Sebastian Vettel has bluntly revealed that Ferrari never offered the four-time world champion a contract renewal and said it was the team who came to the conclusion to end the partnership that had failed to yield a single world title.
Speaking to the media for the first time since the announcement of his exit from the Scuderia, the German spoke with his usual direct honesty, subtly indicating towards a level of hostility against the team who had, until recently, adored their leading driver.
May’s announcement suggested it was a “joint decision” between Vettel and Ferrari to part ways after the 2020 season.
But today, Vettel confirmed he was surprised to have learnt that Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto had contacted the 32-year-old to reveal the squad did not wish to pursue with any further levels of commitment beyond the current season.
“It was obviously a surprise to me when I got the call from [Team Principal] Mattia [Binotto] when he told me that there was no further intention for the team to continue [with me],” said Vettel.
“We never got into any discussions, there was never an offer on the table and therefore there was no sticking point.”
While Vettel reinforced his surprise to the news, it was clear the decision was a pivotal moment in Ferrari’s long-term ambition of nurturing a freakishly fast young driver in the shape of Charles Leclerc who could then benchmark the German.
It didn’t play out last year with Vettel, a proud world champion, fiercely defending his position as a number one driver and consequently came to blows with his teammate on numerous occasions, namely Sochi and Brazil.
Vettel did admit he remains motivated to achieve more in the sport and the news earlier in the year undoubtedly galvanised his ambitions.
However, he did highlight he could turn his back on F1 if no competitive seat – of which only one remains at Renault – is offered to him, but his focus is currently centred on maximising his swansong year with Ferrari.
“Obviously I want to make sure I make the right decision for myself and my future,” he said.
“I think I have a very competitive nature, I have achieved a lot in the sport, I’m motivated and willing to achieve more.
“To do so I need the right package and the right people around me so that’s what I’m looking out for at the moment, if the right opportunity should arise then it is quite clear.
“If that’s not the case then I’ll probably have to look out for something else.”
Ferrari acknowledged today in Austria they expect to be some way off the pace of Mercedes or Red Bull, with the SF1000 being alluded to “something of a diva” among the paddock.
F1 will finally spring back into action tonight with opening practice for the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix set to get underway from 9 pm NZT.