Four-time champ Vettel to leave Ferrari at end of 2020

Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of 2020 after contract negotiations between the parties broke down.

It brings to an end a five-year stint in which the German will now almost certainly have failed to deliver a further title to the Scuderia.

“My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will finish at the end of 2020,” said Vettel in a statement. “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.”

Vettel’s spell at Ferrari was not without success, the German winning 14 races for the team and mounting strong title challenges in 2017 and 2018. But his time with the team was not without controversy, famously deliberately driving into Lewis Hamilton at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and crashing into current teammate Charles Leclerc in Brazil last year.

“Scuderia Ferrari occupies a special place in Formula 1 and I hope it gets all the success it deserves,” added Vettel. “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.”

The emergence of Leclerc as the stronger of the two drivers in 2019 may also have influenced the decision, the Monegasque comprehensively out scoring Vettel in every department.

“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,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. “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.”

The announcement means that it will be interesting to see who will partner Leclerc at the team going forwards, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. thought to be the leading contenders. Although Lewis Hamilton is out of contract at the end of the season, the consensus is that he will stay with Mercedes in an attempt to add to his title haul.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.