Sebastian Vettel will be leaving Ferrari at the end of the year following a breakdown in contract negotiations between the driver and the Formula 1 team.
The driver’s current contract expires at the end of 2020 and there is now no mutual desire for the player and team to remain together.
Vettel has been with Ferrari since 2015. He joined the Italian team after winning the world championship four times between 2010 and 2013 with Red Bull.
Despite expectations that he would be challenging for the title with Ferrari, Vettel has proved unable to shift the dominance enjoyed in recent seasons by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
No desire to stay together
“The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season,” Vettel told reporters.
“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.”
“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best,” said Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto.
“It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person.”
Despite the driver’s assertion that money played no part in the decision, it has been reported in Italy that the German had been offered only a one-year contract extension with a reduced salary.
Leclerc now the star driver at Ferrari
Ferrari’s situation with Vettel stands in contrast to their dealings with his teammate Charles Leclerc.
The Monegasque driver has been awarded a contract that lasts until 2024. Ferrari have also been honest by asserting that Leclerc represents the team’s future.
Leclerc outperformed Vettel, who was considered the senior driver at Ferrari, beating him in terms of wins, pole positions and points.
There was also some tension between the drivers, with incidents occurring in Russia and Brazil. Ferrari had stated that this year the two would be allowed to race without the team favouring one or the other.
The news about Vettel’s contract negotiations will open up the drivers market in F1 again, as speculation mounts about who could replace the German at Ferrari.
A place driving for the Italian team remains one of the most prized jobs in F1, and some top names have been linked with Ferrari.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz have both been linked with Ferrari, while there is still speculation in some quarters that Lewis Hamilton could yet leave Mercedes to drive for the Italian team.
Hamilton has so far been very clear about the fact that he intends to remain with Mercedes, though.
As for Vettel, this decision may see him retire from the sport, as his options beyond the end of this year currently appear somewhat limted.
Mercedes are reportedly not interested in signing the German driver, while Red Bull have asserted that they are happy with Max Verstappen as their prime driver.