When the 2020 Formula 1 season finally gets underway, it’ll be the last year we see Sebastian Vettel don the iconic red overalls. Chances are, it might be the final time we see the four-time world champion in F1 at all.
Auto Motor und Sport reported on Monday that contract negotiations between Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari had come to an end without an agreement being made. On Tuesday, the team confirmed the news. His current three-year deal will expire at the end of 2020, which may see the 32-year-old leave F1 for good.
Away from Ferrari, his upper-tier options are limited. Mercedes is out of the question while Lewis Hamilton is there, and although the British driver’s ambitions to drive for the Scuderia are well known, a changing of places doesn’t seem that likely. A move back to Red Bull wouldn’t be feasible either, given the prospect of an intra-team battle with Max Verstappen.
When Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 expectations were high, but after five seasons, the 32-year-old has been unable to add to his tally of four world titles. 2019 was a particularly troubled year - the German made a string of bizarre errors and found himself frequently outshone by his less experienced teammate, Charles Leclerc.
In the last five seasons, Vettel has often been Hamilton’s closest rival and led the championship for more than half 2017 season. He’s scored 14 wins over 101 races with Ferrari and finished as runner up twice.
With a good chunk of the F1 grid out of contract at the end of 2020, Ferrari has plenty of choice when it comes to Vettel’s replacement. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. are seen as the most likely candidates.
In a statement, team principal 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.”
Vettel meanwhile, added:
“My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will finish at the end of 2020. In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony. The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season. 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.
What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. 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.”