Sebastian Vettel has revealed that Ferrari did not offer him a contract for 2021 and says he was “surprised” when team principal Mattia Binotto phoned him to tell him he would not be driving for Ferrari next year.
Vettel, a four-time world champion, has been at Ferrari since 2015 but has failed to achieve his dream of winning a championship in red.
At the launch of this year’s car in February, Binotto said Vettel was the team’s No. 1 choice to partner with recently re-signed Charles Leclerc next year, but by May Ferrari had announced Vettel would not continue at the team beyond 2020. Binotto later said that he discussed the situation with Vettel and came to the conclusion that they no longer “shared the same short- or long-term goals.”
However, ahead of the first race of the season this weekend in Austria, Vettel revealed that no contract negotiations had taken place and that he was not aware of any issues with the team before he got the phone call from Binotto.
“There was no sticking point,” he said “It was obviously a surprise to me when I got the call from Mattia when he told me that there was no further intention for the team to continue. We never got into any discussions, there was never an offer on the table and therefore there was no sticking point.”
Vettel also said he does not have a backup plan for 2021 and that he is currently assessing his options.
“Well, at the moment I’m not really having any [plans]. Looking forward, obviously I want to make sure I make the right decision for myself and my future,” he said. “I think I have a very competitive nature, I have achieved a lot in the sport, I’m motivated and willing to achieve more.
“To do so I need the right package and the right people around me, so that’s what I’m looking out for at the moment. If the right opportunity should arise, then it is quite clear. If that’s not the case, then I’ll probably have to look out for something else.”
Vettel stressed that he is in no rush to make a decision on his future, but admitted that if he walked away from the sport at the end of the year, he would not expect to return following a sabbatical.
“I don’t know, if the right thing comes together and comes up and I’m willing to continue, then I feel I have much more to give. If that’s not the case and doesn’t come together, then, as I said, probably time to do something else.
“But I am of the conviction that if you are prepared to let’s say shut the door then you should be prepared to shut that door, and not shut it expecting it to open again. You have to be aware of the decision you are making at the time and that’s also why I’m not rushing into anything. The next weeks and months will probably be bringing some more clarity.”
The situation creates a fascinating team dynamic at Ferrari, with Vettel driving in his final season with the team and teammate Leclerc signed to a five-year contract. Last year the pair were involved in a number of on-track incidents as Leclerc asserted his supremacy at the team, leading to a collision at the penultimate round in Brazil that forced both cars to retire from the race.
Ferrari often used team orders in 2019, but they were not always accepted by the drivers, and in Russia Vettel refused to yield for his teammate when asked to do so. When he was questioned on whether he would accept team orders now that he knows he is in his final year with the team, Vettel added: “I’ve always tried to integrate inside a team and the same goes for my time at Ferrari. As much as you want to have success on the track, at the end of the day you are driving for the team as well and I think this year it is very difficult to answer because we don’t know what kind of year we will have and we don’t know how competitive we will be.
“Surely, should the situation arrive and it makes perfect sense then I think you expect both drivers to help each other out. I don’t think that has anything to do with the fact that my contract is due to expire and I will leave the team. But as I said, at the same time you are racing for yourself, so I am not going to make Charles’ life easy on track by waving him by.
“I think we were happy fighting each other in the past and I think we will continue to do so.”