Nov 2, 2019; Austin, TX, USA; Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver Sebastian Vettel (5) of Germany speaks to the media after qualifying for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Formula 1 isn’t back on the track yet but “silly season” has started very early this year. It’s reported by Auto Motor Sport in Germany that four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari were unable to agree to a contract extension and Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the 2020 Formula 1 season. An official announcement could be announced as early as Tuesday.

Both Vettel and Ferrari were in a transitional period over the past five years. After winning for titles at Red Bull Racing, Vettel left for Ferrari right around the time of Mercedes’ dominance. While Mercedes dominated, Ferrari and Vettel were left picking up the scraps. Vettel still did well in his Ferrari career, but his 14 wins at Ferrari wasn’t a match for Lewis Hamilton’s 51 wins in that same time period. In fact, that’s just two fewer wins than Vettel had in his entire career and Vettel is the third-winningest F1 driver in history.

In addition, the 32-year-old Vettel has transitioned into a more senior driver role. When he was at Red Bull, he had Mark Webber most of his Red Bull career and was regarded as the young upstart. Now, Charles Leclerc has stepped onto the scene and the 22-year-old from Monaco is being seen as the future. For the first time, Vettel isn’t the clear #1 driver and quite frankly, Ferrari is backing Leclerc to be the next superstar.

As far as who could possibly step into the highly coveted Ferrari seat, the BBC is reporting that McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo or Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who is Italian, was a former Ferrari test driver, and is currently racing for a team who uses Ferrari power units. Some have suggested Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari Academy driver Mick Schumacher but Verstappen has signed with Red Bull through 2023 and Schumacher isn’t ready for Formula 1 yet. One or both of them might be with Ferrari in the future but it won’t happen in 2021.

Vettel’s F1 prospects are bleaker than Ferrari’s. He’s in a position where he demands a high amount of money but given the COVID-19 pandemic, teams aren’t interested in spending that kind of money, even for one of the best F1 drivers ever. Mercedes isn’t a realistic option as long as Hamilton is there and Red Bull is a similar no-go with Verstappen. Those are the three best teams on the grid and they have won every F1 race since 2013. It’s very difficult for the rest of the grid to close the gap and even someone as talented as Sebastian Vettel isn’t going to do that.

For the McLaren’s and Renault’s on the grid, why break the bank on Vettel when all he’ll be able to do is finish 7th instead of 9th? Just sign someone who might not be as talented but you can have for half the price and that person can still get you points. Even if Vettel accepts less money, it’s going to be a rough reality when the third winningest driver in F1 history is driving his brains out to finish just short of the podium.

[Auto Motor Sport/BBC]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @phillipbupp