Helmut Marko does not believe that Sebastian Vettel's character would lead him to quit Aston Martin before the season is over, but has warned that the team must improve to avoid the possibility.
After missing the opening two races of 2022 due to testing positive for COVID-19, Vettel had a difficult return to F1 at the Australian Grand Prix. His AMR22 was hit by mechanical issues during free practice, and he then crashed out of Sunday's race.
This has led to speculation over the four-time World Champion's future, and now Marko has weighed in on the debate, having worked alongside Vettel during the German's Red Bull days.
Could Vettel quit Aston Martin mid-season?
On whether Vettel could choose to walk away from Aston Martin midway through the 2022 campaign, Marko is doubtful due to the driver's nature.
He admits, though, that the chances of this happening will increase if the British squad do not take steps forward.
"Basically, quitting in the middle of the season doesn't suit the strong character that Sebastian is," Marko told German publication F1-Insider.
"But there would have to be an improvement from the team soon, otherwise it will become increasingly difficult to stay motivated."
Regardless of what happens, Marko is saddened by Vettel's current career circumstances.
"In any case, it hurts my soul to see a four-time World Champion in such a situation," the Red Bull advisor added.
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Differences between Vettel now and Lauda in 1979
Comparisons have been drawn between Vettel's situation and that of Niki Lauda in 1979, when the Austrian decided to immediately retire from Formula 1 with two races still remaining in the season.
Marko thinks there are some key differences with this scenario, though.
"It was different with Niki: unlike Sebastian, he had a more or less competitive car back then," Marko explained.
"But he realised for himself that it just didn't fit anymore. With Vettel it's different: he has a two-year contract and sits in a bad car. He is fighting and struggling to do better.
"An alternative would be to tick off the season now and move on to next year. But in that case, I think Vettel doesn't want to struggle any more to help the team."
Marko highlights what might be going wrong at Aston Martin
Aston Martin currently sit at the bottom of the Constructors' Championship standings, and remain the only team not to have scored any points so far in 2022.
This comes despite the British outfit having hired several new members of staff, including the recruitment of new Technical Director Dan Fallows from Red Bull.
Looking at the situation from the outside, Marko has questioned whether Aston Martin are working together effectively.
"My remote diagnosis: it's still a team sport," Marko commented.
"You need team spirit and cohesion. That's why we were able to keep our important people on board for a very long time, despite many attempts to poach them.
"Even though some attempts by Aston Martin to poach us were successful. But it's no use just poaching individual people and then thinking you've succeeded."
When quizzed on whether Aston Martin had poached the wrong people, Marko smiled: "I'd rather not comment on that."
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