SUZUKA: Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton said Thursday that he would love to see Sebastian Vettel return to Formula One, describing the four-time world champion as an “amazing option” for Mercedes.

Vettel, who retired in 2022, suggested Wednesday that he could return to the sport and said he had held talks with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

Mercedes need to replace seven-time world champion Hamilton, who announced in February that he was leaving to join Ferrari at the end of the season after 11 years with the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton gave Vettel his seal of approval, telling reporters ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix that he would “love for Seb to come back”.

“I think he would be an amazing option for the team,“ said Hamilton.

“A German driver, multi-world championship-winning driver, and someone who has got amazing values who can continue to take this team forward. I’d love it if he came back.”

Vettel won his four world championships with Red Bull from 2010-13.

He bowed out of Formula One at the end of the 2022 season after six years at Ferrari and two with Aston Martin.

Vettel’s return was also given the thumbs-up by George Russell, who will remain at Mercedes.

“Sebastian is a great person and he’s a four-time world champion,“ said Russell.

“For sure his personality is missed on the grid and I think it’s important that we have the best 20 drivers in the world all competing for race wins and championships.”

Russell added he was “really happy and open to have anybody” as a team-mate.

“Whether it’s a world champion, whether it’s a rookie, it doesn’t change how I go about my business,“ he said.

Mercedes have been linked with several drivers to replace Hamilton, who will take Carlos Sainz’s seat at Ferrari.

Triple world champion Max Verstappen is reportedly top of Wolff’s wish list

Highly rated young Italian F2 driver Kimi Antonelli and Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, have also been mentioned.

- Poor start to season -

Hamilton said he had given “generally zero” thought to who his successor might be.

“I think the only thing I really care about is that the team takes on someone with integrity, with values that align with the team and where the team is going,“ he said.

“Someone with compassion to work with all these great people and continue to lift them up.”

Hamilton admitted that he doesn’t “know how to navigate” his move to Ferrari, with almost a full season still to go.

But he assured Mercedes that he is committed to finishing on a high.

“All my energy is going into this,“ he said.

“Of course there’s excitement for the future. Right now we’re going through a difficult phase, that’s my challenge.”

Mercedes have endured a poor start to the season, with Wolff saying “nobody feels positive” after both cars failed to finish the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Hamilton had engine failure while Russell escaped unscathed from a heavy crash late in the race as the team finished out of the points for the first time in 62 races.

Hamilton said it was “unlikely” that the team would have a dramatic change in fortunes this weekend.

“Anything can happen in this sport,“ he said.

“We’ll just learn as much as we can, take as much as we can from the data, remain positive and continue to work hard.”

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