In the two months since news broke that Hamilton will leave Mercedes after 12 seasons to join Ferrari next year, the instability engulfing Red Bull F1 management has placed Max Verstappen and Silver Arrows protégé Andrea Kimi Antonelli at the top of the shortlist to replace the Briton.

The other leading candidates to partner George Russell are Fernando Alonso, who has so far refrained from committing his future to Aston Martin, and ousted Ferrari racer Carlos Sainz.

Some momentum initially gathered behind four-time F1 champion Vettel coming out of retirement to race for Mercedes, not least because of his regular contact with team boss Toto Wolff. 

While that rumour did die down, the German’s recent test of a Porsche 963 Le Mans Hypercar plus his outlining the ‘appeal and interest’ of an F1 return has put him back among the headlines. The topic resurfaced again this week during an interview with Sky News. 

Long-time on-track rival Hamilton says he ‘loves’ the idea of Vettel returning to F1, adding that he would be an “amazing option” to replace him at Mercedes.

“I would love for Seb to come back,” Hamilton opined. “I think it would be an amazing option for the team: German driver, a multi-world championship-winning driver, someone who's got amazing values, will continue to take this team forward. I'd love if he came back.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, Peter Bonnington, Senior Race Engineer, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, on the grid

Discussing the merits of Vettel’s decision to take a couple of seasons out, Hamilton reckoned he would only ever walk away from F1 when he knew it was for good.

“I've never thought about taking a year or two off and then coming back [per Vettel]. When I'm gone, I'm hopefully gone for good.

“You are always going to miss it. It's the greatest sport in the world and it's the greatest experience in world. It's the most amazing feeling to be working with a group of people towards winning something, achieving something.

“There's probably nothing that's ever going to feel the same. I've not asked any of the drivers what they're missing. I can just imagine.”

While Hamilton was vocally in favour of Mercedes retaining Valtteri Bottas after 2021 rather than promoting then Williams driver Russell, the seven-time world champion reckons Mercedes should back young talent this time around.

Russell, when asked about a possible return for Vettel, maintained his stance that he is willing to assert himself against whoever Mercedes picks to be his team-mate.

“Sebastian's a great person,” he said. “He's a four-time world champion and for sure, his personality is missed on the grid.

“I think it's important that we have the best 20 drivers in the world all competing for race wins and championships.

“I'm really happy and open to have anybody as my team-mate, whether it's a world champion, whether it's a rookie - it doesn't change how I go about my business.

“We'll welcome anybody.”