Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Pandemic prompted Ferrari’s decision to drop Vettel, says Binotto

2020 F1 season

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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.

In February Binotto said Vettel was the team’s “first choice” to remain alongside 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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Mattia Binotto, Sebastian Vettel, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Binotto gave Vettel his backing during pre-season testing
“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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54 comments on “Pandemic prompted Ferrari’s decision to drop Vettel, says Binotto”

  1. If it’s the pandemic and the money issues he could’ve defiantly negotiated the salary with Vettel, not completely drop him… Binotto just being nice here and doesn’t want to put down Vettel more

    1. I don’t understand how they treated him badly? They have given just as much notice as other teams do when they change drivers and as a bonus, they made Seb look as if he wasn’t crazy about signing, which leaves it looking as if they would have wanted him provided the right terms. That makes him more desirable for the market than being straight out fired.

      I think Ferrari (besides Todt/Brawn reign) has always been mismanaged or rife with bad decisions, but I don’t understand how they’ve been bad here. If they did not want to resign him, you can’t say they’ve treated him badly. People’s problem seems to be with the fact that they acted like they offered him a chance to come back and they couldn’t reach an agreement and then Vettel said it didn’t happen like that. That’s not treating him badly. That’s him simply setting the record straight on how things happened. Now, I think Seb wants people to be angry at Ferrari for not wanting him.

    2. Probably Camilieri’s call.

  2. James Norris
    3rd July 2020, 14:24

    This is a thinly veiled excuse. Seb may have show weakness recently but he still deserves transparency. Maybe they’re trying to preserve his feelings? Either way this makes Mattia seem like a bit of a snake…

    1. Andre Furtado
      3rd July 2020, 16:38

      + 10. But Ferrari is not knowing for treating drivers well.

  3. What random reason..

    He is next to go..

  4. None of that makes any sense.

  5. It sounds to me like Ferrari definitely had reservations all along about extending Seb’s contract. Then they probably thought, do we just want to maintain the status quo for this year and one more year, and then see how things work out with the new regulations? Or shall we take the plunge now and go for somebody younger so that they can bed-in before the new regulations start.

    It does make a certain amount of sense and Seb probably really only has himself to blame. His performances have been below the standard one would expect of a former WDC and he was beaten by his quite inexperienced team mate.

    I like Seb as he has matured and I still think he has been fairly poorly treated by Ferrari. They should have been more honest with him at an earlier stage. They may have been considering making him a much lower salary offer to stay with the team but of course this could easily have backfired. What if he had said yes?

    1. @phil-f1-21 Well yes Seb hasn’t been in his level for a couple of years now. I still think there is more to this than just the pandemic. I’m not sure when they decided to drop him but it seems that Vettel didn’t like how he was told about the situation.

      I’m have never been a Vettel fan but I still think he deserves a seat at the grid. Both Vettel and Ferrari had many chances to win the championships but they both failed.

      In normal circumstances this would not have happend but I’m sure there is something else behind this than just the pandemic. Because how Vettel reacted to all this.

    2. Well said @phil-f1-21, that seems like a reasonable view on how it went down.

  6. So what was it exactly about the corona pandemic that Ferrari changed their mind? Yes the whole world has changed since then, but what was it specifically? The budget cap? Driver salaries are excluded so that doesn’t make sense… The regulations being postponed? Wouldn’t you want the same driver that knows the general character of the car en know the people already?

    My guess is that Ferrari made an absolute dog of a car and realised it when testing began. They’ve written of this year and because of the postponed regulations they’ve written of 2021 as well already. So then it makes more sense to get another driver in 2021 to get familiar with the teams and operations and get rid of the toxic environment between Vettel and Ferrari/Leclerc. Which is fine and Ferrari is entitled to do so, but don’t use other reasons as excuses.

    Having been a lifelong Ferrari-fan to me Ferrari-management and the way they handle things is disappointing…

    1. @mcbosch yeah this was a complete word salad from Binotto where he never actually answered the question – just stated that many things changed due to the pandemic and that they had to make a decision… But you’re interpretation makes as much sense as anything – if they are writing off both this season and possibly next as being unlikely to deliver championships, then there is no need to pay Vettel whatever salary he is on when they could get someone a good bit cheaper, and without necessarily having The rivalry issues that Vettel and Leclerc had.

