturally keen to build the strongest possible package for the rebranding of the team to Aston Martin.
Germany’s Bild newspaper, which is usually well-informed on Vettel’s plans, has also indicated that a deal has been could be agreed soon.
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The team already has a multi-year contract with Sergio Perez, who also brings sponsorship, while the place for Lawrence Stroll’s son Lance is clearly secure for the long term.
Since Vettel came onto the market, Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer has continually denied that the team will have a place for him.
Asked by Autosport last Friday in Austria about the contract situation he said: “Well, like I’ve said before, it’s flattering that everyone thinks that a four-time world champion would come to our team, but maybe that’s because the car is a bit quicker now.
“You’re absolutely right, we have long contracts with both our drivers, so it would only be logical that we don’t have space.”
Perez has also been thought to be well set because it was his legal action that triggered the administration process that saw Stroll take over the then Force India team, and because Stroll has a relationship with the Mexican’s manager Julian Jakobi that dates back over two decades.
However, sources have suggested that Perez’s contract may have an exit clause that allows the team to make a change early.
Intriguingly, Red Bull boss Christian Horner hinted at such a possibility when asked about Vettel’s future last weekend.
“I guess he’s got a couple of choices available to him, I assume either Racing Point, or a year out and re-evaluate the options in a year’s time,” he told Sky F1.
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“I don’t think Lance is going to get fired! Of course drivers’ contracts between the teams, you never know what’s within them, it’s only the Contract Recognition Board that has full sight of them.
“I’m sure that perhaps they have options, or break points, or whatever. But that’s really none of our business.”
Stroll may have decided that, in the bigger picture of rebranding the team as Aston Martin and rebuilding the struggling sportscar manufacturer, the opportunity to take Vettel is too good to pass up.
Vettel would also be very acceptable to Mercedes, supplier of power units and gearboxes to the team.
The DNAs of the two companies continue to be mixed, with Toto Wolff recently acquiring shares in Aston Martin, and former AMG man Tobias Moers coming in as its new boss.