Back in 2016, Nico Rosberg had just wrapped up the title ahead of arch-rival Lewis Hamilton. But then, he dropped a bombshell, he was retiring from racing, effective immediately. As a result, the Mercedes team were thrown in disarray because the announcement was out of the blue. But then, Sebastian Vettel nearly provided a lifeline for them.
Now, it seems that Mercedes had contacted Sebastian Vettel to fill the void left by his compatriot. During the pre-season test in Barcelona, friends of Niki Lauda revealed that the four-time world champion had a pre-agreement with the team for next season.
Sources say that Vettel had an option to come to Mercedes from 2018, signed last year. Mercedes were waiting to hear from the 4-time world champion by the specified date whether he is taking it up or not.
Sadly for them, the signs pointed towards a new Ferrari contract instead of a Mercedes seat. But for a while there, the possibility of a Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel line-up was very real.
Interestingly, when he was asked about it in Spain 2017, Vettel did not deny the rumours.
Ferrari had a disappointing performance in 2016 and could have easily provided an impetus for a move. After Rosberg announced his retirement Sebastian and Mercedes made contact, but after the SF70H showed promising pace the German elected not to proceed.
This potential partnership ultimately ends up in the ‘what could have been’ list along with several tasty rumours. In a similar vein, Robert Kubica revealed that back in 2012, he was almost signed by Ferrari. This move would have seen him partner Fernando Alonso that year, but his rally crash changed everything.
Coming back to Vettel and Hamilton, the Briton is on the verge of clinching his 5th championship. If he finishes anywhere within the top 7, he will win, irrespective of where Vettel finishes.