      Of course, they could have tried to negotiate the salary side but I think drivers (or anyone really) don’t tend to respond well to pay cuts and it’s likely he wouldn’t have agreed to a significant pay cut. And maybe in the end the management issues were considered more of a threat to team unity so they decided not to even go through with salary negotiations.

  7. The drivers look like failed Mortal Kombat cosplayers in those face masks. Don’t wear masks people, you’re not a dog to be muzzled. Covid is now an exercise in public degradation.

    1. I’ll trust you, some person who probably read a blog on how “masks are dangerous” even though medical professionals have worn them forever, instead of taking in reason and science and wearing it to protect other people. I’m sure the whole world is in on this because they want to degrade the public… Don’t be selfish and wear that thin piece of cloth over your face. If you can’t breathe, you’re wearing it too tightly haha

    2. tony mansell
      3rd July 2020, 15:13

      Ignor ant comment of the day. Well done flat earther. You win NOTHING AT ALL

    3. Get an education Bobby you’re an embarrassment to yourself.

      1. Hey Bobby, is that you Donald?

    4. @f1bobby yes, damn these people in masks, how dare they try and protect themselves and others.
      In all seriousness do you think that 500,000+ deaths is fake news or something?
      What an absolutely bizzare thing you posted, even in countries where its “under control” and lockdown is lifted the cases are rising. Masks and distancing is the best thing to stop us having to spend all our time at home again. I know which choice I prefer.

      1. Oh dear, triggered because opinion. What other things can you be compelled to do? It really is as simple as do as your told for some of you isn’t it?

        1. @f1bobby Yes, sometimes we do need to do what we are told. Wearing a mask does nothing other than help minimise the risk of spreading infection. I’m sorry if they look silly or are uncomfortable, but it’s a very basic courtesy for every other living person. It’s not a question of questioning authority, it’s a matter of empathy and basic conscientiousness. I work in a small neuro-rehab hospital, and have seen the virus first hand. Please don’t use words like ‘triggered’, it’s not helpful.

        2. It really is as simple as do as your told for some of you isn’t it?

          It seems that most people who wear a facemask do it because they use their common sense and want to protect people they interact with.

          On the other hand, there still seem to be people like @f1bobby who rather than using common sense believe in conspiracy theories and congregate without protection to burn down 5G antennas to protect the flat earth.

          1. That’s a lot of assumptions. Enjoy the race on Sunday everyone!

          2. @f1bobby
            The evidence is out there everywhere that masks are beneficial in not spreading the virus to others. Especially important if you are young and asymptomatic but still a carrier.
            It’s just common sense now backed by pretty much all the scientific community.
            Disappointing to read your opinion, but please point me to some scientific evidence not to wear one and I’ll consider it.

        3. Um yes…. I did what the government said. I’m English but I live in France. In France we went from 800-900 deaths per day to around 20 to 30 per day. Meanwhile, the US and UK and Brazil are still in a mess. I actually choose to wear a mask. At my kids school other parents are becoming relaxed. 1m is now 50cm, 100 people at a time. I’m one of 3 with a mask but I still don’t care. It’s my duty as someone who actually cares about other people.

    5. It’s rather amazing to see so many people fiercely attack Bobby. For the first months of the crisis, the WHO and most national health organisations said that masks for citizens were a bad idea.

      So then it’s not fair to go after Bobby so strongly, unless one also criticizes the WHO and most national health organisations, for the past behavior.

      1. At least the WHO explained why their recommendations changed/evolved* and never likened people who disagree to dogs.

        * happy to explain if you’re truly interested. But most importantly back then and right now just use your common sense.

      2. @aapje what the WHO was saying at the time was not quite “masks for citizens were a bad idea”, and it is also worth noting that their position on the use of masks now is also not quite the same either.

        What the WHO said to begin with is that there was initially no clear evidence that the use of masks by the general public was particularly beneficial if people relied solely on using masks.

        The concern was that it might even be a counterproductive measure if people just relied solely on masks, meaning that they ignored other hygiene measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission (e.g. not avoiding close physical contact with others).

        Furthermore, there was the risk that using masks on a large scale, particularly if people then started trying to get hold of medical grade masks, would result in people at risk of high exposure or in critical sectors (e.g. medical practitioners) being denied critical medical equipment.

        The WHO is still reiterating the above points, because their concerns about the risks of people becoming complacent and ignoring other measures remains valid, as do concerns that a rush of demand for medical grade products could cause supply problems.

