Lowdown of drivers in contention to replace Vettel at Ferrari

Carlos Sainz, who has previously driven for Torro Rosso, Renault and McLaren, is expected to be in pole position to partner Charles Leclerc at Ferrari.

Ferrari is in the market to sign a team-mate for Charles Leclerc.   -  Getty Images

With Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari parting ways at the end of 2020, the coveted seat at the Italian team is up for grabs.

Sportstar looks at possible contenders to partner Charles Leclerc in 2021.

Lewis Hamilton: The most exciting option — with the six-time champion taking on young upstart Leclerc — but also the least likely to happen. There were a few clouds of smoke towards the end of last year when it was reported that Hamilton and Ferrari chairman John Elkam had a meeting.

Ferrari will offer the Briton, who has dominated with Mercedes, a new challenge and perhaps an even bigger paycheque before he calls time on his career.

Carlos Sainz Jr.: Widely believed to be one of the top contenders. The former Red Bull academy driver and Max Verstappen started in F1 with Toro Rosso in 2015, but it was the Dutchman who received the early promotion to the main Red Bull team in 2016.

Sainz left for Renault towards the end of 2017 and in 2019 joined McLaren, where he produced some stellar drives, finishing sixth in the championship. The Spaniard is not flashy like Verstappen or Daniel Ricciardo, but can execute strong drives. His stock has hit an all-time high despite not having won a race yet.

Daniel Ricciardo: The Australian with Italian roots has long desired to race for Ferrari but had to settle for Renault when he decided to leave Red Bull after 2018. The French team, though, slid back last year, losing fourth place to McLaren. Ricciardo, despite a fat paycheque, does not have a car capable of fighting for podiums or wins.

Extremely quick in qualifying, Ricciardo is one of the best at pulling off moves on the track. But whether Ferrari has the desire to handle two alpha-males remains to be seen. And he is not going to come cheap either.

Valtteri Bottas: The Finn could be a left-field choice for his no-nonsense approach. He has shown at Mercedes that he is as fast as Hamilton, but has struggled with tyre management and season-long consistency. He could be the perfect No. 2 to Leclerc, capable of winning races and helping Ferrari in the constructors’ championship without upsetting team harmony.

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