‘Usurped’ Vettel to spark driver madness
Sebastian Vettel has his "work cut out" to secure a long-term Ferrari future due to the rise of Charles Leclerc and the many contenders for his seat, according to Sky F1's Karun Chandhok and Paul Di Resta.
Vettel, the four-time champion, is one of many star F1 drivers who sees his contract expire at the end of 2020 - but while the German spoke positively about signing a new deal in April, reports in Italy have suggested it's by no means a foregone conclusion.
That could be for several reasons.
Are Ferrari willing to offer Vettel, who turns 33 in July, a long-term deal as he hopes? Would Vettel accept a 'number two' role behind Leclerc? Have Ferrari got their eyes set on another driver?
Vettel is still one of F1's best, but his numerous mistakes last year told of a driver feeling the strain.
In his most recent Motor Sport Magazine column, Sky F1's Mark Hughes stated Vettel "is no longer the chosen one" and that "he has been usurped" as Ferrari's team leader by Leclerc.
"Vettel served in this role for four years, but last season Leclerc was given the opportunity of taking that role from him - and did so," wrote Hughes.
That could mean Vettel is offered a less generous contract than he is used to.
"He's going to have his work cut out, and I wouldn't be surprised if he does have to take a big wage cut," said Chandhok.
"They've got Leclerc there now, who is a future star - and they don't really need to be paying Sebastian as much as they did in the past."
Vettel, in his sixth year at Ferrari, certainly would not take a 'number two' role lying down if that's what was offered. But will he be able to dictate terms?
"I really think it's up to Ferrari if they want to keep Vettel," commented Di Resta. "I don't think Vettel's got any decision in this at all.
"He'll have to take what he gets. And that may push him out of it."
The enforced delay of the 2020 season has left the driver market for next year in limbo. Vettel said he hopes to sign his new contract before the first race - which is currently set for July - but Di Resta insisted it would be "crazy" for Ferrari to offer anything before seeing how he performs.
Carlos Sainz, of McLaren, and Daniel Ricciardo, the Renault driver and former Red Bull race-winner, are just two of the drivers who are also out of contract for 2021 and would seemingly jump at the chance to race in red.
"Sebastian if he's on form, I think you'd love to see him in there," said Di Resta. "But if he's not I think there's a few people lining up out of contract who Ferrari could equally grab."
Chandhok added: "You've got the likes of Sainz, you've got Ricciardo, people like that banging on the door of what is one of the top three cars on the grid."
Racing Point's Sergio Perez has also been mooted as an option, as well as Antonio Giovinazzi, who drives for the Ferrari-affiliated Alfa Romeo team.
But Chandhok is championing Sainz for the role.
"I think there's a difference with Ricciardo and Sainz," he said. "Danny Ric's had his opportunity with a top team whereas Carlos hasn't yet.
"I'd love to see Carlos have that opportunity. I think he's been stellar at McLaren, he's come alive and he's turned a corner.
"If you asked me to bet on it I'd say they'd probably keep Seb for 2021 just because of everything that's going on, and then I could see them going after Carlos for 2022."
It's certainly a saga worth keeping an eye on.
This story first appeared on Sky Sports and was republished with permission.
Originally published as 'Usurped' Vettel to spark driver madness