Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the year after deciding to not extend his contract with the team beyond its current expiry date of the end of the 2020 Formula One season.
“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. 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,” Mattia Binotto, the Team Principal of Ferrari said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Vettel claimed financial matters didn’t play a part in his decision.
“My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will finish at the end of 2020. 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.,” he said.
However, German newspaper Bild had reported that Vettel who was outperformed by 22-year-old Charles Leclerc last year was offered a one-year extension with a reduced salary and that played a big role in the German turning the offer down.
But with talks broken down, Australian Daniel Ricciardo, at Renault, and McLaren’s Spaniard Carlos Sainz whose contracts run out at the end of 2020 have been mentioned as leading candidates to take one of the most coveted seats on the grid.
Lewis Hamilton was also linked with Ferrari but he has reiterated his desire to stay with Mercedes.
Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 after winning four titles with Red Bull and wanted to emulate boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, who took five of his seven titles with the Maranello-based team.
But Ferrari are still awaiting the first champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
Formula One season is likely to begin in Austria behind closed doors in July.
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