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Vettel tipped for Merc move

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 21-07-2016 skysports.com

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Sebastian Vettel has been tipped to move to Mercedes in 2018 by the man who mentored his four world championships, Red Bull boss Christian Horner. 

Vettel is in the second season of the three-year deal he signed when he left Red Bull in 2014 to join Ferrari.

Despite a bright start to his stint with the Scuderia, Vettel is yet to win a race this year and is just fifth in the Drivers' Championship - behind both Mercedes drivers, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, current team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and his former stable-mate at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo.

"I can well imagine that in 2018 Seb will switch to Mercedes if he doesn't start making progress with Ferrari," Horner told Bild.

"I know from personal experience that he has to feel good in order to perform well. And I'm not sure whether he likes [Ferrari president] Sergio Marchionne's pressure."

According to reports in Italy, Marchionne, who has repeatedly demanded Ferrari quickly return to the winners' enclosure and described their decade-long title drought as a "tragedy", has conducted a series of inquests at the team's Maranello base in recent weeks in order to understand their on-track struggles. With pressure mounting, team boss Maurizio Arrivabene has admitted the team "cannot fail" at this week's Hungarian GP.

"I have the feeling that Seb is a bit rattled," Horner added.

Although Ferrari announced at the British GP that Raikkonen would be retained for 2017, reputedly in part to assuage Vettel, speculation has intensified since their disappointing performance at Silverstone, which culminated in Red Bull closing to within six points in the Constructors' Championship, that Arrivabene's own position is under threat along with that of technical chief James Allison.

While Lewis Hamilton's current deal with Mercedes runs until the end of 2018, Nico Rosberg's contract expires at the end of the season. 

One explanation for Ferrari's surprise decision to retain Raikkonen was the suggestion Marchionne, unconvinced by the alternative options available, was prepared to wait for Hamilton.

It could, however, be a long wait.

While Ferrari held an irresistible lure for Vettel, who spent his boyhood watching compatriot Michael Schumacher enjoying a decade of dominance with F1's most famous marque, Hamilton has previously denied being attracted to the Scuderia and repeated last week he believes his long-term F1 future will be at Mercedes.

"I've obviously signed for another three years with Mercedes - after that I see myself staying for another three or four years. While I'm 37 I'll still be relatively young so I want to be challenged by something else," said the reigning world champion.

Whether at Ferrari, Mercedes or even at Manor, Vettel-Hamilton would represent F1's dream pairing and constitute the biggest blockbuster pairing in the sport since Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna's rivalry reached legendary status at McLaren.

Despite the F1 careers of Hamilton and Vettel, both of whom joined the sport in 2007, running concurrently, the only time they came close to co-existing within the same team was in 2011 when Hamilton enquired about a vacancy at the then-dominant Red Bull outfit. Ironically, it was Horner who closed the door on the switch, adamant that the pair couldn't live together under one roof.

"At the time it would have been impossible to accommodate Lewis and Sebastian in the team, and obviously we went on to achieve a huge amount with Seb," said Horner in March.

"The timing didn't work out. It was one of those things. Lewis has gone on to achieve some phenomenal things in another environment. He's found his way."

"I'd be amazed to ever see the two of them sitting in the same team. From a team point of view as well it would be very difficult to envisage that scenario. It could be very, very divisive. You've always got one who is elated and one who is p***** off."

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