Ferrari is being Ferrari again, it all seems a bit 1990s over at the Scuderia. At the end of the 2020 season, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel will have gone their separate ways. The relationship that began with so much promise 5 years ago has disintegrated after Ferrari revealed the decision to do so was mutual. It obviously wasn’t. Prior to Ferrari announcing its intention not to re-sign Vettel, Vettel decided to go public before Ferrari. This very act from Vettel shows defiance and also shows Ferrari didn’t plan on how to manage the news and the subsequent fallout.
But it was obvious that Ferrari had no intention of re-hiring Vettel from the middle of last year. You do not stall contract negotiations with a 4-times F1 world champion. In Formula One, contract negotiations are often wrapped up, agreed and signed by September. Nothing was finalised between Vettel and Ferrari throughout 2020. As 2021 testing began, Ferrari publicly stated that Vettel was still their number one choice.
A few weeks before the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix Vettel revealed his Ferrari tenure was over. At the Austrian Grand Prix Ferrari tried to elaborate on why they did not renew Vettel’s contract. The team principal, Mattia Binotto, made a series of back-asswards statements. Binotto ridiculously blamed Covid19. Presumably, the Pandemic has resulted in a loss of sponsorship money. Ergo Ferrari has less money to spend on Vettel’s wage demands.
Binotto also blamed the pending F1 budget cap, despite Ferrari being against it. He also revealed that the decision to let-go of Vettel was made at the last minute, over the phone, which just adds to the chaos. And the decision caught Vettel off-guard and totally unawares. Clearly, no driver will drive in Formula One forever. And if that were the case then Martin Brundle would still be competing.
Nevertheless, Vettel has not been shy in voicing his opinion, contradicting Ferrari’s version of events. At the Austrian Grand Prix he revealed the decision for both parties to go their separate ways was not at all mutual as Ferrari initially suggested. Clearly, Ferrari has screwed up the handling of communications, there seems to be no plan in place. But it doesn’t matter now, what’s done is done.
Binotto is not to blame here for he makes decisions based on an engineer’s perspective, on logic. Clearly, someone at Ferrari, at the very top of the organisation has decided Vettel has to go in favour of Charles Leclerc. Whoever that person was, stands above the Ferrari CEO. Probably a member of the Elkan clan. Binotto was used as a buffer to divert attention from those at the very top, the Capo Dei Capi of Ferrari.
Vettel has already criticised the 2020 car. If Sebastian Vettel continues the public criticism he will be released early from his contract. Almost certainly this will happen. Quite rightly Vettel appears to be in no mood to back down and will continue to talk freely. At some point this mindset will cost him, but why should he care. Ferrari didn’t act professionally so the fallout and ending will be equally chaotic and messy.