Is Vettel walking, or has he been pushed out by Ferrari?
“My understanding is that he was never made an offer to stay on,” said Slater – which would be much to the surprise of the 2009 world champion.
“If he was pushed, for me it’s madness,” claimed Button. “A four-time world champion.
“I think he showed his speed last year. He had a tough moment in the season when Charles was performing really well and I think that hurt him a little bit mentally. But he came back really strong, and he’s just somebody you would definitely choose to put in your car if you had an F1 team.
“There must be more to it. I don’t know if Ferrari are going down the route of not wanting two number one drivers or what but it’s a really strange choice for me and I’m still shocked that Sebastian [won’t be] in a red car.”
Vettel, 33 in July, joined Ferrari in 2015 and while he hasn’t added to his four titles in red, his 14 wins rank him third on the Scuderia’s all-time list.
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But a number of high-profile errors in recent years hurt both his title challenges and his reputation.
“I think they just fell out of love with each other,” said Brundle. “Sebastian lost confidence that they really could go and take championships in the future and they lost a bit of confidence in him. Too much contact, too many silly incidents. But it does seem bizarre.
“Take away the silly errors and he’s still got tremendous speed, everything that is needed to at least equally fight with [Charles] Leclerc.
“He’s one of the all-time greats in Formula 1 and we can’t dismiss him. If we never see him again in Formula 1, I’ll be very disappointed.”
He will do so cutting the figure of a tortured soul — something a four-time world champion should never be when roaming the F1 paddock.
Five trophyless seasons driving for the sport’s most iconic, and demanding, team will probably do that.
So, too, will the pressure of living up to the sport’s most successful driver, Michael Schumacher.
Vettel always looked up to his German compatriot, who won seven world championships between 1994 and 2004. He first met him as a starstruck seven year-old that wanted to be everything he ever was.
For a long time, Vettel was walking ahead of his path.
In 2008, he became F1’s youngest-ever race winner, claiming the Italian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso at 21 years and 73 days. Two years later, he was history’s youngest F1 champion after clinching the 2010 title for Red Bull in a final race nailbiter.
Another three titles followed in consecutive years, making Vettel a four-time world champion before his 27th birthday.
But after a disastrous 2014, in which new teammate Daniel Ricciardo comprehensively outdrove him and Mercedes claimed the F1 throne, Vettel looked elsewhere.
Like his idol, he saw Ferrari.
Despite the similarities, comparisons between Vettel and Schumacher have always been overly simplistic.
Yes, they are both German, ruthless competitors and young champions at non-works teams before joining Ferrari. Both were unsuccessful across their first four years in Italy, too.
But in leaving Ferrari empty-handed, the differences between Vettel and Schumacher have been laid bare.
Whether it was Benetton, Ferrari, or to a lesser extent, Mercedes, Schumacher had a way of making a team his own. His authority wouldn’t be questioned — and he certainly wouldn’t be pulled into a dogfight with his own teammate.
Given the way he gradually won a power battle over Mark Webber at Red Bull, Vettel was thought to have that same air of superiority about him.
Instead, a certain softness has developed over time, both on and off the track,
The 32-year-old is now a father of three who is openly friendly to even his greatest rivals, such as Lewis Hamilton.
On the track, he’s become increasingly prone to error and was even nudged aside by young gun Charles Leclerc in the 2019 standings.
That Ferrari’s eggs are now in the basket of the 22-year-old in his third season of F1, and Vettel is staring into the void of retirement, says it all.
Schumacher never would have let that happen.
But while the evidence is stacked against Vettel, he’s not done just yet.
Look at how badly he took losing the Canadian Grand Prix last year to Hamilton due to a controversial penalty, completing the symbolic, yet frivolous, act of swapping the No.1 and 2 boards in front of their cars.
There’s a fire there that still burns. It’s up to someone to stoke it.
Where Vettel will land next season is anyone’s guess, but the key contenders are Renault, Mercedes and his couch.
Renault would appear to be a frontrunner with the expensive Ricciardo now off its books. Rumours are circling about a potential return for Fernando Alonso who has twice signed for Renault where he won two world titles.
But should he not fancy coming back to F1, then Vettel is the obvious big fish for Renault to chase as a Ricciardo replacement.
The German, however, is accustomed to racing at the front-end, which Renault does not.
Mercedes does, and is yet to secure the services of any driver after this year.
