The three-time world champion has flirted publicly with the idea of heading to Italy before and Lewis Hamilton is understood to have threatened Mercedes with his departure last year after team-mate Nico Rosberg crashed into him at the Spanish Grand Prix in the midst of a third consecutive battle for the F1 World Drivers’ Championship.
But with Rosberg having retired at the end of the season, the Brit looks set to stay with the team at least until the end of his current contract in 2018.
Lewis Hamilton has been sensationally backed to quit Mercedes
Vettel, however, has less than 12 months left on his deal at Ferrari and Mark Webber, his Red Bull team-mate for four years, believes the 29-year-old might end up replaced by Hamilton.
“If the car flies and the team is on fire, Seb is winning and the love affair continues,” said Webber, who retired in 2013 and will spend this season commentating for Channel 4.
F1 2017 driver line-up
Sun, March 19, 2017
Express Sport brings you the full F1 2017 driver line-up
1 of 20
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton (44)
“If they’re not, he has options elsewhere. He’s on the front foot. He can sign for any team in the pit-lane and if Ferrari don’t love him, they’re going to struggle.
“They might get Lewis Hamilton even though he’s not out of contract, but who else are they going to grab? Max Verstappen perhaps but he’s not out of contract either.
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Sebastian Vettel's future with Ferrari is in doubt
“Ferrari aren’t on the front foot themselves, particularly if they’re not winning. But if they are, Seb will stay."
Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both peppered the top of the leaderboards with fast lap-times and the car also impressed on a reliability front – only Mercedes with 1096 logged more circuits of the Barcelona track than Ferrari (956).
It has sparked a new-found optimism in Ferrari fans verging on a decade without a constructors’ title and Webber believes the team racing at the front of the grid is an important part of the sport’s rebirth under new owners Liberty Media.
“If Ferrari can perform and keep their composure when the grandstands are full and deliver on that initial promise then that’s exciting,” Webber added.
“That would be exceptional for the sport.
“Whenever Ferrari are winning, people don’t have a problem digesting that.”
Channel 4 is the home of free-to-air Formula One in the UK with live coverage of 10 Grand Prix this season and comprehensive highlights of every race weekend. You can watch the highlights of the Australian Grand Prix on Channel 4 from 2pm on 26th March. For more information visit f1.channel4.com