Sebastian Vettel is reportedly rejecting the terms of a new deal with the Italy-based Ferrari team. He will leave Ferrari at the end of the year after contract discussions between the four-times world champion and the team broke down, according to several reports.
Germany’s Bild and Auto Motor und Sport reported the 32-year-old, who will be out of contract at the end of 2020, had rejected the terms offered in a new deal.
Reports said the separation with Ferrari, the sport’s oldest and most successful team, could be announced officially on Tuesday. The news throws into doubt Vettel’s immediate future and potentially sets off a chain reaction of driver moves.
The Australian Daniel Ricciardo, at Renault, and McLaren’s Spaniard Carlos Sainz have both been mentioned in media reports as leading candidates to take one of the most coveted seats on the grid. Both are also out of contract at the end of 2020.
Lewis Hamilton has also been linked to Ferrari but the six-times world champion has repeatedly indicated he intends to stay with Mercedes.
Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper recently reported Vettel had been offered a one-year extension with a salary reduction. The German joined Ferrari in 2015, having won four titles with Red Bull and dreaming of emulating his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, who took five of his record seven titles with the Maranello-based team.
Vettel said last month that he could have a new deal done before the start of a season delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ferrari has said the German was their first choice to partner Charles Leclerc in 2021 but reports in Italy said they wanted an answer by the end of April to ensure potential replacements were still available.
Leclerc, who won two races last year and is only 22, has a contract until 2024 and is seen as Ferrari’s future and likely first champion since Kimi Räikkönen in 2007. The Monegasque outperformed Vettel in his first season at Ferrari last year, finishing ahead of him overall and taking more points, poles, podiums, and wins.
Formula One has deferred to 2022 a major technical rule change planned for 2021, meaning teams will use the same cars next year as this. Ferrari appeared to be behind Mercedes on pace in pre-season testing but have not been able to run their car in race conditions due to the 15 March Australian opener being canceled.
The sport hopes to get going behind closed doors in Austria in July, with two races penciled in for the Red Bull Ring, followed by another doubleheader, at Silverstone, all being well.