With Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s bombshell decision to part ways kicking the fabled ‘silly season’ into overdrive well before the 2020 F1 campaign has even begun, attention will soon turn to where the German could end up driving (if at all) in 2021.

It also means a top seat is now in the offing for another driver and while we are unusually in a situation where a race-winning drive is available with no outright favourite emerging, there are nonetheless a few interesting options on the table right now.

With no racing taking place in 2020 as yet, if Ferrari hasn’t come to an agreement with anyone by the time round one does eventually roll around, it could provide a fascinating new dynamic for the opening rounds.

The Favourites

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo’s potential move to Ferrari could ultimately hinge on whether his Renault team emerges as the likely destination for Vettel.

While his sojourn to Renault hasn’t exactly stolen any headlines, the Australian’s stock remains high among the top teams and is seen as an excellent candidate to rediscover the race-winning form that made him such an asset at Red Bull over the years.

Both Ricciardo and Renault have been coy recently about whether their partnership will continue in 2021 on the back of an underwhelming 2019 campaign, while the seven-time race winner has previously spoken of his desire to one day race in red. His time could well be coming.

Carlos Sainz

Arguably the front-runner together with Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz’s reputation rose on the back of an eye-catching campaign with McLaren in 2019 that landed him a career-best sixth in the standings and a maiden podium finish in Brazil.

With McLaren identified as one of the more likely options for Vettel should he continue racing into 2021, Sainz could find himself heading in the other direction as a result.

As Fernando Alonso recently pointed out, Sainz pushed Max Verstappen hard when they were team-mates at Toro Rosso and many feel the Spaniard, after years of pedalling mid-field cars, deserves at least as a shot at the top team to show what he can do in race-winning machinery.

Antonio Giovinazzi

With reports in the Italian media speculating over whether Vettel has in fact already completed his final race in Ferrari colours, if it so transpires that the German does not take up his spot in the team when the belated 2020 F1 season begins, you’ll more than likely see Antonio Giovinazzi assume his position.

That could provide Giovinazzi the perfect opportunity to prove himself worthy of a drive. However, had Giovinazzi’s first full season in F1 with Alfa Romeo been more convincing then he’d perhaps be more of a likely shout for 2021 than he currently is.

An indifferent start to the year pinned him towards the latter half of the grid, though he made strides in the closing stages and ended the year more on a par with Kimi Raikkonen. Should he start his 2020 campaign more favourably, Ferrari may feel more comfortable promoting him over signing an outsider.

Valtteri Bottas

While one may question the wisdom of Valtteri Bottas would leaving a safe Mercedes drive for Ferrari on his own accord, there are differing views on whether that seat is in fact all that 'safe'.

Though the Finn has enjoyed success with Mercedes, he has slipped into a dutiful number two role alongside Lewis Hamilton, so a move to Ferrari could be seen as a way to reassert some authority even if he'd surely again be viewed as a support act to Leclerc's main show.

Even so, if it turns out that Mercedes is keeping its options open for 2021 (we're thinking a certain George Russell...) and assuming Hamilton re-signs then Bottas may not want to wait around for the title-winning team to come to a decision and subsequently take the initiative by resolving his own future. That would of course blow the driver market even wider as it would see Mercedes on the hunt for a new driver instead...

The Comeback Kings

Kimi Raikkonen

He’s already gone away and come back once before, so what’s to stop Kimi Raikkonen reassuming his position in the Ferrari team once again?

The Finn may not be Ferrari’s long-term plan and while he didn’t quite have the measure of Vettel when they raced alongside each other, he was still a steady hand as number two driver during that period.

If Leclerc’s relative inexperience at this level is as much of a risk as Ferrari is willing to take, a reliable shout in Raikkonen alongside him might turn out to be appealing.

Fernando Alonso

Perhaps the wildest of all the wildcards here (Lewis Hamilton notwithstanding), there are many who would love to see Fernando Alonso return to Ferrari to challenge for that elusive title in red.

Strictly speaking, there is still some bad blood between Alonso and Ferrari following their abrupt split but there is no denying he is probably the quickest driver out there without an F1 seat right now.

Alas, Alonso’s reputation for upsetting harmony in teams – something that is already problematic at Ferrari between Vettel and Leclerc – means you’d probably have to think twice about getting the Spaniard back involved with a team that has pledged its future to a new generation.

Nico Hulkenberg

A well-respected driver whose reputation wavered between untapped potential and never quite living up to expectations, Nico Hulkenberg could be a shout if Ferrari’s attempts to lure any of the current field goes awry.

There is no doubt Hulkenberg has the pace to run near the front and arguably hasn’t quite had the machinery to do so, but the German struggled to dismiss any of his team-mates during the latter years, with many feeling his time has come and gone.

The Youth Division

Mick Schumacher

It’s the fairytale many would like to see, Mick Schumacher – son of seven-time F1 world champion Michael – throwing back the years by becoming a Ferrari F1 driver.

Indeed, there are many that believe Ferrari is priming Schumacher Jr for a top drive at some stage in the future, but stepping up to fill the shoes of Vettel in 2021 seems a little premature unless he truly dominates F2 when the season gets underway.

Provided he does perform well in F2 – top three at least – expect to see Schumacher in F1 next season, just perhaps not with Ferrari.

Robert Schwartzman

Most certainly a driver to watch out for in the coming years, Robert Schwartzman may be a long shot for a Ferrari drive in 2021, but don’t bet against seeing him racing in F1 next year.

The 20-year old Russian driver has rapidly climbed the junior ranks at a rate that mirrors the likes of Leclerc and Hamilton, and heads into his rookie F2 season as one of the favourites for the title. Moreover, he is already a Ferrari Driver Academy racer, making his move to F1 a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

The Dream Combination

Lewis Hamilton

It’s the story that never really goes away, so expect the rumour mill of Lewis Hamilton leaving Mercedes for Ferrari to go into a state of frenzy over the next few weeks.

The idea of Hamilton asserting himself as the greatest F1 driver of all time in Ferrari colours certainly looks tempting on paper, but the Briton has been clearer in recent months that he wants to continue on with Mercedes for the foreseeable future.

Whether Vettel’s exit makes him think twice about this is yet to be seen, but there is no doubt Ferrari would have him top of their fantasy shopping list.

At the very least, it does potentially give Hamilton a new bargaining position with Mercedes when it comes to signing on the dotted line.

Who do you think should replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari? Let us know your candidates in the comments below

Who should partner Leclerc in 2021 F1 season? | Ferrari Driver Contenders | Crash.net