Sebastian Vettel to leave Ferrari at end of 2020 season

Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari

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Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of this year, saying that there is no longer a “common desire to stay together”.

Talks are understood to have broken down between the four-time world champion and the team. The two parties came to the belief “that the time had come to go our separate ways,” said Ferrari.

The four-time champion moved to Ferrari from Red Bull in 2015, and has so far been unable to add to his championship tally with the Prancing Horse.

“In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony,” Vettel said.

“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.”

Less than a month ago, Vettel confirmed that talks over a new contract had begun and spoke optimistically about making progress, even raiding the prospect of signing a deal before the first race of this year.

But recent rumours had been circulating that Vettel and Ferrari had been unable to agree upon the terms. The performance of team-mate Charles Leclerc last season also put negotiations into a new perspective, with Ferrari’s longer term future very much with the Monégasque driver.

Today’s announcement is likely to ignite the driver market for 2021, with Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz linked to Vettel’s seat.

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Antonio Giovinazzi, at Ferrari’s sister team, Alfa Romeo, is another possibility, and Lewis Hamilton has yet to sign for 2021 – but has said that he’s happy at Mercedes.

An outside bet is Fernando Alonso, who has been eyeing a return to Formula 1. Last week, he said that his plans for 2021 are “more or less” confirmed.

Vettel’s options for a top-level drive are unclear. Depending on his successor, seats may open up at McLaren or Renault.

“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life,” he said. “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.”

Since joining Ferrari in 2015, Vettel has scored 14 race victories however has not been able to achieve a fifth world championship with the team.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said that both parties realised that their futures did not lie together.

“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best,” he said.

“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.”