        Furthermore, even with additional studies, what they are noting is that there is still not conclusive evidence that getting the wider public to wear masks is that much more beneficial if people are already following the other recommended measures – because, if you are in a situation where a mask might offer some protection, that suggests you are at risk of other modes of transmission against which masks would be ineffective (e.g. handling something which is contaminated and then proceeding to wipe your eyes).

        They also note that the evidence that the widespread adoption of masks by the wider public is of any benefit is still rather weak, but that the use of masks might be of some benefit in situations where other measures could not be adopted or for specific circumstances (e.g. for particularly vulnerable individuals who might be in a space where they cannot maintain adequate social distancing). On that basis, they have given advice to national authorities on how, if they insist on the adoption of masks, the best advice those national authorities can then give to their citizens to ensure that those masks are used correctly.

        When you look at it, the WHO advice is more subtle than often represented and, in some ways, hasn’t really shifted that much. They’re still saying that masks really shouldn’t be relied upon as the only defence and are of limited benefit for the wider public, but what they are now saying is that, as there are some situations where it might be the only option, or where particular circumstances might mean it has a specific use, then there are situations where national governments can suggest the use of masks as a supplementary measure.

        1. WHO has been deliberately dishonest with the public, according to what you have said. To protect supplies of masks for frontline health staff. They also recommended leaving borders open…

          WHO have messed this up badly. But media just want to blame trump.

          1. William Jones
            4th July 2020, 4:29

            They’ve not, they just buried the important information deep inside the technical documentation they produce, because they produce information for high level scientists, not to directly instruct the public/ For example, on the mask issue, the document in my language translates to:

            “We do not recommend that the general public adopt widespread mask wearing in countries that do not already wear masks regularly. (Some stuff about which countries do and don’t wear masks regularly). Without a robust supply chain already in place, if the public do adopt widespread wearing of masks, then the gains made by halting the spread of the virus will be undone by (Reference to a different document where they calculate the spread rate in hospitals) staff who do not have adequate PPE. Governance would be advised to not encourage the adoption of masks until their health service has it’s supply secured. Once this is in place then a governance can enjoy the added benefit of the public wearing the masks.

            Hardly a lie, just you are not equipped to read documents at this level, saw some media hot take on the subject and decided that this was the truth.

          2. Thanks for the info William. Though it is clear you are one not equipped to read WHO information. The WHO recommended against the use of masks to protect mask supply.

  8. 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

    Weird (and even nasty IMO) comment by Binotto.

    1. His English isn’t great. That “somehow” overuse is a direct but slightly shaky translation of “in qualche modo” which is literally “in some way” but doesn’t necessarily have the same slightly clueless and/or negative vibe that “somehow” does in that context.

      Playing devil’s advocate I’m guessing Binotto was actually trying to be kind and say that Seb was merely unfortunate to not be able to show how motivated he was, but lacked the vocab to put it across properly.

      This aside, does anyone really still think Seb didn’t get a fair go at it? Even multiple WDCs only earn you so many patchy seasons/outbursts’ worth of patience.

  9. Mattia isn’t even trying to make sense here.

  10. Pandemic prompted Ferrari’s decision to drop Vettel, says Binotto

    Absolute rubbish!

    1. Ferrari haven’t changed at all. Pretty poor way they have treated Vettel.

  11. Piotr (@piotrzukowski)
    3rd July 2020, 15:48

    My interpretation is that Ferrari do not want to change the driver at the same time that the technical regulations change, to have stable feedback from both the drivers on the new car. So the initial idea was to keep Vettel for another year (although else they would have dumped him already) just for that reason. With the new regulations postponed to 2022, they needed a new driver for 2021 to again have the driver stability when the rules change between 2021 and 2022. And they were not ready or willing to offer Vettel another 2 years, so he had to go.

    1. + 1 Similar to what I suggested.

    2. That is probably the mose sense one can make from their reasoning @piotrzukowski Also, saving a bit of money now on a lower salary would count in these times. And maybe the fact that they are now stuck with a lacklustre chassis for 2 seasons – meaning they don’t see much chance to win a lot – diminishes the need to have a champion and race winner as the second driver, since there won’t be opportunity to cash in on that anyway?

  12. Making gibberish excuses when got caught doing something to be ashamed of.

    1. Ashamed about what exactly? Flushing 40 million dollars down the toilet for an underperforming driver? The contact expires at the end of the year and they simply decided non to renew It. Nothing to be ashamed for…Seems like everything Ferrari does they are at fault, well in this specific case they are not.

