F1 Doors Closing On Vettel

F1 Doors Closing On Vettel

Sebastian Vettel could be heading for retirement – or at least a sabbatical – as doors close up and down the Formula One pitlane.

The four-time world champion has already been punted by Ferrari and now his potential choices for a career extension beyond 2020 are looking extremely shaky – at best.

The second leg of the Austrian F1 double-header is flooded with questions and rumours about Vettel’s future following confirmation that Fernando Alonso is returning to Renault in 2020.

But with that deal done the speculation is around potential places at Red Bull, where he began his F1 career, Racing Point and Mercedes-Benz.

Vettel’s first window on the situation comes with his appearance at the official FIA press conference, where he is flooded with questions about his future.

“Everything is an option at the moment — carry on, have a break, or retire. I haven’t made a decision yet — it depends on what sort of options there are around,” says Vettel.

“Let’s see what happens and then take it from there.”

As the focus switches to Red Bull, he is positive about taking a place if one is available.

“It’s a winning car and I’m here to compete, I’m here to win, so probably the answer would be yes.”

But then the door slams as team boss Christian Horner talks from the pitlane to Sky TV during F1 practice.

“Our commitment is to our existing drivers, I think we’ve got a great pairing in Max and Alex – we think that has great potential for the future.

“We didn’t expect him to be on the market this year. Unfortunately it’s not something that we’re going to be able to accommodate.”

The bottom line from Horner is blunt.

“That is a definite no. I think Sebastian is aware of that,” he says.

Horner also has a view on a potential place for Vettel at Racing Point, where Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll – son of the team owner Lawrence – are the new stars of F1 in 2020, as the team prepares to re-brand and re-focus as Aston Martin Racing in 2021.

“I don’t think Lance is going to go far,” says Horner.

His view is confirmed by Racing Point’s team boss, Otmar Szafnauer.

“It is flattering that everyone thinks a four-time world champion should come to our team, but maybe that’s because the car is a bit quicker now,” he says.

“But we have long contracts with both of our drivers, so it would only be logical that we don’t have space.

“If we give them the best car, they too can win races and possibly become world champions. Our two drivers get along well and they are bound by contract for 2020 and 2021.”

Vettel admits he talked to Renault.

“But at no point concrete enough or… fundamental talks or real talks,” he says.

“As you’ve seen, they’ve gone a different direction, so it doesn’t change much for me. I want to take the time I need to decide.”

At McLaren, team boss Zak Brown confirms there were talks with Vettel before the commitment to Daniel Ricciardo.

“When we found out that Sebastian would be on the market, we had already reached a handshake with Daniel,” says Brown.

“Sebastian is a real champion. But we had tried to lure Daniel to us two years ago. That did not work. But he remained our first choice in case he would be free. So this is not a vote of confidence against Sebastian.

“We also couldn’t be sure whether we would get Sebastian at all. There are still a lot of rumours about his future.”

Which leaves Mercedes-Benz, except that both Mercedes-Benz chairman Ola Kallenius and F1 chief Toto Wolff have ruled out any opening for Vettel.

“We’ll stay with our two boys,” says Kallenius.

“I assume that we will continue with Lewis and Valtteri. We are very happy with our drivers,” says Wolff.