Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

“High chance” Vettel will decide on new Ferrari contract before first race

2020 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel has admitted the delay to the start of the 2020 F1 season means he will probably have to decide on his future with Ferrari before racing their new car.

The four-time world champion’s current contract to drive for the team expires at the end of this year. He previously indicated he would wait until after the first races of the new season to begin talks over a potential extension.

But the disruption caused by the pandemic means he will now have to decide whether to commit to the team again without having evaluated their latest car against the competition in a race.

“I don’t think there’s a real timeline,” he said when asked about his contract negotiations in a media conference yesterday. Vettel admitted he will have to “remain patient” and be prepared to make his decision before racing begins.

“Looking at myself it obviously depends when we will have the first race,” he said. “There’s a high chance that 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. So I think we are all waiting.

“But the main priority at first was to ensure that we’re dealing, all of us, in the right way with the situation. And therefore everything was put on hold. And I can imagine that’s probably the same everywhere else.”

Vettel joined the team in 2015. Team mate Charles Leclerc signed a new long-term deal with Ferrari following his first season with them last year.

Vettel says he isn’t sure how long he wants to commit to the team for beyond the end of this season, which will be his 13th full year of competition in F1.

“Whatever the deal will be like, I think 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, I think a three-year deal.

“I know that I am one of the more experienced drivers in Formula 1 but I’m not the oldest and I don’t think that there’s an age limit in this regard. So I think, as I said, it will be dependent on what we feel comfortable with.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
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38 comments on ““High chance” Vettel will decide on new Ferrari contract before first race”

  1. There’s a high chance that we will have to make a decision before there will be the first race…

    It will be interesting to see who gets the seat.

  2. Obvious. He has to decide on his future before the next F1 race, in March 2021.

    1. But I think they should completely moved this season to next year. Freeze all contracts, calendar, regulations etc.

      1. Contracts you cannot Freeze a contract is what on the contract says and nothing more or less.

        1. Yeah, but if both parties agree anything can be changed.

        2. Not a problem at all.

      2. You tell the drivers and factory staff that they won’t get paid this year.
        There might be a few objections, @regs.

      3. Not quite that simple.

      4. Didn’t say anything about it. I said freeze contracts, regulations etc.

        Though drivers and top managers wouldn’t starve to death if not paid this year in favor of regular staffers.

  3. Unless Merc are interested [not] what’s to decide? It’s all in the hands of Elkann and I believe they want Seb for one More year then it’s Alfa to take over from Kimi.

  4. But is it Vettel’s or Ferrari’s decision?

    If it’s Vettel’s, that means he’s already been offered a significant pay cut and a “supporting” or “equal terms” role. Ferrari wants him to stay for one extra year (now probably two) and the ball is in his court now.

    And Ferrari wants an answer soon, even before season starts.

  5. I expect that Vettel will sign a two year contract as that will see him driving Ferrari up until the new car kicks in. I had hoped to hear that Ricciardo was under consideration but nothing i have seen or heard would indicate that being a possibility. A pity because i think that Ricciardo is faster and would be a serious contender together with Leclerc. They would be the best pairing on the grid.

    1. If he signs a two year contract, he’ll drive the new car for at least 1 year.

        1. The contract will be for 2021 and 2022, so yes.

  6. Very odd.

    Performs badly over and over and looks like it his decision if he wants to continue. When did F1 teams become run bean counters not racers. A racer would be looking to cut this guy loose and get in someone who might challenge.

    Remember when Williams re-hired Nigel… it wasn’t out of love, they couldn’t stand him but it was what they needed to win. If Ferrari want to win they need to take some risks. Charles is very very good but he isn’t yet at a level to challenge for a title and Seb is miles away.

    Take a risk and hire Fernando on a short contract and deal with the consequences later if it upsets another driver. As it stands they can’t win with what they have so its worth a go

    1. If it is alonso you are referring to: they tried that and he failed. They are just getting out of that mess at the moment. If anything, thay can use the stability right now

      1. Utter nonsense…. They challenged for titles with him with far worse cars. He may be over the hill now but if he is a patch on what he was when he left he would be better than re-hiring Seb.

        With your logic they will still be saying we need stability in 2030. This is F1 get on with it. The first thing they need to change is get a proper manager. The guy that is doing it now is a designer & engineer, brilliant but he isn’t a manager or a proper cut throat racer. They are trying to win races and titles not have a cuddly fun time.

