Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says the COVID-19 pandemic led to Ferrari opting to drop Sebastian Vettel, having originally intended to retain him.
Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the season, with Carlos Sainz replacing him at 2021. The four-time world champion admitted on Thursday that the call from Binotto came as a surprise after the team principal had previously stated Vettel was the team’s first choice, and Binotto (pictured above) now says the global situation is what led to a change of plans.
“Certainly we had always said to him during the wintertime privately and publicly that he would have been our first choice, which I confirm,” Binotto said. “It’s normal that during wintertime lots of drivers ask if there was an opportunity to drive for Ferrari, but that didn’t change our position — Seb was our first choice.
“What happened since then? I think the virus pandemic situation, which changed the entire world, not only motorsport. The budget cap has been changed, it is lot more strict; the regulations have been postponed from 2021 to 2022, which was important for us — cars which have been almost frozen for 2020 and 2021, so the entire situation has changed.
“Even the season has not started, so there was no opportunity even for Sebastian to be back on track to prove how much he was really motivated to drive for Ferrari, which has been unfortunate for him. So during the shutdown as Ferrari we had to reconsider our position. We took our decision — that is our responsibility — and we communicated to him.”
Binotto says he has noticed Vettel’s unhappiness at the situation now that the team is back racing in Austria, and understands his reaction.
“Yes certainly. I understand it — I think that it is pretty normal to be surprised. I think that while he accepted our decision even today I can say he is not fully happy with it, which I can say is something which is normal and obvious.”