  13. This sounds like heat haze.
    Plenty to see but nothing to hold on to.

    I thought he was going to say the virus wiped all their memory and they though it was year 2050 and Vettel was 53 so no need to renew.

  14. What happened since then? I think virus

    So let’s say that the entire situation has changed.

    He “thinks” ? “Let’s say” ? Is it a team principle speaking or some random pundit ? I am speechless with regards to this explanation given. If it was a financial issue, they should have at least made an offer with a lower salary. But considering that there was apparently no discussions at all, it’s hard to believe that this was the real reason behind there decision.

    And saying that there was “no opportunity for Seb being back on track to prove how much he was really motivated somehow to drive for Ferrari” is just adding insult to injury. Is that some way to say that they were not satisfied with Vettel’s driving level ?

    I’m far from being a Vettel fan, but Ferrari’s attitude is dishonest and despicable.

  15. Neil (@neilosjames)
    3rd July 2020, 16:06

    Yeah, OK. And the beauty of cherry blossom prompted my decision to cut the grass.

  16. I’m pretty sure English is not Binotto’s native language and hence there maybe some elements of poor translation in the answer. I think the main takeaway is they looked at the sweeping changes happening due to Covid 19 and made the decision to move another direction with their driver strategy.

    When it comes to discussing your driver strategy from the ground up you have to start weighing up the pros and cons of drivers. It would appear as part of that process that the scales didn’t favour Vettel this time and hence why they made the decision. I think this statement is just Binotto showing some respect to Vettel by saying their futures just don’t align anymore and that Vettel being upset is perfectly acceptable and understandable.

    We can of course all discuss what we think the pros and cons are for us but I think given the change from last year to this, the following items changed the balance:

    Charles performed at a similar level for a fraction of the cost
    There were occasions of ignoring team orders last year
    Didn’t race with enough respect and safety margin against the other Ferrari car
    Seems to be becoming more error prone
    The rules overhaul will happen one year later
    Sainz had a cracking year and was available on the market at likely a significant cut in salary compared to Vettel

    I think Vettel is justified to be unhappy but if you run your contract down into the last year you will eventually not get signed again in the business. Let that be a warning to Lewis that he might not be considered irreplaceable to Mercedes. I hope Vettel turns that anger into motivation to really outshine LeClerc this year. A motivated Vettel at his best is great to watch, just thinking about some of the inspired drives in 2015.

  17. Not a Vettel fan by any stretch, but gotta ask the question that should’ve been asked long ago but hasn’t : Is Seb’s replacement really better than him? Seb vs Carlos ? I mean, come on. Seb is almost certainly better.

    Ferrari’s decision makes absolutely no sense. Except if they wanted to increase profits a bit by signing cheaper driver.

    1. @shrieker I think “better” is difficult to quantify. There’s a lot of elements.

      Seb climbed to lofty heights and achieved great things. Could he still? I hope so. I’d love to see him answer his critics this season. But going on his career performance so far he’s peaked and is on a downward trend. Carlos, on the other hand, is young and improving rapidly. “Better” for the future, I’d bet on Sainz. But I recognise it’s a gamble. He might s*$# the bed this year and crumble under pressure at Maranello. Vettel might win the title this year and get his job back at RB.

      Regardless, Sainz outperformed Seb in most people’s driver rankings last year. He did in mine. So even if we keep it simple, on the most recent data, yes, he’s better.

      1. Vettel might win the title this year? I don’t see how anyone has any chance but hamilton and mercedes, ferrari doesn’t even seem the 3rd force.

  18. The explanation doesn’t really make any sense, I think they just didn’t have the guts to tell Seb to his face ‘You’re not a top driver any more, there are better and cheaper options out there, and ones that are less likely to cause unnecessary crashes with their team mate’.

  19. It’s all failling into place. Seb’s original press release, then yesterday’s comments and now Binotto’s. Seb felt they betrayed him.

    Hard not to feel sorry for him. Binotto’s argument doesn’t make sense. Vettel deserves to know that they wanted Sainz instead from the moment they knew he was available.

  20. …and they save themselves about 40 million a year…

  21. RocketTankski
    3rd July 2020, 21:53

    So it was the virus eh? That would explain the rash of disappointing results

  22. I don’t know why Vettel keeps getting dragged by folks. Look, he’s unquestionably a great driver. Leclerc is *also* great – WDC champion potential great. But the Ferrari isn’t. That’s all there is to it, and the evidence is overwhelming.

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