        Either throw your eggs fully behind Charles which means losing Seb and hiring a number 2. Or hire Alonso for a year and go for a title then get behind Charles once he has the tools to do it.

        Either way Seb has to go. He can still be a threat in F1 if he has a team built round him a atmosphere that means he doesn’t fall apart under pressure. Nothing wrong with that at all but he won’t get it at Ferrari.

        1. You said the first thing they need to do is get better management. So why not do that first? Better than hiring a short term driver who might not even want to join them for maybeshort term success.

          You really think behind the scenes, Ferrari are having cuddle times?! It’s more like the exact opposite. Everyone in that team are on a knife edge and brick themselves under pressure

          And you think Alonso will be happy taking team orders when he only has a years contract with little to no consequences?

          Dream on.

          1. I meant sign Alonso and go with a title with him clearly.

            Charles is a long way from fighting for a title against someone like Lewis. He is good for his experience but has plenty to learn and isn’t consistent enough, again understandable but Ferrari need a lead driver as much as a lead manager.

            From what we see Ferrari are no longer cut throat, it is a balance isn’t it? One they have got wrong again. If they were cut throat Seb would be long gone not the one deciding his own future…. You need to be a team but not a team that is a walk over. Difficult decisions need to be made but made as team. None of those things happen at Ferrari.

            Their current boss will be backed like crazy and stretched super thin then they will just sack him and it won’t be his fault. Rather than saying ok he is great but we need him working elsewhere so he can work to his strengths as an engineer and designer. History is littered with Ferrari doing that. They stupidly lost Ross and Chris D for the same reason.

        2. I love how people downplay some drivers only to come up with the most predictable folklorical argument there is: Super Nandito saving the day!

          Except that Alonso only achieved success when he had a shark at his corner. The moment a shark got neutral, he melted down. Then, he never had a shark to work with again. His results? Defeat after defeat, crisis after crisis until a pale retirement. What makes people think he’ll be always coming back to dazzle the world I don’t understand. He’ll most likely pull a Schumacher/2010.

          Get a grip, since 2007 no team need no Alonso to win.

          1. @niefer I think a lot of people will be confused by what “he had a shark at his corner” is supposed to be – what on earth is that expression meant to mean?

          2. @anon – The sharks are Briatore and Dennis, meaning that without a killer at the game covering his back, he’s no big shot. His subsequent bosses weren’t powerful nor collected compared to the formers. However, all of them patted him well on the back, yet he remained constantly defeated by the upcoming generation.

          3. @niefer the thing is, I would not be surprised if, in the future, Alonso’s performances at Ferrari are actually looked upon in a more favourable light because of the criticism of Vettel’s performance in more recent years.

            Whether it is right or not to do so, I think that people will increasingly look back at that period and believe that Vettel only won because he had a car advantage – some have dismissed him as a “Newey champion”, in the sense that it was Newey’s genius, and not his own, that gave him that success.

            In that sense, as Vettel’s star falls, so Alonso’s star may rise as people see him as achieving beyond expectations against a driver that is, rightly or wrongly, perceived to be a much weaker driver than he was. The perception won’t be that he was “constantly defeated by the upcoming generation”, but that he was constantly defeated by Adrian Newey – I imagine it is a viewpoint you will disagree with, but it is one that some do seem to be adopting and one that does seem to have become more prevalent.

          4. I think a lot of people will be confused by what “he had a shark at his corner” is supposed to be

            It’s when a weird weather event causes a major storm and all sharks from the oceans fly through the air and eat everything crossing their path. It also floods the city and sharks will be everywhere, in every corner.
            You should know your classics, anon.

            I guess @niefer is having a try at developing his own disaster comedy science-fiction screenplay ;)

          5. @anon – What bothers me are the double-standands of those people: Alonso is king because Vettel lost; but Sainz and Norris aren’t better for McLaren than Alonso, because everything just turned on for the better out of the blue. Sigh…

            I would not be surprised if, in the future, Alonso’s performances at Ferrari are actually looked upon in a more favourable light because of the criticism of Vettel’s performance in more recent years.

