Sebastian Vettel’s contract with the Ferrari Formula 1 team has been extended for three years, the Scuderia announced on Saturday at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Vettel’s current contract was to last until the end of 2017 but Ferrari moved to end speculation over the four-time champion’s 2018 seat. Vettel confirmed that he signed the contract on Friday in Spa.
The move comes as expected, taking their star name through to the end of 2020, even though rumours around the paddock had mooted a one-year contract for Vettel.
Sources say that there was never really anything to this.
There is a big picture at play here; Ferrari itself is locked into F1 until 2020 and its current commitment to secure a long-term contract for its key driver reflects that. The team does not want to commit to anything beyond 2020 – a move which strengthens its position when negotiations with Liberty open up regarding Ferrari’s ongoing participation in F1.
Mercedes will most likely mirror this tactic. This implies that Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas will also receive a one-year extension to his contract, mirroring that of Kimi Raikkonen, whose own extension until the end of 2018 was announced on the Tuesday before the Belgian GP.
Mercedes would prefer to hold Lewis Hamilton down to 2019 and 2020 as well, keeping the door open for team-mate Bottas to take another one-year extension.
This would mirror Ferrari’s strategy of wait and see on the Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. If either of them is looking to move teams in 2019, both teams have openings
This closes down options for Fernando Alonso; McLaren would prefer to keep Alonso at the team and it doesn’t make much sense for Renault to spend big on Alonso at this stage, without the car to challenge for wins and the title.
Rumours of a move for Alonso to Williams, which are currently circulating in the paddock, do not make much sense either for Williams, for the same reasons. Paying for it would be a major hurdle and it would certainly not be in the interests of Lance Stroll. The teenager is a few tenths off Felipe Massa, so would struggle against Alonso, who was substantially faster than Massa when they were together at Ferrari.
Word got out on Saturday morning in the Spa paddock that Vettel had signed his deal the night before and it was being widely written on the internet. Ferrari chose to rush out a short press release, rather than hold the news to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which is when they traditionally announce drivers.
Then again, this is the 70th anniversary year of Ferrari and there are many events planned for Monza. So keeping the Vettel announcement out of that allows the focus to be on the proud history of the brand.
“Scuderia Ferrari has extended its technical and racing agreement with driver Sebastian Vettel for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 racing seasons of the Formula One World Championship,” read Ferrari’s statement, posted just after FP3 on its website.
The current drivers’ standings leader joined Ferrari in 2015, where he finished third in his debut season with the outfit after a six-year stint with Red Bull, where he won all four of his World Championships. Vettel will be with Ferrari for six years, if he stays with the team for the duration of his new contract.
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