Guenther Steiner doubts Sebastian Vettel wants to move into the midfield to stay in Formula 1 but believes a team with “deeper pockets” than Haas will approach him.
Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of 2020 and unless Mercedes needs to replace Lewis Hamilton or makes the unlikely decision to partner its six-time world champion with Vettel, his options at the sharp end of the F1 grid appear limited.
The works Renault team is the leading outfit with a seat available, as Daniel Ricciardo will leave to join McLaren with Carlos Sainz Jr moving to Ferrari as Vettel’s, but has yet to convince it is capable of bridging the gap to F1’s leading teams and has had its future repeatedly questioned this year.
Even a team like Renault, or the Racing Point squad that will become Aston Martin’s works F1 team next year, would represent a medium-term project at least for Vettel, and while time is on his side at 32 he would have to accept at least one season unable to fight at the front.
Steiner, whose Haas team uses Ferrari engines, joked he “cannot afford” to make Vettel an offer.
“Sebastian, being a four-time world champion, he doesn’t want to go into the midfield anymore,” Steiner told Sky Sports F1. “You don’t want to take too many risks.
“I’ve got a good relationship with him but I haven’t called him up and offered him a seat. I think somebody else with a lot deeper pockets than me will do that.”
Vettel’s exit from Ferrari was a shock as publicly he and his team had expressed a desire to continue beyond 2020.
But with Charles Leclerc winning over Ferrari’s senior management with an impressive first season in 2019, Vettel was deemed non-essential and the team began talks with Sainz over the winter.
When Vettel’s departure was announced it was described as a mutual realisation they no longer wanted to work together, with Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto subsequently saying they did not share the same goals any more.
“I didn’t anticipate it,” said Steiner. “Everyone saw his contract was coming to an end and maybe Ferrari would make some changes.
“I didn’t expect it to come this early in the season.
“I hope he finds a place in another team.”
Retirement looks like a serious option for Vettel if he does not wish to race in the F1 midfield.
Steiner said if Vettel became a free agent then trying to utilise him in a testing role, even for projects like Pirelli’s 18-inch wheel testing, could be useful for the team but would not be easy – and he suspects Vettel would have little to gain from it anyway.
“It would be fantastic to do this but sitting in after six months out of the car and making a decision would be very difficult,” said Steiner. “There will be very few test days next year.
“Testing a 2022 car, the hybrid car we’re building for next year to go testing with the big wheels would be fantastic.
“It’s difficult to do these things, just jumping [in] and get an opinion about it.
“I think he would be reluctant to do that as well because what does that do for him? Not a lot. He’s a four-time world champion, 10-15 years in F1, done it all and won it all.