            I have no doubt of it. His whole career is permeated by exaggerations that stuck. Vettel’s crime was to rack up WDCs when the mainstream media/fanbase wanted Alonso or Hamilton to do so. Nothing new, really. That same mischievous mistreatment afflicted Schumacher, Piquet Sr., Prost, N. Rosberg, and others.

            My bad with my bad writing, @coldfly. Gotta say you underestimate sharks, though. It took just one from Enstone to cause a poopstorm over F1 once. 😂

          6. @niefer with regards to the comment about “That same mischievous mistreatment afflicted Schumacher, Piquet Sr., Prost, N. Rosberg, and others.”, in the case of Piquet Sr, isn’t that in many ways more reflective of the fact that most thought the accusation that “without a killer at the game covering his back, he’s no big shot” applies strongly to him?

            Ricardo Zunino and Héctor Rebaque, for example, were deliberately picked because they wouldn’t even remotely threaten Piquet Sr – in the case of Rebaque, for example, in a season where Piquet Sr only once failed to qualify in the top six in the 1981 season, Rebaque only managed to get into the top six twice that season and even managed to once fail to qualify with what was considered to be one of the best cars on the grid.

            Equally, his title in 1983 was won with a car that Bernie Ecclestone has openly bragged about as being blatantly illegal – indeed, the FIA knew that was the case as they themselves caught Brabham breaching the rules. In 1983, there were at least two occasions – in Brands Hatch and in Monza – where Brabham were caught using an illegal fuel (the RON value being 102.9 when the RON limit was 102.0), but the governing body bent their own rules to allow the results to stand (claiming that the results were “within the allowed margins” for fuel RON rating, but only for the last few races of the 1983 season).

            If your own ex-team boss is bragging about how they got away with a blatantly illegal car, you can see why some might hold the results that he got with said car in rather low regard and that his achievements are tainted as a result.

          7. in the case of Piquet Sr, isn’t that in many ways more reflective of the fact that most thought the accusation that “without a killer at the game covering his back, he’s no big shot” applies strongly to him?

            Not at all, anon: he ended up champion in a topclass, having won a straight-fight against the team’s favorite despite limping all season after Tamburello at Round 2!
            He prevailed and did not go back to Bernie. He left to seek pastures new at Lotus whereas Alonso failed, broke his contract and ran back to papa Briatore.
            Even so, I find both decisions as rough blunders though: had both stayed, I believe Nelson would be champion again, at the very least in 1989, in the light of the Woking War. Also Fernando could very well beat Lewis, not sure about the WDC though, as Massa was really strong as someone unrelated to the Second Woking War.

            were deliberately picked because they wouldn’t even remotely threaten Piquet

            Nothing new regarding the champs among the eras. Senna undermined and buried Warwick; Alonso had Nelsinho to crash for him to win; Fangio had teammates sacked from their cars so that he could avoid a retirement and rack up some points.

            Ricardo Zunino and Héctor Rebaque, for example, were deliberately picked because they wouldn’t even remotely threaten Piquet Sr – in the case of Rebaque, for example, in a season where Piquet Sr only once failed to qualify in the top six in the 1981 season, Rebaque only managed to get into the top six twice that season and even managed to once fail to qualify with what was considered to be one of the best cars on the grid.

            Similarly, that kind of reasoning implicates several others, as Lewis with Heikki, for instance. Oh, and Trulli got sacked so Alonso could reign without any concern over a docile Fisichella.

            Equally, his title in 1983 was won with a car that Bernie Ecclestone has openly bragged about as being blatantly illegal – indeed, the FIA knew that was the case as they themselves caught Brabham breaching the rules. In 1983, there were at least two occasions – in Brands Hatch and in Monza – where Brabham were caught using an illegal fuel (the RON value being 102.9 when the RON limit was 102.0), but the governing body bent their own rules to allow the results to stand (claiming that the results were “within the allowed margins” for fuel RON rating, but only for the last few races of the 1983 season).

            Once I didn’t follow 1983 Season, I’d never heard about that before. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any source to catch up. Would you mind giving me the right coordinates or something? I’d like to delve into this. Those times seem blurred regarding info since 1990s came along. Nevertheless, if FIA ruled it as legal, I don’t see why it depose against Piquet’s abilities, mainly if we consider Brabham was only 3rd in the WCC. Also, amongst what I could find about that season was Prost stating Piquet was the better, without a single complaint about BT52B. Worth mentioning, those were strange times regarding rules: Jones deliberately shoved title rival Piquet into the wall in Canada-1980 and got out with the WDC in the bag instead of a DSQ by unsportive conduct as Schumacher got in 1997.

