Sebastian Vettel to leave Ferrari at end of season as contract talks fail
Four-time world champion and Ferrari agree to part ways after six years at the end of 2020; Vettel to take time to reflect on future; Ricciardo and Sainz early favourites to replace him
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 13/05/20 6:17am
Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season.
The four-time world champion's contract expires at the end of this year and a joint statement announced that it would not be renewed.
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"In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it's vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony," said Vettel, who joined Ferrari in 2015.
"The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season."
Seb definitely talking with at least one other team so this can’t be just about retirement. The release makes it clear it’s not about money. It obviously can’t be about this season’s performance. So must be about status and controls generated from the bruising incidents of 2019 https://t.co/M5widTn75S— Martin Brundle (@MBrundleF1) May 12, 2020
Speculation had abounded in recent weeks that Vettel had turned down a reduced offer from the Scuderia to stay on as Charles Leclerc's team-mate but the German insisted: "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."
Team boss Mattia Binotto said: "This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best.
"It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian's worth as a driver and as a person. There was no specific reason that led to this decision, apart from the common and amicable belief that the time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives."
It's been a huge honor for me to be your team mate. We've had some tense moments on tracks. Some very good ones and some others that didn't end as we both wanted, but there was always respect, even though it wasn't perceive this way from the outside.— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) May 12, 2020
Vettel's future at the team had appeared in doubt after Ferrari signed Leclerc to a new five-year term over the winter.
The improved deal came after the 22-year-old scored more wins and points than Vettel in his maiden campaign at the team in 2019.
What now for Vettel?
Turning 33 in July and having competed in F1 for 13 years, Vettel's future in F1 heading towards 2021 is now hugely uncertain.
The German is thought unlikely to join Mercedes or return to Red Bull, meaning his options would appear to rest with teams currently further down the grid such as Renault and McLaren. Sky F1's Martin Brundle understands Vettel is in talks with at least one team.
Vettel suggested in this statement that he was using the enforced delay to the season amid the coronavirus pandemic to assess "what really matters" for his future.
"What's been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life," said Vettel.
"One needs to use one's imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future."
Sebastian Vettel always said he joined Ferrari to win a championship in red and wanted to stay to ‘finish the job’. It would be sad if that dream ended, unfulfilled. Ferrari’s plan B: Sainz/Danny Ric/Gio/Lewis?— Ted Kravitz (@tedkravitz) May 12, 2020
Who could replace Vettel?
F1's rumour mill will now go into overdrive with one of the sport's most coveted seats available from next season.
A host of drivers are also out of contract at the end of this year and Ferrari had already been linked with several leading names.
McLaren's Carlos Sainz and Renault's Daniel Ricciardo could be options, while six-time world champion Hamilton has also been linked with the Scuderia.
Hamilton is also out of contract but has repeatedly spoken about staying at Mercedes to achieve more success - and recently insisted "I'm with my dream team".
Vettel and Ferrari: The unfulfilled dream?
Vettel arrived at Maranello in 2015 and made no secret of the fact that winning the world title for F1's most famous team was his "dream".
The German grew up idolising compatriot Michael Schumacher, who won five of his record seven titles in red in the early 2000s.
But although Vettel led the championship for considerable periods of both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he was overhauled on both occasions by Hamilton and came under scrutiny for making mistakes on track.
Ferrari then failed to maintain that momentum into last year and their season instead became one characterised by the in-house battle between their new and established star. Leclerc and Vettel had numerous on-track flashpoints and clashed to race-ending effect in Brazil, although the pair have stressed that they do get on well off track.
"Scuderia Ferrari occupies a special place in Formula 1 and I hope it gets all the success it deserves," said Vettel. "Finally, I want to thank the whole Ferrari family and above all its "tifosi" all around the world, for the support they have given me over the years.
"My immediate goal is to finish my long stint with Ferrari, in the hope of sharing some more beautiful moments together, to add to all those we have enjoyed so far."
Binotto praised the "great professionalism and the human qualities" displayed by Vettel during his time at the team.