In Depth

F1: will Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel quit after the 2020 season?

German questions F1’s future as pressure builds on the four-time champion

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel could walk away from Formula 1 when his Ferrari contract expires at the end of the 2020 season.

The German won his world titles with Red Bull but he is yet to secure a championship with Ferrari since joining the Scuderia in 2015. He finished runner-up to Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton in 2017 and 2018.

This season has seen the 31-year-old start the campaign with a fourth-placed finish in Australia and a fifth-placed finish in Bahrain. He is currently fifth in the drivers’ standings with 22 points - 22 behind leader Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes.

‘More a show and a business than a sport’

In an interview with The Times Vettel said that he is not committing to F1 beyond the 2020 season as there is uncertainty regarding regulations and rules.

Vettel said: “I’m certain I really want to drive this year and next year, then I don’t know what happens to the regulations. Nobody knows so far. I certainly can’t sit here and say, ‘No [I won’t leave]’ just for the sake of being in Formula 1.

“A lot of the values that used to be around, they are only partly around. Formula 1 is now more a show and a business than a sport.

“You can say the same probably for other sports, but maybe in other sports it doesn’t filter down as much to the actual athlete as much as it does here.

“There just needs to be [a decision about] what we want. If we say we are a show, then bring on the show. I feel we are wasting so much time and energy with regulations that are just expensive really for nothing.”

‘No room for Vettel’

With Kimi Raikkonen leaving Ferrari for Alfa Romeo Racing, Vettel is this season partnered by youngster Charles Leclerc.

The 21-year-old impressed at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix and only missed on the victory because of an engine power failure. Vettel, meanwhile, span his car and missed out on the podium.

Leclerc has been tagged as Ferrari’s new “golden boy”, Fox Sports reports, and the emergence of Mick Schumacher in the Ferrari Driver Academy has also put extra pressure on Vettel from the Italian media.

Italian sports newspaper Corriere dello Sport said: “Ferrari looks to a future in which there is no room for Vettel. Mick Schumacher could soon be at the side of the talented Charles Leclerc.”

La Repubblica added that Vettel had lost “his front wing, and his nerve” in the title battle with Hamilton and said that Leclerc is the “true rival” of the Mercedes ace.

La Gazzetta dello Sport said the Prancing Horse will return to their Maranello base with “one certainty and two problems”. The paper added: “The certainty is Charles Leclerc, and the two problems are reliability and Sebastian Vettel.”

La Stampa advised Vettel to “get a mental coach and shave the moustache”.

Ferrari back Seb as their No.1

Despite his mistake in Bahrain The Times reports that Ferrari have “thrown their support” behind Vettel.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said: “It was a mistake and I don’t think we should discuss about mistakes. We are always in the battle and in the fight, that is what we are doing and it is never easy.

“I think at the end it is something that can always happen. I think we need to encourage our drivers because it is only by driving to the limit that they achieve the best result and that is what Seb was trying to do.

“There is some homework on the balance to improve, we are still learning about our car. So I think all good in that respect and we will keep focus on that and hope to improve.”

Hamilton defends rival

Another person to defend Vettel is his long-time title rival Hamilton. Quoted by the Daily Express, British driver Hamilton said: “Just because you’re a multiple world champion doesn’t mean you’re not going to have off weekends.

“It’s more cumulative. You look at Vettel’s career, and he’s had stunning performances that more than outweigh the weaker races or when he’s spun for example.

“They’re minuscule on the status that he’s accumulated and created. There are always times you happen to just not get the right car setup - which you guys don’t get to see all these little things we’re doing - and it just doesn’t happen to work that weekend and the differences are so small yet they look so big.”

2019 standings and next F1 GP

Mercedes driver Bottas leads the F1 2019 drivers’ championship on 44 points after two races, one ahead of team-mate Hamilton.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is third in the standings on 27 points while Ferrari duo Leclerc and Vettel have 26 and 22 points respectively.

In the F1 2019 constructors’ championship Mercedes lead the way with 87 points. They are 39 points ahead of second-placed Ferrari who are on 48. Red Bull are third with 31 points.

When is the next race?

The third race of the 2019 F1 season will be the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday 14 April at the Shanghai International Circuit.

China marks a huge milestone for Formula 1 as it will be the sport’s 1,000th world championship race.

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