Former F1 driver David Coulthard has highlighted one way in which Sebastian Vettel can earn himself a Mercedes seat to partner Lewis Hamilton next season – although he thinks it is very unlikely.
Four-time world champion Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the season after failing to win the Championship since joining the Italian team in 2015.
There are very few options for the German moving forward as Red Bull have ruled out resigning the 32-year-old.
Defending champions Mercedes may have a seat available from 2021 as Valtteri Bottas is in the final 12 months of his contract.
But handing Hamilton a team-mate who will be so desperate to beat him could cause major complications.
Coulthard thinks the only way Vettel can land a drive with the Silver Arrows would be to race for free.
“I think that would be a mistake for Mercedes,” Coulthard told the Daily Mail. “In Lewis, they’ve got someone who can win Grands Prix and Championships.
“To bring Seb in there because you think that that will raise Lewis’ game… it’s very difficult.
“If you look at these exceptional performances in sport, serial winners, I don’t think he needs the friction of a four-time world champion to get the best out of him. I think Vettel could be disruptive to the team.
“I think that if he offered his services for no money then of course the Mercedes board would have to look at it seriously, to have a German driver in the team, but I just can’t imagine he would, so the pairing of Valtteri and Lewis seems like the most efficient way to win another Championship.
“Both drivers can’t win, there’s never been a dead heat in a Grand Prix, so you’re only going to end up with problems that history have shown when you have two strong personalities in one team.”
Ferrari have signed McLaren ace Carlos Sainz to replace Vettel which puts the bed any rumours of Hamilton joining the Prancing Horse.
Coulthard added: “Lewis Hamilton has been with Mercedes for most of his career, certainly with Mercedes power, initially with McLaren and now with Mercedes. I just think he’s made for British teams.
“Even if he did leave Mercedes, I just don’t see him fitting in with the culture at an Italian-based team.
“I say that as someone who had a contract offered to me to race with Ferrari, in 1996, and in the end I just felt more comfortable with British teams.
“I’m not being disrespectful or nationalistic, I just don’t think I would have fitted in, and I think that’s the case with Lewis. He fits better with Mercedes.
“I think he’ll be there, or he’ll retire.”