Dubai: Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel’s dream of emulating his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher came crashing down as the German ace has decided to leave Ferrari at the end of the season.
“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best,” team principal Mattia Binotto said in a statement. The Maranello-based team is yet to name a replacement though Spaniard Carlos Sainz, currently with McLaren, has been linked with Vettel’s seat. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said earlier the decision was mutual and was “not easy to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person.”
He added: “The time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives.”
Vettel said there was “no longer a common desire” to work together. “Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.
“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. One needs to use one’s imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future.”
Germany’s best-selling tabloid Bild and Auto Motor und Sport both reported that the 32-year-old, who will be out of contract at the end of 2020, had rejected the terms offered in a new deal.
Italy’s Gazetta dello Sport newspaper recently reported Vettel being offered a one-year extension with a salary reduction.
After winning al his four world titles with Red Bull, Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 with the dream of emulating his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, who took five of his seven titles.
The father of three told reporters last month that he could have a new deal done before the start of a season delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ferrari have said the German was their first choice to partner Charles Leclerc but reports in Italy said they wanted an answer by the end of April to ensure potential replacements were still available.
Leclerc, who won two races last year and is only 22, has a contract until 2024 and is seen as Ferrari’s future and likely first champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
The Monegasque outperformed Vettel in his first season at Ferrari last year, finishing ahead of him overall and taking more points, poles, podiums and wins.
Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton has also been linked to Ferrari but has repeatedly indicated he intends to stay with Mercedes.