Sebastian Vettel is expected to leave Ferrari at the end of this year after contract talks between the two sides collapsed, with the four-time world champion’s departure reportedly set to be confirmed as early as Tuesday.
The 32-year-old’s current three-year deal with the Scuderia finishes this season, and Vettel had indicated several times in recent weeks that his preference was to sign an extension. Exactly what led to the breakdown in negotiations remains open to speculation, however German publication Auto Motor und Sport hinted that both the length and value of the new deal being offered by Ferrari were substantially less than Vettel felt he could accept.
Vettel’s status at Ferrari has been in doubt for some time. Mistakes from team and driver alike potentially cost him championships in 2017 and 2018; instead, Lewis Hamilton was able to triumph on both occasions with a Mercedes that was arguably not as quick. That stoked a friction that was only amplified by the arrival of Charles Leclerc in 2019, who swiftly quashed his designated No.2 status by outperforming Vettel in every significant area over the season, and earned himself a mid-year contract extension that will keep him at Ferrari until 2024.
With the door to Ferrari apparently shut, it is not clear whether Vettel can realistically expect any others to open as long as Lewis Hamilton remains at Mercedes. The presence of a firmly-entrenched Max Verstappen rules out a return to Red Bull, while a shift to McLaren would likely require a significant pay cut – one that doesn’t align with Zak Brown’s recent calls for a $100 million budget cap – and the willingness on Vettel’s part to become part of a rebuilding process.
The question of who might fill Vettel’s vacant seat is equally open. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi has been Ferrari-aligned for several years, and the likes of Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniel Ricciardo – currently at McLaren and Renault respectively – have also been linked with Maranello moves in the past. Hamilton is not believed to be a serious option.