There is a part of me that knew this was coming. It didn’t take a sage to know that the team’s signing of Charles Leclerc for five years was a clear sign they had found the horse they would attach their wagon to. The friction between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc didn’t help matters with Vettel looking worse for the efforts.
On one hand, Leclerc is a terrific talent and as such, what was the team willing to spend for a second driver to buttress their program and play well with their new Monegasque leader? With the driver market opening up and so many of the top names on the grid looking for possible moves, Ferrari had to consider what they wanted long term.
The key here is the offer of a one-year deal for Vettel. This would tell us that the long-term view was to keep options open after the 2021 season with the new cars coming in for 2022 and the cost cap being ushered in for 2021. The changes to F1 over the next 2-3 years is going to be very large and the current COVID-19 impact on finances is massive as well. There are a lot of factors involved in a decision by any team in this current environment.
For Ferrari, the talk is centered around Carlos Sainz of Daniel Ricciardo. Of the two, I could see Ferrari going with Carlos but for my money, Daniel is the better choice. Daniel would be less amenable to play tail-gunner to Leclerc and has a history of banging wheels with his teammate so that may not be as attractive to Ferrari. It wouldn’t surprise me if Fernando Alonso makes a call to Maranello too.
For Vettel, the options may seem limited if he is looking for a multi-year deal. However, it remains to be seen what Mercedes will do in regards to re-signing Lewis Hamilton. Things are slightly fluid at Mercedes with the Toto Wolff’s contract up, his investment in Aston Martin and rumors the Lewis may be looking at the Ferrari seat.
If I was Mercedes, I would hire Sebastian and Toto Wolff said today:
“Sebastian is a great driver, a major personality and an asset to any Formula 1 team,” Wolff said.
“When looking to the future, our first loyalty lies with the current Mercedes drivers.
“But naturally we must take this development into consideration.”
I posited this thought on our Facebook page and received a lot of hate for Vettel and comments about how current Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas would beat Vettel. I find that harsh and untrue.
The issue with a possible move to Mercedes is the payroll of two world champions versus retaining Lewis and signing George Russell for peanuts, relatively speaking. However, there was the comment this week that Lewis made suggesting that he had thought of taking a season off for mental health in the past. Each small word and commentary is a key. Much like Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul’s slight jab at Daniel Ricciardo in his recent comments which would suggest that Dan is leaving. It’s all speculation but you have to have fun with Silly season.
Ferrari’s official statement.
Mattia Binotto, Managing Director Gestione Sportiva and Team Principal
“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.
Sebastian is already part of the Scuderia’s history, with his 14 Grands Prix wins making him the third most successful driver for the team, while he is also the one who has scored the most points with us. In our five years together, he has finished in the top three of the Drivers’ Championship three times, making a significant contribution to the team’s constant presence in the top three of the Constructors’ classification.
On behalf of everyone at Ferrari, I want to thank Sebastian for his great professionalism and the human qualities he has displayed over these five years, during which we shared so many great moments. We have not yet managed to win a world title together, which would be a fifth for him, but we believe that we can still get a lot out of this unusual 2020 season.”
Sebastian Vettel #5
“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.
Scuderia Ferrari occupies a special place in Formula 1 and I hope it gets all the success it deserves. 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.”