Red Bull Formula 1 team advisor Helmut Marko explained why he advised his former driver and close friend, Sebastian Vettel, to take a sabbatical from the sport, prior to his decision to sign with Aston Martin for the 2021 season.
Vettel was left without a seat after Ferrari, prior to the start of last year’s season, decided not to extend his contract in favour of hiring Carlos Sainz as Charles Leclerc’s team-mate.
That left Vettel’s future shrouded in mystery, with the four-time world champion openly admitting a sabbatical was amongst his options, which also included retirement. However Aston Martin then approached Vettel to replace Perez, despite the Mexican holding a contract for ’21.
Marko was one of those who advised Vettel to take a year out, believing it would benefit the German as the ’22 driver market looked likely to have some key openings.
“It was clear that Sebastian would have another difficult season with Ferrari,” Marko told F1Insider. “I didn’t want him to act rashly, but to wait because it was clear to me that fundamental things would change in the driver market for 2022. For example, I was sure that there would be a vacancy at Mercedes then. But not only there.
“In general, I advised Sebastian to take time off. But that also included Red Bull. I just wanted him to still be on the market at the right time so he could take the best possible offer.
“Above all, I didn’t want a four-time world champion to say goodbye to Formula 1 like that. Not as a friend, and not as a Red Bull man.”
Marko also revealed that Vettel would have been considered for their vacant seat this year after they decided to axe Alexander Albon, but with Vettel tied up, they opted for the driver he replaced.
“When Ferrari gave him notice, we had no place left for 2021. At the time, we firmly assumed that Albon would develop positively, so that he would also be able to drive alongside Max in 2021.
“That’s what I told Sebastian – unfortunately, we were wrong. When we had to act, Sebastian was no longer on the list because he had made a long-term commitment to Aston Martin. Therefore, Sergio Perez was the logical decision for us.”