            If your own ex-team boss is bragging about how they got away with a blatantly illegal car, you can see why some might hold the results that he got with said car in rather low regard and that his achievements are tainted as a result.

            I don’t recall any grievances towards Nelson about his time at Brabham. Au contraire. Back in the day, Piquet was considered the best driver, even by Prost himself (early 1986, IIRC). His low regard can be credited more on his behavior out of the car than inside and, of course, on his poor pace following his crash (not in line with his marginal better pace in 1986).

            I’m not sure what most of this has to do with Alonso, apart from this: unlike Piquet, Alonso can’t do any wrong in the eyes of the mainstream media/fanbase, and that’s disgracefully misleading towards the scrutinity of great drivers who shared the grid with him.

          8. @niefer with regards to the illegal fuel usage by Brabham, you can refer to Terry Lovell and his biography of Bernie Ecclestone.

            To quote: “There have not been many events in Bernie Ecclestone’s life that have not been tainted by controversy. And it was so when Brabham lead driver Nelson Piquet won his second World Championship title in 1983, and the team came third in the Constructors’ Championship. Piquet’s success had been achieved, it was later alleged, by the use of illegal fuel, most effectively at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, which he won with octane levels of 102.8 RON and 102.9 RON respectively, well over the legal limit of 102 RON. It was also alleged that Piquet’s fuel had been 0.5 RON over the legal limit at the British Grand Prix, where he came second, and 0.8 at the German Grand Prix, where an engine fire caused his retirement.”

            That makes at least two instances where the RON value was definitely measured as being above 102, and two further cases where the fuel was strongly suspected of being over that value. That book later notes that, after both Renault and Ferrari pressed Balestre to “clarify” the fuel regulations, Balestre later announced that fuel RON values would not be permitted to breach a RON value of 102, reversing his earlier announcement that a tolerance of 0.9 in the RON value was permissible.

            He also quotes an unnamed FISA official stating that a report into Brabham’s fuel composition in 1983 was deliberately suppressed by FISA because the unavoidable conclusion from that was that Brabham would have to be disqualified from the championship for illegal fuel usage.

          9. Thanks, anon!

        3. Ferrari had a worst car during Alonso years? Umm maybe… Redbull didn’t have Mercedes advantage so a crappy Ferrari had better chances to win races than a good Ferrari Vs Mercedes.. umm yes

      2. Indeed, what the hell is that, alonso failed? Vettel failed more like, considering the 2017 and 2018 cars were pretty competitive, if you don’t give a driver a car to challenge for the title, you can’t blame the driver, on the contrary, alonso overperformed, just like schumacher in 1996. Give alonso the 2017 and 2018 ferrari and he likely wins both titles.

  7. But the disruption caused by the pandemic means he will now have to decide whether to commit to the team again without having evaluated their latest car against the competition in a race.

    I’m not sure why that would matter, though?

    In an alternate timeline unaffected by the corona virus, even if he had evaluated the 2020 car when the 2020 season had gone ahead from March onwards, what insight would that give him into the state of the 2021 car? That’s a huge reset in terms of aero and chassis. The only glimmer of knowledge he’d have had is whether the 2020 PU was badly neutered by the FIA’s second sensor, or if it was only mildly inconvenienced.

    He’s had four seasons to see hands-on how Ferrari performed in terms of year-on-year and in-year car development, so that should help guide his decision. And the argument can similarly be made about Vettel himself, when Ferrari consider extending an offer of a contract to him.

    1. Good points, @phylyp.

      And Seb has 18 months to 2 years to decide before the next F1 race, so no pressure… other than getting beaten every weekend by Charles playing arcade games.

    2. The only glimmer of knowledge he’d have had is whether the 2020 PU was badly neutered by the FIA’s second sensor, or if it was only mildly inconvenienced.

      Good observation/analysis, @phylyp.

  8. IMO it’s a really bad timing for VET. This season was meant for him to properly measure up against LEC and see if it’s still worth wearing red. Now, it’ll be a really long shot.

  9. Plan A for Ferrari would be to retain Vettel for 2 years at <20 million a year

    Plan B would be Ricciardo

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