Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel on Tuesday said he would leave Ferrari at the end of the season, saying there was no “common desire” to work together any more.
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“My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will finish at the end of 2020,” the 32-year-old said in a statement from Ferrari.
“In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony.
“The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season.”
Yet it has been widely reported that Ferrari had offered him only a one-year contract extension at a significantly reduced salary.
Vettel’s departure will spark intense speculation about his replacement, with reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton among the drivers previously linked with Ferrari. The Briton has indicated however he will be staying at Mercedes.
Team principal Mattia Binotto said Vettel’s departure was “a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best”.
“It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person,” Binotto added.
“There was no specific reason that led to this decision, apart from the common and amicable belief that the time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives.”
Other names tipped to take over from Vettel are McLaren driver Carlos Sainz and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo while Antonio Giovinazzi would be a popular home choice for the Italian team’s legion of fans.
Vettel had been under pressure from the strong performance of Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc in the 2019 season. Leclerc said: “It’s been a huge honour for me to be your team mate. We’ve had some tense moments on tracks.
“Some very good ones and some others that didn’t end as we both wanted, but there was always respect, even though it wasn’t perceived this way from the outside.
“I’ve never learnt so much as I did with you as my team-mate. Thank you for everything Seb.”
The coronavirus pandemic has wiped away the start of the 2020 F1 season with 10 races either cancelled or postponed. It hopes to open its season with back-to-back races in Austria on July 5 and 12.
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