Sebastian Vettel returns to Formula 1: This rumor wafted through the paddock of the Bahrain International Circuit late Saturday evening (local time), a few hours after the conclusion of the three-day tests before the first Grand Prix of the year, which starts on Sunday next week (16:00 CET in the F.A.Z. live ticker for Formula 1 and Sky) in the Persian Gulf. What's behind it?

Sönke Sievers

Deputy Head of Sport Online.

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Sebastian Vettel's former racing team Aston Martin urgently needs a driver: The Canadian Lance Stroll, actually regular driver of the traditional British brand, dropped out at short notice for the test drives. Falling off the bike, it was said that the hands were injured. How difficult, the participants are persistently silent. "It's a private matter," says race director Mike Krack narrow-lipped. And Fernando Alonso, who came to the team for Vettel, murmured when asked about Stroll: "I have nothing to say about that."

For the test drives, Aston Martin ordered replacement driver Felipe Drugovich to Bahrain. The Brazilian, reigning Formula 2 champion, drove solidly and was certified by Mike Krack "very good work", but no race at the Grand Prix promised. Not even if the injured Stroll, as the secrecy indicates, should not be fit to drive again within a week.

No stroll, no drugovich? Someone has to drive the second AMR-23 next week. The one could now be Sebastian Vettel, of all people. While the Heppenheimer could not be reached for FAZ.NET on Saturday evening, Mike Krack did not rule out when asked that Vettel would help his former employer out of trouble: "Let's see what happens," said the Luxembourger. Has there been contact with Vettel since Stroll's bicycle crash? "I often talk to Sebastian on the phone," says Krack. And further: "That was the case last year and will continue to be so in the future". Whether Vettel, as it makes the rounds in the paddock, have already expressed his interest to step in? "I won't tell you," Krack evaded and grinned. "Our plan is for Lance Stroll to be in the car." And if he can't? "We haven't decided on our Plan B yet."

Krack confirmed, however, that Aston Martin is not contractually obliged to let the official reserve driver Drugovich into the cockpit. The team is free to choose another pilot. The second reserve man would be the Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, who has not yet driven the new car.

Vettel would be quite confident to be competitive right away. Nico Hulkenberg has proven that this is possible with several temporary jobs in the past. And something else speaks for a possible comeback: The new AMR-23 has little in common with last year's car, which Vettel still drove himself. The engineers ventured a radical new beginning, which seems to be paying off. Aston Martin is considered to be the fourth, possibly third, force in the field after the Bahrain tests. In other words, Vettel would probably not have to toil away in midfield in a temporary comeback, but would have fun at work.

So it would also be obvious from the point of view of the racing team to hire an experienced driver to bring a powerful duo to the start together with Fernando Alonso, who can take advantage of the opportunity to score valuable world championship points.