After 15 years in the sport, Sebastian Vettel will say goodbye to Formula 1 at the end of the year. A great loss for the sport, but it does mean there is room for a new name.
Who will fill the seat next to Lance Stroll in 2023? Nico Hulkenberg is currently Aston Martin's reserve driver, and has already shown that he can handle the car when he had to fill in for a Covid-stricken Vettel in Bahrain and Jeddah.
Hulkenberg is one option, but there are many others to consider.
Viewed by others:
Current F1 drivers
Is Vettel's replacement already in F1? Looking at the current grid, there are only a few drivers who could realistically switch to Aston Martin next year.
Fernando Alonso does not yet have a contract for 2023, but it is expected that he will sign an extension with Alpine. The Spaniard may be able to command a sizeable salary from the deep pockets of team owner Lawrence Stroll, but from a sporting point of view it seems a step backwards.
Daniel Ricciardo has had a difficult time at McLaren, and has often been in the shade of teammate Lando Norris. However, he says he plans to see out his contract, which runs until the end of 2023. Perhaps a move to Aston Martin will be a mutually beneficial option, giving Ricciardo a new environment and allowing McLaren to move him on with minimal fuss.
Mick Schumacher also does not know where his future lies after 2022. The Ferrari junior seems to have finally found his form and the Italians still see the future in him. At the Scuderia itself, however, there is no room for the time being, prompting speculation that he may be a free agent for 2022 and able to slide into Vettel's seat.
Haas are currently ahead of the underachieving Aston Martin side in the Constructors' Championship, but Aston's ambitious owner Stroll has big plans and deep pockets with which to realise them.
Alex Albon could also be an option. He is currently at Williams, but from a sporting point of view, that team is underperforming just as much as Aston Martin. A return to Red Bull does not seem likely, so a new adventure at Aston Martin therefore does not seem implausible.
Zhou Guanyu is another, albeit an unlikely option. Should Fred Vasseur want to move Alfa Romeo junior Theo Pourchaire forward with the F1 team, there is a chance that Zhou will be on the market for 2023. Then Stroll senior could strike, possibly with a view to the Chinese market, which has been a significant growth market for Aston Martin's road car division in recent years.
Viewed by others:
Drivers without an F1 seat
Aston Martin could also look at drivers who do not currently have a full-time F1 seat, some of whom are already reserve drivers for F1 teams. The aforementioned Hulkenberg is one option, but Nyck de Vries from Mercedes could also be on the list.
The Dutchman has good ties with Toto Wolff, who in turn gets along very well with Stroll, the owner of Aston Martin. Last week, Wolff said Mercedes couldn't help de Vries get a seat, but things may have changed in light of Vettel's announcement. Aston Martin could even give de Vries a free practice session to test him out.
Looking at Formula 2, we see a number of drivers who could possibly be on Stroll's list. Felipe Drugovich, the championship leader, is not affiliated with any F1 team, so can be picked up right away. The Brazilian also has a number of investors behind him.
Theo Pourchaire is having a good season, but is an Alfa Romeo junior. It seems very likely that those two teams will be doing business together and Lawrence Stroll certainly doesn't seem to be someone who wants to help a rival team's driver gain experience.
Other F2 drivers likely to be in the conversation include Liam Lawson and Jehan Daruvala, who have both already driven F1 machinery. But will Aston Martin want a driver line-up consisting of Lance Stroll and a rookie? That is the question...
F1 Podcast: Does Leclerc make too many mistakes to become F1 champion?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the key topics from the French Grand Prix, including Charles Leclerc dramatically spinning out of the lead.