Ferrari har under de senaste dagarna haft både Sebastian Vettel och Charles Leclerc tillgängliga för media. Alltid intressant att höra vad som kommer från Ferrari och deras förare, inte minst med det speciella läge som råder under coronakrisen. Men också intressant att höra vad de båda förarna säger kring läget för dem själva där Leclerc skrivit på ett nytt långt kontrakt med teamet medan Sebastian Vettel precis börjat förhandla och enligt vissa redan avvisat ett förslag från teamet. Scott Mitchell har pratat med båda och rapporterar följande.
If you believe everything you read, then Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel have had a falling out over a new contract and the team might quit Formula 1 anyway.
Seeing clearly through the smoke and mirrors in F1 is always a tricky task. The two latest messages that appear to have come from the Ferrari camp – that Vettel has rebuffed a contract offer, and that Ferrari could leave F1 if championship bosses force through an aggressive budget cap reduction – are prime examples of the politics that make F1 what it is.
On Vettel, the rumours from Italy and Germany are that he has been offered a one-year contract extension and a much lower salary than he is on right now.
If such an offer is true, it would not be a surprise for Vettel to feel affronted by it. He is used to three-year contracts, both his Ferrari deals have been to that duration since he joined in 2015, and it carries a nice combination of stature and security.
It would also not be lost on him that Charles Leclerc signed a new long-term deal last Christmas that keeps him with Ferrari to at least the end of 2024. And here Vettel is, apparently being offered a one-year deal.
At 32, Vettel does not need to hang up his crash helmet. He says there is no age limit on a three-year deal. He just said it needs to be something both he and Ferrari are “comfortable” with.
It may be that Ferrari and Vettel are working to different timelines. Vettel has spoken in quite relaxed terms about getting a new deal sorted, potentially by the time we start racing in 2020 – which will be July at the earliest.
Ferrari is apparently keener to get a deal done, by the end of April according to Italian sources. This could potentially explain the suggestion that talks have stalled: if that’s simply untrue maybe it’s a tactic to bring Vettel to the negotiating table.
Lecerc says he’d “definitely” be happy keeping Vettel as a team-mate. Ferrari says it loves working with Sebastian. Vettel has only ever spoken in a way that suggests he wants to stay as well.
Those are the public positions. They may well be slightly different behind the scenes. If I had to guess, I would say that it is everybody’s preference that Vettel stays, and that is the most likely outcome.
I’m a little more certain in my position on the other Ferrari message. In an interview with UK newspaper the Guardian, team boss Mattia Binotto says Ferrari’s racing DNA could be deployed elsewhere if cost-saving measures get too extreme.
This is all over the incoming budget cap. It was meant to be $175m when it is introduced in 2021 but there is provisional agreement for that to be $150m (or slightly less) instead.
However, Ferrari rejected a proposal for a $145m cost cap that is reduced further to $130m in 2022. Ferrari thinks it is unfair to be forced to cut budgets that low when it spends a lot more money on infrastructure and development to produce parts that other teams then buy.
And Ferrari says it is concerned by how many people would lose their jobs on the F1 project, and how that ties into Italian employment law.
But, the bottom line is we’ve been here before. Ferrari threats over its future have been around in F1 as long as Ferrari: forever.
There is a compromise to be reached somewhere, and this is probably just a scare tactic from Ferrari.