Vettel will bow out of F1 at the end of Sunday’s race, calling time on an illustrious career which has seen the German win four drivers’ titles with Red Bull and over 50 races.
Despite deciding to end his F1 career, Vettel is still performing close to his best with a run of strong results in recent rounds for Aston Martin.
Hamilton – who fought with Vettel in 2010, 2017 and 2018 for the title – reckons Vettel could make a comeback one day.
“We always had such great battles, honestly. I was just sitting here thinking most drivers are coming back, like he’s coming back,” Hamilton said in Thursday’s FIA press conference in Abu Dhabi.
“You’re probably going to come back. We’re seeing other drivers coming back. So, I’m sitting here kind of accepting… yes, it’s your last race but you’ll be back.
“F1 has a way of sucking you back in, we’ve noticed that from so many other drivers.”
Vettel joked in response to Hamilton: “We can make a deal, we can speak outside. When you want to get away [from F1], I will come back.”
Fernando Alonso made a comeback of his own in 2021 after spending two years away.
The Spaniard spent his sabbatical competing in a variety of motorsport categories including the Dakar Rally and the World Endurance Championship.
Reflecting on his decision to return to F1, Alonso admitted that he always had a comeback on his mind when he stepped away at the end of 2018.
“I don’t know what his emotions are now, but in 2018 for me even on the front wing it was written ‘See you later’, it was not a bye bye,” Alonso added.
“In a way in my head, it was always the 2021 rules, an opportunity to come back. I had in my head different challenges at that point. I wanted to race in Daytona, Dakar and Le Mans. I had different things. F1 wasn’t a priority. I didn’t have my head in Formula 1 anymore.
“But I love F1. And I felt that in 2021 it could be an opportunity with the new rules and maybe everything reshuffles a bit in terms of the teams’ competitiveness. I filled my boxes in those years away from F1. They postponed the rules one year for 2022 but I came back in 2021 anyway.”
What’s next for Vettel?
Vettel has yet to decide whether he will race outside of F1 as he’s keen to spend some time with his family.
“I think you naturally do look at other stuff, I don’t know yet is the answer,” Vettel explained. “I quite look forward to the idea of nothing at first and then see what it does to me. There’s lots of other things in my head as well, other interests and ideas outside racing.
“But yeah, obviously I’ve done this for so long and it’s been central to my life. So, it will be difficult to say that I’m not going to miss it, but how much and whether then I start to look at something else, we’ll see how it goes.
“For some reason I like rallying, but I can see it’s a major challenge, because it’s so different to what we do in let’s say classic circuit racing. I don’t know, we will see.”