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Rosberg and Vettel F1 comebacks not an option for Mercedes

When Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff talked about being “bold” in his replacement choice for Lewis Hamilton next year, many thought he meant youngster Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG and Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari

Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

With the Mercedes junior driver having stood out in all the categories he has raced in so far, a stellar rookie season in F2 this year could prove to Wolff that he is ready to make the leap to a Mercedes F1 drive in 2025.

But there could be another “bold” scenario playing out for Wolff, in perhaps delivering a short-term solution to fill the gap before Antonelli is realistically properly ready to deliver for Mercedes.

And that means going for proven experience and winners to act as the perfect complement to George Russell.

There are some obvious candidates on the sidelines who could fit that bill, with former world champions Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel both ticking boxes from a performance and profile perspective, and not being tied to anything for 2025.

But with Wolff’s phone likely still hot in approaches from other drivers who want to throw their hat into the ring for next year, it looks like both experienced Germans are already out of the picture.

Rosberg, who famously quit F1 just days after winning the 2016 world title, has made clear that he has no interest in a potential comeback.

Speaking to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Rosberg said there was no desire from him to do it, nor a belief that he could be competitive.

"That's over, I'm not planning a comeback," said Rosberg, whose priority is now his new life as a financial investor and family man.

He added: "I have great respect for the danger."

Press conference: race winner Nico Rosberg, Mercedes F1, second place Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W05

Press conference: race winner Nico Rosberg, Mercedes F1, second place Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W05

Photo by: Emily Davenport / Motorsport Images

Talking about the competitive aspects of being an F1 driver, he said: "I couldn't just do that either. I would have to prepare intensively for a whole year, if only to train the synapses [neuron connectors] in my brain.

"A racing driver has to react super-fast at top speed and be precise. I've lost that after the long break. The muscles are also put under so much strain, just to hold the steering wheel with all the centrifugal forces."

While Vettel has not spoken in public about a potential interest in F1, recently Wolff appears to have ruled him out too.

There was an idea of Vettel potentially competing in the World Endurance Championship this year, but those plans fell through. A competitive comeback somewhere definitely is on the cards, but it looks unlikely to be F1.

Speaking to Auto Motor Und Sport recently, Wolff said about Vettel: "I think he made the decision to not race anymore. We are talking on a regular basis. We've also talked yesterday, but it wasn't about driving for us in the future."

With Rosberg and Vettel out the frame, there remains one proven experienced hand who could be available – Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard made clear to point out during his media sessions ahead of the Aston Martin launch earlier this week that he had a good standing in the driver market, because there were only three world champions on the grid, and he was the only one available.

While he says his priority is to speak to Aston Martin first, he equally suggested that interest from other teams would likely be channelled through others, including his manager Flavio Briatore.

 

Asked if there had been contact from other teams, Alonso said: "Not directly to me, but I'm sure there is interest in general to know where I stand for the future.

"The ones who have shown me the most interest, and the ones who ask me weekly, is Aston Martin, so we'll see."

What conversations Briatore is having took an interesting twist last week when the former F1 team boss posted a photograph on Instagram with Wolff at a coffee meeting.

It was on Monday, at Cova, a cafe in Monaco that belongs to Briatore and where the two often meet.

That Instagram photo certainly fuelled the imagination of people when it comes to a possible Alonso switch to Mercedes.

That may well have been the intention of Briatore in posting their chat, with it suggested that Wolff himself had not been aware that the innocent snap would go public.

For now, Mercedes remains in no rush to decide who it wants to line up alongside Russell next year.

There is still plenty of time to see how Antonelli develops, and how the competitive picture of the F1 grid this year shapes the driver market in terms of who could readily be available for the following season.

Wolff’s possibility of going "bold" with his final choice could yet still play out.

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