New Delhi, May 27 (PTI) Formula 1 expert and former racer Karun Chandhok sees four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel taking either a sabbatical next year or walk into retirement after finding himself without a drive for the 2021 season.
The 2020 season is yet to start due to the COVID-19 pandemic but Vettel leaving Ferrari at the end of year has given the sport's followers plenty to talk about.
Vettel was the undisputed number one driver at Ferrari at the start of 2019 but the supremely talented Charles Leclerc, in his first season with the Italian outfit, managed to beat the German in the drivers' standings.
"He will either take a one-year sabbatical or retire. I have a gut feeling he won't go to Renault (mid-field option). I don't see that as an attractive option for him. And there are no top seats available (at Red Bull or Mercedes)," Chandhok told PTI from the UK.
Though Vettel is available in the driver market, it is highly unlikely that reigning champions Mercedes will pair him up with Lewis Hamilton next year.
Hamilton is yet to extend his contract at Mercedes beyond 2020 but is expected to do so.
"I think Mercedes' first priority is to speak to Lewis and see what he wants to do. They have not got the deal signed yet. So once he decides what he wants to do and how long a contract he wants to sign, then rest of the puzzle can be solved.
"Whether they retain Valtteri Bottas or they take George Russell (part of Mercedes' junior driver programme and currently at Williams). Actually, Bottas is doing a good job for them and they don't need anybody to upset Lewis. They want someone to work happily and peacefully with him.
"So, I really don't see Vettel joining Lewis at Mercedes. Their priority must be to sign Lewis," said the former Formula 1 driver.
Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 after a glorious run at Red Bull with whom he won as many as four world titles. Chandhok feels the 32-year-old's best chance of winning at Ferrari was in 2018.
"In 2018, there was obviously the chance to win the Championship. There is no question about that. That year he made some critical mistakes and the team made some critical mistakes. Between him and the team, they lost the Championship," recollected Chandhok, who is now a well-known broadcaster.
"Talking about last year, the car at the start of the season did not suit him. Ferrari made an update in Singapore (late in the season), then it really suited him. But before that, he was still making mistakes," said the Indian.
Replacing Vettel at Ferrari will be Carlos Sainz, who is currently at McLaren. Though Sainz is already seen as a number two driver by some, Chandhok expects the Spaniard to give a tough time to Leclerc.
"A lot of people think Carlos has gone as number two. I would say they are underestimating him. He is a very intelligent racer, very good technically and very fluent in Italian," he said.
"One of his biggest strengths is that he is good at reading the race and it is important to understand others' strategy, not just your own. He knows when to push, when not to; who to race, who not to," he added.
"Anybody who thinks he is going to be a subservient number two to Leclerc, doesn't know Carlos," reckoned Chandhok.
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