Could Vettel leave Ferrari after 2017?

Lauda hails Vettel as Mercedes rumours swirl

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Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has hailed Sebastian Vettel as rumours linking the German with the Formula 1 champions persist.

Following Vettel's disappointing year with Ferrari in 2016, it was well-known that the Brackley outfit was keeping an eye on the former four-time world champion, who is out of contract at the end of this year.

Though most would expect the strong return to form for the Scuderia this season would squash the possibility of a potential blockbuster switch, instead, they are going further. 

"It is no secret to anyone that after Rosberg’s retirement, Mercedes contacted Seb," Ferrari-linked blogger Leo Turrini reported. "During the pre-season test in Barcelona, Niki Lauda told friends confidentially that Vettel has a pre-agreement with the Germans for next season."

Former team owner Eddie Jordan added his view stating: "Of course they (Mercedes) are talking with Vettel. They need to be. 

"F1 is a brutal business. It's not just about strengthening yourself, but weakening your opponent."

Now the Austrian himself has commented on the former Red Bull driver, telling Germany's Auto Bild: "He's the best at the moment.

"He is a straight-lined guy without talking a lot. He knows what he wants, he knows the points where he has to find something within himself to get the maximum performance.

"Just an incredible guy."

Asked on Thursday about the speculation, Vettel was keen to distance himself, insisting his focus was solely on Ferrari.

"I don't know. Is it coming from Italy? Maybe you asked the Italians. They seem to know more than I do," he jibed.

"I think the situation is clear. My main focus is on this year, not the line I drop, it's a fact.

"We find ourselves in a very good position this year and that's what we want to keep.

"Everything else is not that important. There's some rumours also in previous years.”