By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel will not return following the 2020 season, which has yet to officially start due to COVID-19.
This shocking announcement was confirmed Tuesday as neither parties were able to come into an agreement of extending his contract beyond this season.
Vettel issued a statement regarding the situation, saying that he’s come to terms that 2020 will be the final year representing the Prancing Horse.
“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,” said Vettel. “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.
“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. One needs to use one’s imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future.”
Since joining the team in 2015, Vettel has captured 14 victories in 102 grand prix starts, with back-to-back runner-up world championship finishes from 2017 and 2018 being his best effort.
However, green pastures were hard to come by last year as not only the German was constantly out beaten by his young 22-year-old teammate Charles Leclerc, who this offseason signed a five-year deal through 2024, Vettel scored his lone win at the Singapore Grand Prix along with nine podiums and a disappointing fifth place championship finish.
Leclerc commented that while they’ve been at odds towards one another in their only season together, the respect he has for Vettel remains.
“It’s been a huge honor for me to be your teammate,” Leclerc to Vettel via Twitter. “We’ve had some tense moments on tracks. Some very good ones and some others that didn’t end as we both wanted, but there was always respect, even though it wasn’t perceive this way from the outside.
“I’ve never learnt so much as I did with you as my teammate. Thank you for everything Seb.”
While 2020 will be it for Vettel at Ferrari, he remains thankful for his tenure and if the lights do go out for the tentative season opening Austrian Grand Prix July 5, he’ll continue to provide unforgettable moments for them.
“Scuderia Ferrari occupies a special place in Formula 1 and I hope it gets all the success it deserves,” said Vettel. “Finally, I want to thank the whole Ferrari family and above all its “tifosi” all around the world, for the support they have given me over the years. My immediate goal is to finish my long stint with Ferrari, in the hope of sharing some more beautiful moments together, to add to all those we have enjoyed so far.”
Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto said the decision of losing Vettel was tough as he’ll have to find a new driver after 2020. Not just a guy to fill the void Vettel will leave behind, but one that could stop a double drought that’s lasted over a decade with Ferrari’s last Constructor’s Championship taking place in 2008 and Kimi Raikkonen being the last driver to win World Driver’s Championship for the legendary Italian entity.
“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,” said Binotto.
“Sebastian is already part of the Scuderia’s history, with his 14 Grands Prix wins making him the third most successful driver for the team, while he is also the one who has scored the most points with us. In our five years together, he has finished in the top three of the Drivers’ Championship three times, making a significant contribution to the team’s constant presence in the top three of the Constructors’ classification.
“On behalf of everyone at Ferrari, I want to thank Sebastian for his great professionalism and the human qualities he has displayed over these five years, during which we shared so many great moments. We have not yet managed to win a world title together, which would be a fifth for him, but we believe that we can still get a lot out of this unusual 2020 season.”
Time will ultimately tell if Vettel can find a quality ride beyond 2020 or Tuesday’s announcement marks the beginning of the end as he’s currently sits third on the all-time wins list with 53 F1 victories, only trailing six-time and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton (84) and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher (91).