Sebastian Vettel always said he joined Ferrari to emulate his childhood hero Michael Schumacher and win a world championship. Unfortunately, when he reflects on his storied career, it will simply go down as an unfulfilled dream.
The Scuderia announced early on Tuesday that contract talks broke down between the pair with no agreement, making this year the German’s last at the Prancing Horse.
Where the 32-year-old will go now and who will replace him at Ferrari are the big questions.
A four-time world champion, Ferrari provided him with a car to challenge at the top, however they were never able to mount a consistent threat to world champions Mercedes.
When Vettel looks back, there will be a glimmer of regret at both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He boasted the fastest car on many occasions, led the championship, and then suddenly it crumbled away.
Of course, some will say the dream ended the day Charles Leclerc walked through the doors at Maranello last year and immediately ramped up the pressure, finishing on top, in terms of points, poles, podiums and wins.
Vettel’s decision to leave the Italian marque after nearly six seasons opens the door for another driver to make a dream switch to the sport’s oldest and most glamorous team.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz – both out of contract at the end of 2020 – have been installed as the leading candidates to take one of the most coveted seats on the grid.
Ricciardo has long been linked with a move to Ferrari. The Australian is a top notch driver, with aggression and a sheer appetite for victory.
Since leaving Red Bull for Renault in 2018, he has endured a miserable time, failing to make a podium in an under-performing car. His best finish was fourth at the Italian Grand Prix last year.
He ran away from a contest at Red Bull with Max Verstappen, so is he going to embrace the challenge of being a number two driver behind Leclerc? A move to Ferrari would only work for him if both drivers get equal treatment.
The money issue is another debate. He currently takes in an annual salary of $17 million at Renault. Leclerc earns $9 million per year so it is unlikely he will be receiving more than his Monaco team-mate if he does make the move.
Turning 31 in July, Mattia Binotto and Co. may look to invest in the future again and opt for a younger driver such as Sainz.
The Spaniard, who turns 26 in September, is a strong option. However, with McLaren taking Mercedes power units from 2021, he’s better off staying there as the number one driver than being Leclerc’s number two.
Sainz, though, seems to have the best balance of talent, age, salary requirement and is low maintenance. His presence would not upset the dynamic with Leclerc either.
It is impossible for any driver to turn down a Ferrari seat if it becomes available, especially when moving from a midfield car to one that has the potential to win on any given weekend.
Despite all these factors to consider, the Maranello outfit needs to read the market over the coming weeks and find someone who will work alongside Leclerc. He is their prized asset.
The best option is to take Ricciardo. He may not like being a number two and will want equal terms, but the Perth man is experienced, a proven winner and can push Leclerc to improve in a bid to win Ferrari’s first world title since 2007.
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