Sebastian Vettel is Ferrari’s first choice for the future over Lewis Hamilton at this stage, despite both being out of contract at the end of the year, according to team principal Mattia Binotto.
Hamilton has been linked with a move to Maranello over the winter after the six-time world champion and Ferrari started trading compliments towards the end of 2019, and negotiations are yet to start with Mercedes over a new deal. However, Binotto says talks are already taking place with Vettel regarding 2021 onwards and lists the German as Ferrari’s preferred option to retain his seat.
“Seb is our first choice at the moment,” Binotto said at today’s launch of the team’s new SF1000 (pictured above). “It is something we are discussing with him and we will continue to discuss with him, but he’s certainly our first option and our preference at the moment.”
Pushed on if he could rule out a move for Hamilton in future, Binotto clarified: “No.
“There is not much compared to what I said before — we are focused on our drivers. We are not considering (Hamilton) at the moment.”
Vettel added that he is keen to extend his stay with Ferrari but is in no rush to conclude a new contract.
“As Mattia said, I think a strength is to live in the moment and what’s in the moment is right behind us (the new car),” Vettel said. “For sure I feel young enough. You spoke about Lewis — he’s even older if you consider that I’m old, so that’s not a limitation. I’m happy to keep going.
“If you compare to three years ago I didn’t have a contract until August, so strictly speaking I was out of business half a year before the season finished. So I don’t think it changes much. I’m focused on what’s going on in the moment, obviously at some point you have to sort out what’s going on in the future but I think we have enough time to do so, so I’m not taking any extra pressure.
“I feel good and confident. Last year was good for me in the sense of learning a lot of things and understanding things. Certainly there are things I can do better and I’m sure that I will do better this year. So I’m not stressed but certainly ambitious to prove it to myself.”
While Max Verstappen said he signed a new deal with Red Bull over the winter to avoid confusion within the team and allow him to be fully involved in the 2021 car’s development, Vettel doesn’t see the need to follow suit.
“I think it’s pretty clear this year’s rules are very different to next year; I don’t know how much of this year will go into next year. I think it’s a completely different project, but certainly there will be lessons that we will learn this year that will help for the future. As I said, I think we have enough time for those sort of things to find out, to sort out and to decide.
“The fact there is a new set of rules coming along I don’t think plays a big part. If anything it is the opposite. For the team, for Mattia, and top management it would be incredibly difficult to set the course already now. Next year is coming along with the new regs and so on, so it’s a major challenge, but it’s something all teams are facing and will have to face sooner or later this year.”