Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has explained more about the reasoning behind their decision not to offer Sebastian Vettel a contract renewal – and admits the German still does not fully understand their call.
As reported in May, Vettel was not offered a new deal by Ferrari for 2021 despite Binotto saying during winter testing in February that the four-time champion was their “first option” to continue alongside Charles Leclerc for 2021.
But on his first public appearance since news of the end-of-season split emerged last month, Vettel said at the Austrian GP on Thursday that he learned of Ferrari’s decision in a phone call from Binotto and was duly left “surprised” by the turn of events.
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Speaking in a Sky interview on Friday, Binotto said Vettel had been “honest and transparent” in his remarks to the media and also gave a more detailed account of the timeline behind their decision to drop the German for Carlos Sainz.
“During winter time a lot of drivers asked us if there was any opportunity, and that’s normal at that time,” said Binotto. “But as we said privately with him and publicly, Seb has always been our first option.
“But what happened later on is certainly the pandemic changed the situation completely in the world, but also in F1. A more-strict budget cap, regulations which have been postponed which for us were important, 2022, and cars which at the moment are almost frozen and as well for next year.
“The season has not started and as well for him there was somehow an opportunity [lost] for him to be back on track and really try to prove his intentions to drive fast for Ferrari etc.”
Binotto added: “We had to take a decision which is somehow a responsibility and we took the decision, I informed him.
“I think while he accepts the decision because he is a great and professional guy, I think he never really truly and fully understands it and I think that is part of his surprise. Yes, I think he was surprised which I understand as well.”
The Ferrari principal insisted the “relationships are still great” between driver and team as they begin the delayed 2020 season in Austria this week.
But Binotto hinted the way he communicated the news to Vettel could have been handled differently.
“Is the decision right at first? It’s always very difficult to tell, hopefully we made the right decision,” said Binotto.
“Could I have communicated better with him? That’s something we discussed with him as well. I’m pretty sure there is always a way of doing things better, so I accept it.”