Four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel will leave Scuderia Ferrari when his current contract with the team expires at the end of this season.
The latest contract talks between Vettel and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto broke down, with each party mutually deciding to go their own separate ways. Ferrari Team Principle stated that such a decision was “not easy to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person”.
It appears that both Vettel and the Italian Prancing horses are looking for a fresh start. The former stated that there was “no longer a common desire” for the pair to work together, whilst Binotto posited that both parties had separate and respective objectives that were not compatible going forward.
Vettel made it clear in his public statement that a reluctancy to sign a new contract did not stem from a reduced salary being offered: “Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.”
Charles Leclerc, Vettel’s Ferrari teammate since 2019, was quick to praise the German:
I've never learnt so much as I did with you as my teammate.
Thank you for everything Seb. pic.twitter.com/jRHEsvMYvg
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) May 12, 2020
F1 journalists and commentators have attributed Leclerc’s red-hot form during the 2019 season as being integral to Sebastian’s eventual departure.
There is little doubt that Leclerc’s performances have proved too hot to handle for Vettel, demonstrated by Leclerc finishing the 2019 season in 4th place with 264 points, while Vettel finished below in 5th, with 240.
Vettel’s steady decline at Ferrari is further evident in the fact that he was only able to secure one race win last season. Fans and viewers will be quick to recall Vettel’s in-race behaviour, including the un-enforced spin at Bahrain, the crash into Verstappen, the ten-second penalty at Sliverstone, the swerve at Canada and the five seconds that cost him the race, and most infamously his dangerous rejoining of Ferrari’s home-track Monza in September 2019. Such actions resulted in Vettel accumulating 9 points on his drivers ‘super-license’, just three shy of 12 points and an automatic race ban.
Despite being a four-time world champion with Red Bull Racing, Vettel has failed to replicate his prior form consistently since moving to the Italian constructors in 2015, and as such has failed to win a drivers or constructors championship with the team.
While supporters of the 33-year-old will argue that the technical and mechanical dominance of the Mercedes constructors since 2014 has made it almost impossible for Vettel to get better than 2nd place in the championship, Vettel has more often than not only got himself to blame for these successive disappointments. This was evidenced in Vettel’s physical swipe at title-rival Lewis Hamilton under the safety car at Baku, as well as a first turn crash with teammate Raikonnen and Verstappen at Singapore in the 2017 season.
An unforced error at the Hockenheimring in 2018 – a race Vettel was comfortably leading – accentuates that Vettel must take a huge amount of responsibility for failing to get the job done in the ‘turbo’ engine-system era with the sports oldest and most successful team.
Analysis: So what next for Vettel?
Wessex Scene understands McLaren’s Carlos Sainz has signed a two-year deal with Ferrari, and will replace Vettel in the 2021 season. While a young and somewhat inexperienced driver, the Spaniard has impressed many since his move to McLaren in 2019, where he finished 6th in his first season. The 25-year-old will arguably be more willing to play ‘second driver’ to Charles Leclerc, and has been tipped by Max Verstappen of Red Bull to be a great success at the team.
Daniel Ricciardo has signed with McLaren and will correspondingly replace Sainz, for the Australian is currently in the last year of his contract with current team Renault. Former Renault racer Alain Prost claimed that such events were ‘completely in Daniel’s hands’.
While nearing the end of his career, the next steps for Sebastian Vettel seem amibigious. While already linked to possible vacancies at Renault and Sauber, Mercedes Team Principle Toto Wolff has stated that Vettel’s departure is something that his successive world championship winning team will have to ‘consider’ in the near future. Conversely, Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle has asserted: “I think there’s a good chance Sebastian will step away from Formula 1” at the end of this season, and leave the sport for good.
Despite Vettel’s recent regression, all fans of motorsport will be hoping that we haven’t seen the last of this very talented German driver just yet.