Ferrari decided not to extend Sebastian Vettel’s contract as a result of the pandemic and the changes it has prompted within Formula 1, according to team principal Mattia Binotto.Charles Leclerc for 2021. However Vettel’s departure was confirmed in May, and yesterday the four-times world champion revealed he had been surprised to receive a phone call from Binotto telling him they would not be renewing his contract.
Binotto explained how the onset of the pandemic led to the team’s change of mind.
“We always said during the winter time, privately to him and publicly, that he would have been our first choice, which I confirmed,” he said.
“It’s normal that during winter time many drivers have asked us if there were any opportunity to drive put for Ferrari. So we have certainly been contacted. But that didn’t change our position. So Seb was our first choice.
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“What happened since then? I think virus, the pandemic situation which changed the entire the world.”
The pandemic forced the postponement or cancellation of the first 10 races of the season. In reaction, F1 postponed its new technical rules by a year and imposed other development restrictions. It also cut its new budget cap for 2021, despite opposition from Ferrari, from $175 million to $145 million. The cap excludes some major costs such as driver salaries.
These changes forced Ferrari to reconsider their driver line-up for 2021, said Binotto.
“The budget cap has been changed by quite a lot, it’s a lot more strict. Regulations have been postponed from ’21 to ’22 which was something important for us. Cars have been almost frozen for 2020 and 2021.
“So let’s say that the entire situation has changed. And on top of that I think that even the season has not started. So there have been no opportunity even for Seb being back on track to prove how much he was really motivated somehow to drive for Ferrari, which has been somehow unfortunate for him.
“So during the shutdown, as Ferrari, we had to consider eventually our position. We took a decision, so certainly that was our decision, that is our responsibility. And we communicated to him.”
Binotto agreed Vettel was taken aback by the team’s change of mind. “Do I remember that he was surprised? I would say yes, certainly.
“I think that I understand it, it’s pretty, let me say, normal to be surprised. I think that while he accepted our decision, I think that even still today he’s not fully happy with it, which is again, I think something which is normal and obvious.”
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