The German manufacturer will throw the kitchen sink at trying to convince Hamilton to stay on, but the six-time world champion has also flirted with the idea of retirement.
Meanwhile, Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas also faces an uncertain future at Brackley as he enters the final months of his contract.
While it’s true there’s often little to gain from acquiring two big-name drivers other than a people-management headache, there’s something that feels right about Vettel finishing with Mercedes.
A German – particularly one of Vettel’s calibre – racing for a German team is an appealing proposition.
In some sports, such a partnership only carries sentimental value. But in the world of F1, where teams rely heavily on sponsorship money to prosper rather than handouts, it can prove a worthwhile exercise.
That’s not to say that Vettel would simply amount to a marketing tool for Mercedes.
Former race engineer Rob Smedley claims that Vettel is still at the top of his game despite not having the points to show for it.
Speaking on the F1 nation, he said: “I think we’ve got a really good driver there, a really wonderful driver.
“And do you know what I think his best year in Formula 1 is – and I’m going to get hammered for this – his best year in Formula 1 was last year, it was 2019.
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“I think he faced the biggest challenge of his career that year, and everybody kind of wrote him off because it was the easy thing to do, that Charles is just going to get better and better and it’s the end of Sebastian, if you like.
“I think we saw the real Sebastian Vettel towards the end of the year (which) Sebastian had a little bit lost – and I’m sure he’d freely admit that, that he wasn’t where he wanted to be, both within the team and with his teammate at the start of the year – but then he actually got his head down, and that’s the sign of a true champion, he came back.”
He added: “I’m just not sure that he’s ever had the challenge that he had in 2019, so for him to cope with that, and to come back and kind of stamp his authority after a shaky start, I personally think we saw something special.”
Somewhere within Vettel there’s still that four-time world champion – and 32 years of age is not too late to give up looking for it.
He may never be Schumacher, because that ship has sailed.
But that doesn’t mean he has to settle on being something less, just different.
Formula 1 has announced the opening eight races of the 2020 calendar will take place over nine weeks beginning the first weekend of July, following the shutdown of the sport due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The sport was put on hiatus on the day of the first two practice sessions of the Australian Grand Prix back in March when a McLaren team member contracted the deadly virus causing the event to be cancelled.
Since then, three more races were cancelled (Dutch, French and Monaco Grands Prix) with the other six all postponed as F1 attempted to reschedule them into a more condensed version of the original calendar.
Resumption of the world championship has been made even trickier with a number of countries insisting on a two-week quarantine period upon entry.
However, after the UK agreed to grant teams and drivers an exemption from that quarantine period, F1 has managed to finalise its return, and has now revealed the first eight races.
The Austrian Grand Prix, which was due to be the next race on the original calendar, will go ahead on 3-5 July as originally planned before a second Austrian Grand Prix the following weekend.
Next is Hungary before another double header at Silverstone – the latter of which will celebrate 70 years of Formula 1.
Barcelona, Spa and Monza make up the first eight races, all of which are slated to go ahead over the space of nine weeks, with just the one week break between the seventh race in Belgium and the eighth in Italy.
Formula 1 is still finalising the rest of the season with the expectation that there will be between 15 and 18 races in total before the season wraps up in December.
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No decision has been made yet on what the racing will actually look like yet however, with a proposal to introduce reverse-grid races now unlikely to go through, with Mercedes rejecting the idea as Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports that Toto Wolff believes it “would interfere with Lewis Hamilton’s championship campaign”.
Holden’s commitment to the Supercars championship will formally end at the completion of the 2020 season.
The manufacturer has revised its agreement with Triple Eight Race Engineering to provide factory support for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team after the news earlier this year that the brand would be retired by parent company General Motors.
While Holden’s contract with Triple Eight originally ran until the end of the 2021 campaign, an agreement has been reached to terminate the contract a year early.
It will mean the powerful Red Bull team, which features multiple championship winners Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen, could line up in a different brand of car from 2021 onwards.
Holden and Triple Eight joined forces in 2010 and have won six drivers’ titles, four Bathurst 1000 races and eight teams championships as a partnership. With Ford and Nissan having withdrawn their factory support in recent seasons, the agreement means none of the championship’s teams will have direct manufacturer backing from next season.
Triple Eight says it will retain its branding with Red Bull, with the energy drink giant contracted until the end of the 2021 season.