Sebastian Vettel is already in discussions with Ferrari over a new contract, team boss Mattia Binotto has revealed.
The four-time world champion is heading into a sixth campaign with the Scuderia, with Vettel to be partnered by young gun Charles Leclerc for a second season.
Vettel toiled through a disappointing 2019, which featured one race win and one pole position, as Leclerc beat him in the standings.
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Leclerc impressed in his maiden year in red, taking two wins and a season-high seven poles, while Vettel slumped to fifth.
Such was the performance of Leclerc that the team signed him to a long-term deal, while Vettel had to fend off retirement questions at the end of 2019.
Vettel’s Ferrari contract expires at the end of 2020, but at the team’s car launch, Binotto told RTL the German has been in talks over a contract for some time.
“Discussions with Sebastian have already started, they started before Christmas at the end of last year and continued here,” Binotto said.
Rumours emerged at the end of 2019 suggesting world champion Lewis Hamilton would move to Ferrari at the expense of Vettel considering Leclerc’s mega new deal, with the Briton holding a meeting with Ferrari chairman John Elkann last year.
However, it’s believed Hamilton is also in negotiations over a new big-money deal with Mercedes.
At the Ferrari launch, Binotto admitted Vettel was still “first choice” for the Italian powerhouse, even as Leclerc continues to strengthen his grasp on No. 1 status.
“Seb is our first choice at the moment,” he said.
“Obviously it is something we are discussing with him and we will continue discussing, but he is certainly our first option, our preference.”
Vettel told RTL he has “time” to take the 2021 discussions seriously considering the 2020 season is yet to even commence pre-season testing – but acknowledged his lacklustre 2019 “didn’t go well”.
“The situation is like this … we are talking about 2021 but 2020 hasn’t even started yet. I think there will be enough time to do that,” Vettel said.
“You always turn a few screws but in the end we just weren’t strong enough as a team. It wasn’t a good year from my side either. It just didn’t go well.
“If I compare the situation to that of three years ago, I did not have a contract until August.
“I don’t think it changes much. At some point, we will have to settle all of this, my future, but I think we will have enough time.”