Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari announced on Tuesday morning that they have decided to part ways following the 2020 Formula One season. The choice was mutual as neither side could come to an agreement to keep the German driver with the Italian based team for 2021 or beyond.
“My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will finish at the end of 2020,” said Vettel. “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 realized 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.”
Binotto added: “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.”
So, why did this happen? While both sides say this isn’t about money, it’s about respect. Vettel, has made it clear in the past that he always works in three year contracts. Ferrari, wasn’t willing to give him three more years. Plus, Ferrari has grown frustrated by some of the on track moves Vettel has made that cost the Prancing Horses victories.
At times, Ferrari had quicker cars than their Mercedes rivals. Ferrari’s undoing led to many more Mercedes victories than they should have had.
Vettel, won four straight titles with Red Bull Racing between 2010 and 2013. He failed to win at all in 2014, which led him to Ferrari. That was supposed to be the move that put Ferrari back to championship contenders again. Ferrari, had last won a title in 2007. Their dominance ended when Michael Schumacher’s career with them did. Vettel, a German like Schumacher, was the perfect fit.
Unfortunately, they failed to deliver a world championship. In a hybrid era where the “Big 3” had a huge advantage, the Ferrari’s couldn’t ever top their Mercedes rivals. Ferrari, has only won 17 times over the last 121 races (all since 2014). Mercedes by comparison has won 89 times in that same time frame.
Vettel, has won 14 of Ferrari’s 17 trips to victory lane since 2014, but he hasn’t been a legitimate championship threat. That’s allowed Mercedes to win six straight titles. The last non Mercedes championship came in 2013 with Red Bull Renault — Vettel’s fourth championship in-a-row. Ferrari, now has one championship since 2005 — a span of 16 years. In the four years prior, they won four titles in-a-row.
So, with a young Charles Leclerc in their camp on a newly signed deal, why pay Vettel big money for three more years of this? So, Vettel, with four world championships and 53 grand prix wins, is a free agent at seasons end?
Who replaces him and where does he go?
It’s easier now to look at where he goes. I highly doubt a Mercedes drive is in the cards since they have plenty of drivers at their disposal. Even if Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas depart the Silver Arrows, Vettel wouldn’t be a prime candidate to replace them when they have George Russell and Esteban Ocon waiting in the wings.
A Red Bull return wouldn’t make much sense either. They have a clear No. 1 in Max Verstappen and several budding young drivers to choose from too. Alex Albon exceled in his replacement role last year, so he would be in line for an extension for them.
That leaves mid field teams. Would Vettel want to take a step back? He has a historic career already. His four titles are tied with Alain Prost for fourth move ever trailing only – Juan Manuel Fangio (5), Hamilton (6), Schumacher (7). His 53 wins rank him third ever, only behind Hamilton (84) and Schumacher (91). He’s a wide range ahead of everyone else with only Ayrton Senna (41) being close. Fernando Alonso and Nigel Mansell are sixth and seventh respectively on the all-time wins list but trail Vettel by 20+ wins. Why would he take a step back?
If he does, McLaren, Renault or Sauber would be the only choices with Renault having a return since he won all four of his championships with that powerplant. McLaren could get a huge steal while a Sauber fit would be to team back up with former teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Even then, those aren’t race winner or championship contending teams next year.
So, who replaces him?
Carlos Sainz Jr. has had some good success with Renault and McLaren. He’s only 25 and has long been rumored for an eventual Ferrari seat. He’s only 25, so would pair well with Leclerc.
Daniel Ricciardo is 30, so still in his prime and could move from Renault to Ferrari. The question for Ricciardo is, why move from a clear No. 1 to a No. 2 to likely close out his career? He’s been chasing a title and with Leclerc the No. 1 now at Ferrari, would that realistically happen?
Valtteri Bottas is also 30 and would be a great choice too. He’s already a No. 2 at Mercedes so would slide into that role well. He’s won seven times with the Silver Arrows and could give Mercedes a coveted seat open and move to finish his career at Ferrari. He knows he’s just keeping that seat warm until Mercedes absolutely needs it. With Red Bull looking like they’re set for the foreseeable future, a Ferrari move makes the most sense for him.