"I always see him as a role-model and I think he is capable of achieving something big this season," Red Bull driver Vettel told German motoring magazine ADAC Motorwelt.
"I hope that it will not be too big, if he is second in the 2011 championships, that would be ok for me," he joked.
Schumacher returned to Formula One racing in 2010 after a three-year hiatus which followed his seven world drivers' championship wins. He finished a disappointing ninth in last season's world drivers' championships racing for Mercedes GP.
Schumacher turned 42 in January and told the magazine he is feeling "rather good" with the new season set to start with the Australian Grand Prix on March 27.
"This season, I think we can can aim for the podium and why not some Grand Prix wins," said Schumacher. "But talk of the world title is still unrealistic."