Mercedes on why they won't rule out Vettel for 2021: 'Remember Rosberg'

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Mercedes is keeping an eye on Sebastian Vettel for 2021, noting the possibility of a Nico Rosberg-style scenario from 2016.

Since it was announced the German would be departing Ferrari at the end of this year, speculation has suggested the German manufacturer's parent company Daimler has been keen to sign Vettel alongside Lewis Hamilton.

It was claimed, however, that team boss Toto Wolff was pushing back against that idea and he admits he didn't expect the flurry of driver announcements that took place following the Vettel news.

"We were quite surprised with the early movements because you start the season with a driver that you know you're going to lose," he told select media via Zoom on Wednesday.

"It's very tricky to develop a car without having that driver be part of it, and every single driver needs to be a team player as well, and that becomes a second priority in my opinion for the relevant guy.

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"For us, we want to take our time. Our priority lies on the Mercedes drivers, Valtteri [Bottas] and Lewis, and then obviously George [Russell], and the Williams situation we're looking at with interest.

"Beyond that, you do not discount any driver. This is why I said I don't want to discount Sebastian as a four-time world champion, because who knows what happens in the next months?"

Wolff though did admit the criteria for considering Vettel was purely if whether Hamilton or Bottas should decide to suddenly quit at the end of the year.

"First of all, it's not lip service. I think we owe it to a four-times World Champion not to come out and say straight away 'No.' You need to think about it," he added.

"And this is why I don't want to come out in June and say, 'No chance, Sebastian is not racing for us.'

"I wouldn't do that to him as a driver, to be that blunt, and on the other side, I've seen black swans appearing when nobody expected.

"Remember Nico Rosberg. In that respect, we're just keeping our options open, but of course concentrating our discussions with our current drivers."

And on the issue of contract talks, the Austrian revealed negotiations with Hamilton will finally commence next month.

"We didn't see each other lockdown, but we were in regular contact," he said. "But we didn't work on any agreement. Between us, there is a lot of trust.

"We have been together for a long time and never in these years together we had to take the contract out and actually read what was written in there because it comes so naturally.

"And therefore once racing resumes we're going to spend some time together, dig the contract out of the cupboard, look at the timings and the numbers and the rights and hopefully have something pretty soon."