Four-times Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the season, the Italian team announced on Tuesday.
Vettel, who joined in 2015 with the dream of emulating boyhood hero Michael Schumacher in winning titles with the sport’s oldest and most glamorous team, is out of contract at the end of the year. Where the 32-year-old German will go now, and indeed whether he will remain in a sport whose delayed season has yet to start due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are the big questions.
Prior to Vettel’s statement, German media, reported Vettel had rejected the terms being offered by Ferrari. Italy’s Gazetta dello Sport newspaper recently reported Vettel, who won 14 races with the team and is their third most successful driver, had been offered a one-year extension with a salary reduction. Ferrari had previously said the German was their first choice to partner Charles Leclerc.
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 Rikkonen in 2007. The Monegasque outperformed Vettel last year in his first season at Ferrari, finishing ahead of him overall and taking more points, poles, podiums and wins.
Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton has also been linked to Ferrari but has repeatedly indicated he intends to stay with Mercedes.
Vettel said as recently as last month that his intention was to stay with Ferrari beyond the end of his contract this season.
But talks have broken down after Vettel felt unable to accept the offer Ferrari made to him to stay alongside Leclerc, who last winter signed until the end of 2024.