SPIELBERG: Sebastian Vettel was Ferrari’s first choice to stay and partner Charles Leclerc in Formula One next year until the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything, team principal Mattia Binotto said yesterday.
The four-times world champion, who won his titles with Red Bull, will now be replaced by Spaniard Carlos Sainz who joins from McLaren at the end of the season in a decision announced in May.
Vettel, who celebrated his 33rd birthday at the Austrian Grand Prix yesterday, had expected to remain and said on Thursday he was surprised by Ferrari’s decision.
The German revealed also that there had never been an offer on the table.
“Certainly we have always said during the winter time privately and publicly that he would have been our first choice, which I confirm,” Binotto.
“It’s normal that during winter time many drivers have asked us if there were any opportunities to drive for Ferrari, so we have certainly been contacted. That didn’t change our position, so Seb was our first choice.
“What happened since then? I think virus and pandemic situation, which changed the entire world not only our motorsport, our F1.”
Binotto pointed also to the consequent decision to postpone sweeping new regulations from 2021 to 2022, meaning the same cars will be raced next year, as well as the introduction next year of a budget cap.
“Let’s say that the entire situation has changed,” said the Ferrari boss.
“And on top of that the season has not started, so there have been no opportunities even for Seb to be back on track to prove how much he was really motivated somehow to drive for Ferrari, which has been somehow unfortunate for him.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari are talking to Formula One about holding the Italian team’s 1,000th grand prix at their own Mugello circuit, Binotto said.
Formula One has so far released only a partial calendar of eight races ahead of tomorrow’s delayed season-opener in Austria but is hoping to issue a full version in the coming days or weeks.
It is expected to include some circuits not on the original schedule, with Ferrari-owned Mugello and Portugal’s Portimao circuit the leading contenders.
Mugello has never before hosted a round of the world championship but is used by Ferrari for testing and other events. It is also a fixture on the MotoGP calendar.