One could say that 2021 is still some time away, but before you know it it’s on your doorstep. And time sure flies when you’re partaking in Formula 1.
In 2020, the commodity of time will be particularly important for Ferrari, because the Italian team has to make a decision on who will partner Charles Leclerc in 2021. Currently, the team has the services of four-times champion, Sebastian Vettel, but the German driver is a shell of the man who led Red Bull to four championships between 2010 and 2013.
Ferrari did, however, say that Vettel will have time to secure his future at the team beyond 2020, but he’ll only have a few races to do so. Why? Because Ferrari wants to decide on its driver line-up by the time the Spanish GP (Round 6, 8 – 10 May) comes around.
It will by no means be an easy decision, because any driver joining the team will have to contend with a strong and willful Charles Leclerc, who’s penned a five-year deal with Ferrari that’ll keep him at the team until the end of the 2024 season.
Ferrari may still decide to keep Vettel in the team – provided he performs and actually wants to continue racing. But if they do decide to replace, here are three contenders we think are ready to join the team.
The logical choice. Hamilton has been with Mercedes-AMG since 2013 and has, since 2014, won every championship bar 2016. He is a six-time F1 champion and has a string of records behind his name. How fitting would it not be to surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles with the team that gave the F1 legend all his success.
But there is more to it, because if Hamilton does join, he’ll be in a position to bring championship glory back to Maranello. He’ll have the chance to cement his legacy and rewrite the record books with the most prestigious team in all of F1. Ferrari haven’t won anything since 2008 – the year Hamilton won his first championship in with McLaren-Mercedes – and would want a driver who can lead the team.
The thing is, Hamilton will have to deal with Ferrari’s future (Leclerc) and the Monegasque-born driver has shown that he will not back down. Just ask Vettel. Still, the prospect of Leclerc and Hamilton driving for Ferrari will be one for the ages.
Hamilton’s Mercedes contract expires at the end of 2020.
Like Hamilton, Ricciardo’s contract with Renault will also run its course in 2020. Though there is a clause that allows him to renew, Ricciardo will review his decision quite closely given the huge regulation changes planned for 2021.
2019 has not been kind to the Australian driver and he can expect more of the same in 2020. But how he reacts to the challenges Renault faces will be key to his 2021 racing seat. A few years ago, Ricciardo was linked to a move to Ferrari, but the deal fell through for a variety of reasons. Now that he has the chance to sign with the team again, ‘Danny Ric’ will do all he can to show Ferrari’s top brass that he has what it takes to race for them.
We think that Ricciardo might be a sound choice for Ferrari.
Oh, did we mention that Ricciardo and Leclerc are buddies?
The list would not be complete without adding the name of Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick. Currently competing in Formula 2, the F1 feeder series, Schumacher has had an ‘okay’ 2019. With a few stellar drives last year and showing amazing race craft, Ferrari will be keeping a close eye on his progress and development in 2020.
The young Schumacher is part of Ferrari’s Driver Academy and has tested for both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo in 2019.
Schumacher will be turning 21 this year and will be the same age as Leclerc. This might be a challenge for Ferrari though, because the pressure will be too much on Leclerc to lead the team from the front. And Schumacher, wanting to prove himself, might be too aggressive over the course of the 2021 season, resulting in the team possibly losing unnecessary points.
Still, stranger things have happened, and Ferrari might just decide to stun the F1 paddock.
The 2020 season begins in Australia, 13 – 15 March.