A recurring internet rumour off the back of the events of the 2019 season, Scuderia Ferrari has now confirmed that Sebastian Vettel will not be adorning the Rosso Corsa Red race suit after the 2020 season.
Vettel’s current contract with Ferrari is due to expire at the end of 2020. Since all sporting events have been indefinitely postponed due to the global pandemic, there hasn’t been any F1 action from the German driver. Their relationship seemed strained after Vettel’s poor performance and regular clashes with new teammate Charles Leclerc in 2019. Seb has also had a long dry spell with Ferrari since he joined the team in 2015 after four world titles with Red Bull Racing. In his time driving the red F1 car, he’s only had 14 race wins and a total of 54 podiums. During this time, Mercedes has dominated the sport and we have witnessed the arrival of Max Verstappen who has since taken the scene by storm.
The four-time F1 World Champion mentioned in his official statement that “The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season.” Seb clarified that it was not a matter of money and that the recent events have led him to reflect on his life priorities. The official release also included a statement from Team Principal Mattia Binotto which mentioned, “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.”
Two big questions arise from this announcement: Will this be the last we’ll see of Vettel on the F1 grid? Who will take his seat at Scuderia Ferrari in 2021?
In regards to the first question, many assume Seb will be announcing his retirement from the sport towards the end of 2020 and he may move onto other motorsports. If that does happen, it’ll be a sad day indeed and he will be sorely missed for his competitive spirit on the track and blunt humour in the paddock. On the flip side, Vettel may find a seat in a team whose driver takes his place in the red seat.
The second question is much more fun to speculate on with lots of interesting possibilities. The front runners for this prized opportunity are said to be Carlos Sainz from McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo from Renault. One has been grinding it out in F1 over the past few years, helped McLaren achieve a big result at the end of 2019 and is yet to peak in terms of racing ability. The other is the flashy, energetic and refreshingly fun character who had been the one to oust Vettel from Red Bull. He switched to Renault in hopes to get away from Verstappen and compete with him on fair terms. The Aussie has a lot of racing skill and talent just begging to showcase itself in a competitive car. He is also nearing the age where he needs to make a big move for his F1 career and this could be a great opportunity for him as well as Ferrari. In exchange, Vettel could drive for either McLaren or Renault in 2021.
Many speculators also expect Valtteri Bottas to throw his name in for consideration. The Finn has proven his worth on the track as a fast driver and a team player in the three seasons with Mercedes so far. It would also open the opportunity for Vettel to get a season in the Silver Arrow.
Now let’s look at the less likely candidates. First up and a fan-fiction favourite would be to see Lewis Hamilton join the Maranello team. The reigning champion’s contract is also due to expire at the end of 2020 and while he may risk his chance of winning his 8th world title (assuming there’s a 2020 season that he wins with Mercedes as usual), he would be able to cross it off his F1 to-do list. There is nothing to substantiate this possibility as of now, but you never know…
Other surprise Ferrari drivers could be Nico Hulkenberg who is currently without a seat in F1 and could make the comeback of dreams to earn his first podium and or win. Former Ferrari third seat, Daniil Kvyat put in a good performance as he returned to the grid in 2019 with Toro Rosso and could also be called up for the job to play support for Leclerc. There is also the matter of Alfa Romeo Sauber driver Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian completed his first full season in 2019 but failed to impress. He could prove to be a reliable seat filler for 2021 while Ferrari weighs up other options.
There’s also a wildcard option on the table for Scuderia Ferrari F1 by the name of Mick Schumacher. After an underwhelming debut season in F2, it doesn’t make sense to bring the young racer up to the big leagues without bringing him via the Sauber route. However, Ferrari may decide to switch strategies altogether and opt for a very young driver lineup in Mick Schumacher partnering current lead driver Charles Leclerc. Ideally, Ferrari should leave Mick out of the top-end until he has settled into the scene or the immense expectations from his surname could be counterproductive to both driver and team.
The biggest twist would be for Ferrari to follow up on its threat to quit F1 altogether considering they don’t approve of the new budget caps, which have been sliced even further due to current circumstances.
Who do you think will replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari in 2021? Where do you think Vettel might race next? Share your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to The Auto Loons for more cool updates from the car world.