Formula 1 silly season rumours heat up over Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari future
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel has reportedly been given two weeks to respond to Ferrari’s new contract offer amid the coronavirus crisis.
With the sport off the track for some time still to come, Vettel’s career at Ferrari has been a constant source of speculation on the driver’s market.
The Italian version of motorsport.com reported Vettel has until the end of April to make a decision, while Mercedes are putting pressure on Lewis Hamilton to renew.
It appears Hamilton is now out of the running despite having secret talks with Ferrari chairman John Elkann. It’s expected Hamilton could sign a $116 million-a-season three-year deal with Mercedes.
The coronavirus shutdown has thrown the F1 grid into confusion with only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Renault’s Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez the only drivers with confirmed seats in 2021.
Many of the drivers were set to come off contract with the new F1 technical regulations, which are aiming make the racing more entertaining and close, have been pushed to 2022 from 2021.
It means the 2021 season will follow the script of recent seasons and could have teams reluctant to move away from what they already have.
While it’s believed Vettel has a one-year contract extension on the table with a reduced salary according to Sky Sports Italia, it’s expected Vettel will fight for a multi-year extension to take the financial hit.
Alternatives to Vettel include Aussie Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz with both teams keen to hold on to their drivers.
Antonio Giovinazzi, who currently drives for Alfa Romeo Racing, is also the reserve driver for Ferrari and could be a chance for the seat.
Ricciardo is under contract with Renault until the end of the season with the team leaving the door open for a contract renewal.
He has also not closed the door on a return to Red Bull and said he can “certainly 100 per cent” return to the form that has made him one of the F1’s most sought-after stars.
“I actually haven’t really been asked that one,” Ricciardo said. “Would I ever rule out going to Red Bull? No … I think something I’ve learned growing up in life is never say never.
“Never completely disregard something – unless it’s going to prison or something. So never say never.”
Vettel, fresh off his worst positional finish since he joined Ferrari coming in fifth in the drivers championship, is under pressure with the prancing horse as the team chase its first win since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has also come out to butter up Vettel, telling F1.com earlier in the week “Seb is a genuine and straightforward person. He loves his job, loves really his job, and that’s one of the reasons why as well at Ferrari, we appreciate him so much.”
Vettel also told F1.com that there was a “high chance” of him returning to Ferrari in 2021 but he made sure to remind his employer his previous deals were three-year deals.
“It depends when we will have the first race,” Vettel said of a possible deal. “There is a high chance we will have to make a decision before there will be the first race because at the moment it looks like there will be no race before June or even July.
“The main priority at first was to ensure that we’re all dealing with the situation in the right way. Therefore, everything was put on hold and I can imagine that’s the same everywhere else and it was the same for us. It’s not like a couple of days after Australia we said ‘right now [we’ll talk]. We will make progress.”
Vettel said he was also talking with the team regarding a pay reduction for the season although preferred to keep details quiet.
Currently McLaren, Williams, Racing Point and Haas drivers have taken pay cuts with Australian and Monaco Grands Prix cancelled, while Bahrain, Vietnam, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish, Azerbaijan and Canadian Grands Prix have been postponed.
Vettel also said at 32-years-old, he still has some years left in the sport.
“Whatever the deal will be like, it will be whatever I and the team will be comfortable with,” he said. “So in terms of duration I don’t know. Normally the contracts I’ve had in the past were all three-year deals. I know I’m one of the more experienced drivers in Formula 1 but I’m not the oldest and I don’t think there’s an age limit in this regard.”