Mercedes could bring F1 World Champion out of retirement to replace Lewis Hamilton as 'talks' confirmed
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A former World Champion could make a shock return to Formula One to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
The 36-year-old signed a new two-year contract with the Silver Arrows in 2023, but has decided to activate an option that will allow him to leave a year early.
In a statement posted on his social media channels, Hamilton said: "The time is right to make a change and take on a new challenge.
"I still remember the feeling of taking a leap of faith into the unknown when I first joined Mercedes in 2013. I know some people didn't understand it at the time but I was right to make the move then and it's the feeling I have again now.
"I'm excited to see what I can bring to this new opportunity and what we can do together."
Hamilton will race alongside Charles Leclerc for the Scuderia, with Carlos Sainz Jr making way for him. The Spaniard is one of several drivers linked with replacing Hamilton at Mercedes, but now it looks like an unlikely figure is also in the mix.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel retired in 2022, but he is now being tipped to make as stunning return to the grid.
The German won four F1 World Driver's Championships with Red Bull, but he called time on his career after enduring two disappointing seasons with the Aston Martin team.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed that he is still in regular contact with Vettel, prompting speculation that the negotiations are underway.
However, earlier this week Wolff played down the chances of an unexpected comeback. He told AMUS: "I think he [Vettel] made the decision to not race anymore. We are talking on a regular basis. We've also talked yesterday, but it wasn't about driving for us in the future."
Back in September, Vettel refused to rule out a return to F1. When asked if he might follow in the footsteps of fellow world champions Nigel Mansell, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen by coming out of retirement, he told Sky Sports: "I can't say no, because that you don't know.
"I think it's something that if you asked all of them, probably some of them would have said 'no'. And some of them I don't know, but in the end all of them came back, so I can't exclude it."
Hamilton's move is already one of the biggest stories in F1 history, but a shock comeback by Vettel would take it to a whole new level.