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Why Vettel is Red Bull's perfect succession plan for Marko

Could Sebastian Vettel return to Formula 1 and Red Bull when Helmut Marko steps down as the team's Motorsport Advisor?

Sebastian Vettel left Formula 1 at the end of the 2022 season with no indication as to what his next steps in life would be, save his fight for environmental awareness. The German returned to racing in January for his traditional appearance at the Race of Champions, which has been held in Sweden over the past two years, with a suggestion Vettel could yet turn his hand at rallying in the future. But with comments from Sky Sports reporter Ted Kravitz claiming the four-time World Champion should be considered a replacement for Helmut Marko as Red Bull's Motorsport Advisor, a return to F1 could be on the horizon. So why is Vettel a suitable fit for the role?

Icon for junior programme

Vettel spent the best of his F1 career with Red Bull and knows the operation inside out, starting with the junior programme and rising through the lower ranks before moving into a race seat at Toro Rosso. His talent was demonstrated with his stunning 2008 Italian Grand Prix victory for the sister team, before further success came with a step up to Red Bull, where he became the outfit's first F1 World Champion. For the brand to employ someone who has experienced every facet of Red Bull's motorsport ladder, Vettel would be able to provide invaluable knowledge both to the hierarchy and young drivers seeking a way into F1 – take stock of how he helped usher Mick Schumacher through the stresses and strains of being a driver in the highest echelon of racing. Vettel would likely provide a different tone of guidance to those rising through the ranks than Marko, and the inspiration that having an icon overseeing matters could be what Red Bull needs to reignite its junior programme. After all, Nyck de Vries was turned to as Yuki Tsunoda's partner at AlphaTauri for this year. For those higher up in the organisation, having someone as experienced as Vettel to depend on for information would prove crucial, especially given his knowledge of modern-day F1.

An F1 politician

Marko has never been shy of adding his voice to controversies in F1, whether they regard Red Bull or not. On the other side of the coin, Vettel forged a path as one of F1's best politicians in his latter years of driving, with his vital work alongside Lewis Hamilton in pushing for greater awareness of societal and environmental issues pushing the sport and colleagues into tackling problems head-on with various initiatives and schemes. His adoration was proven by the turnout for his leaving dinner by fellow drivers at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last season, as well as his 'last-lap' track walk which gathered amazing traction throughout the paddock. His eloquence with controversial subjects was underlined when addressing human rights issues regarding the treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community during Middle Eastern rounds, whilst his appearance on British political debate show Question Time – in which Vettel took on now-United Kingdom Home Secretary Suella Braverman on a wide range of topics – proved there was no problem nor person that could escape his knowledge. This political awareness would ensure Marko's media-forward void could be filled effortlessly.

Why would change come?

With Marko's 80th birthday coming up ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a succession plan will likely need to be arranged by Red Bull's powers that be. There is no doubting the impact the Austrian has had on the F1 operation and its junior stable, which still runs strong in terms of quantity at least, with six drivers in F2, one in F3 and one in the Japanese Super Formula. But time will come to an end in all walks of life and no one could begrudge Marko's downtime. With the restructuring of the hierarchy in the wake of the tragic passing of Red Bull owner and co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz during the United States Grand Prix weekend last year, maybe now is the time for a refresh. Vettel is, other than any engagements lined up in his personal life, apparently free to take on a new role and in becoming Red Bull's Motorsport Advisor, he would likely not need to attend every race. The effect on Daniel Ricciardo since the Australian rejoined the team over the winter has shown off the family-like atmosphere at Red Bull, so for Vettel, the move would almost certainly be a win-win. This is not to say the time is now for Marko to leave – he still has a role to play in guiding Red Bull's future. But it makes sense for Red Bull favourite Vettel to be lined up as his future successor.

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