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Hamilton: Vettel ‘amazing’ replacement option

Lewis Hamilton says he “would love” for Sebastian Vettel to return to Formula 1 and the four-time champion would be an “amazing option” to succeed him at Mercedes.

Hamilton, who has signed with Ferrari from 2025, also said he would like to see Mercedes replace him with “someone with integrity and values that are aligned with the team and where the team is going”.

Vettel retired from F1 at the end of 2022 but, having never absolutely closed the door to a future return, told Sky Sports on Wednesday that he was thinking about the possibility of a comeback and that he was “staying in touch” with team principals including Mercedes’ Toto Wolff.

“I would love for Seb to come back,” said Hamilton ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

“He would be an amazing option for the team.

“A German driver, a multi-world championship-winning driver and someone who has got amazing values and continues to take this team forward.

“I’d love it if he came back.”

Hamilton on what he wants to see in his successor: ‘Someone with compassion’

The seven-time champion was then asked if he had given any consideration to who Mercedes ultimately signed and whether he would prefer to be succeeded by an experienced driver like Vettel or Max Verstappen – who Wolff has gone on record to state is his number-one target – or a rookie.

After initially suggesting he was giving the matter “generally zero” thought, Hamilton then elaborated by stating: “I think the only thing I really care about is that the team takes on someone with integrity and values that are aligned with the team and where the team is going.

“Someone with compassion to work with all these great people and continue to lift them up.

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As we head into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, David Croft discusses Sebastian Vettel’s hint that he would love to return to Formula 1 for a ‘one-off’ race at Suzuka Circuit.

“There are so many great people in this team and, as drivers, there are some that are more selfish than others, there are some that are good drivers but perhaps not the best within team environments. I don’t know because I’ve not been in with all of them, but I hope they find someone great.

“They’ve already got George [Russell] and he’s perfect for the team so finding a good match alongside him. They’ve got so many options.”

Experienced names linked with the seat also include the in-form Carlos Sainz, who Hamilton is replacing at Ferrari, and Williams’ Alex Albon.

Mercedes also have the in-house option of promoting 17-year-old protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who is currently competing in his maiden season of Formula 2.

And Hamilton, who came through McLaren’s junior ranks as a highly-rated young star to F1 almost two decades ago, added: “I do think it’s always great to give an opportunity to up-and-coming drivers so the idea of a youngster coming in for me is exciting.”

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Sebastian Vettel reveals he is considering a return to F1 and remains in contact with a number of team principals including Mercedes’ Toto Wolff.

Russell himself said he would welcome any arrival of Vettel as his next team-mate.

“Sebastian’s a great person and he’s a four-time world champion and for sure his personality is missed on the grid and I think it’s important that we have the best 20 drivers in the world all competing for race wins and championships,” said Russell.

“So, as I said before, I’m really happy and open to having anybody as my team-mate, you know, whether it’s world champion, whether it’s a rookie, it doesn’t change how I go about my business. And yeah, as I said, we’ll welcome anybody.”

Will Mercedes be any more competitive at Suzuka? ‘There is definitely performance there’

Hamilton and Mercedes’ immediate focus is on this weekend’s Japanese GP and a fourth round of a season which has so far disappointed for the former champions.

Mercedes suffered their first two-car retirement from a race since 2018 last time out in Melbourne while Hamilton, who dropped out at Albert Park with engine failure, has scored just eight points in 2024 so far with the team’s much-changed W15 car not yet delivering the pace the team had hoped.

“Of course, we have not started the season where we want to be and we’ve got a long way to go,” said Hamilton, who finished seventh in Bahrain and ninth in Saudi Arabia before his Australia DNF.

“You have seen in the past – last year, for example – just how things can switch in certain teams. If you look at Aston or McLaren last year, who started on the back foot or the other way around.

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Lewis Hamilton discusses the complex journey of constructing a championship contending car and believes it’s not over yet for Mercedes.

“Anything can happen in this sport so we have just got to learn as much as we can, take as much as we can from the data, remain positive, continue to work hard.

“I always say it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get up, so we’re going to continue to chase and fight and hope that we can be fighting at the front at some stage.”

With the team having acknowledged that the W15 performance on track through faster corners is not mirroring more promising results seen on their simulator, Hamilton says the team “are experiencing with everything” on set-up and approach in order to try and unlock a more consistent platform.

Asked if his early-year optimism about this car’s potential compared to its two disappointing predecessors from the current regulation era remained, Hamilton replied: “I definitely do feel more optimistic about this car.

“Obviously the first couple of races there has been small showings of the car feeling great and we would have had pace for a moment and then it kind of disappears.

“There is definitely performance there we just need to work on making this car more consistent and easier to drive.”

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Lewis Hamilton reports an engine failure and retires from a chaotic Australian Grand Prix!

Suzuka, which features some of the calendar’s fastest and most flowing sequences of corners, proved one of Mercedes’ weakest tracks last year with Hamilton finishing 50s behind race winner Max Verstappen.

Asked if he would have the required confidence in the W15 this weekend to be in harmony with the figure-of-eight track, Hamilton said: “The last three races are anything to show for it, unlikely, but we are working towards it. So if it happens that’ll be amazing.

“But, either way, just driving this track is such an incredible experience for us drivers. Its the track that you always dream of getting to drive when you’re younger.”

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Lewis Hamilton discusses the complex journey of constructing a championship contending car and believes it’s not over yet for Mercedes.

Sky Sports F1’s live Japanese GP schedule

Friday April 5
3am: Japanese GP Practice One (session starts at 3.30am)*
6.45am: Japanese GP Practice Two (session starts at 7am)*

8.15am: The F1 Show*
10am: Japanese GP Practice One replay
11.30am: Japanese GP Practice Two replay

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Look back on some of the most exciting title deciders to take place at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Saturday April 6
3.15am: Japanese GP Practice Three (session starts at 3.30am)*
6am: Japanese GP Qualifying build-up*
7am: Japanese GP Qualifying*
9am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese GP Qualifying replay

Sunday April 7
5am: Grand Prix Sunday Japanese GP build-up*
8am: Chequered Flag: Japanese GP reaction*
9am: Ted’s Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese Grand Prix highlights*
10.30am: Japanese Grand Prix replay

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Japanese Grand Prix, live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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