Four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel says financial matters played “no part” in his shock exit from Ferrari, but they no longer have a “common desire to stay together”.
Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 and has won 14 races so far, finishing runner-up in the championship in 2017 and 2018 but failing to clinch the title.
Last year he finished fifth in the points, his worst result since leaving Red Bull, and was beaten by new team-mate Charles Leclerc, who then penned a long-term deal with Ferrari at the end of the year.
Vettel and Ferrari had spoken keenly of their desire to continue working together beyond 2020 but negotiations have ended and his contract will not be renewed.
It had been speculated that Vettel was offered a reduced deal, either financially, in terms of contract duration or both, but he has suggested other factors were at play.
“In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony,” said Vettel.
“The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season.
“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life” :: Sebastian Vettel
“Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.
“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life.
“One needs to use one’s imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed.
“I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future.”
It suggests Vettel decided he was unwilling to operate as Leclerc’s de facto number two within the team, if not in financial terms then based on the balance of power within Ferrari shifting.
Ferrari simply says it was a mutual decision not to continue together.
“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best,” said Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto.
“It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person.
“There was always respect, even though it wasn’t perceived this way from the outside” :: Charles Leclerc
“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.”
Leclerc, who has effectively ousted Vettel from the team, paid tribute to his team-mate on social media, describing it as a “huge honour” to work alongside him.
“We’ve had some tense moments on track,” said Leclerc.
“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.”
Vettel will undoubtedly court interest from the likes of Renault and McLaren, but if his motivations are not financial those teams may not appeal.
He will need to commit several years to those projects to have a realistic chance of fighting for wins and titles.
That may not tempt a driver who holds a distinguished place in F1’s history books, as well as Ferrari’s – despite not securing his fifth title, yet, with the team.
“Ferrari occupies a special place in Formula 1 and I hope it gets all the success it deserves,” said Vettel.
“I want to thank the whole Ferrari family and above all its ‘tifosi’ all around the world, for the support they have given me over the years.
“My immediate goal is to finish my long stint with Ferrari, in the hope of sharing some more beautiful moments together, to add to all those we have enjoyed so far.”