After six years Sebastian Vettel will leave the Scuderia at the end of the year. At the basis of the separation, Seb’s ‘no’ to the terms of the offer which he received from Maranello. The dream of the title behind the wheel of the red car, caressed in 2017 and 2018, will also not remain without regrets.
The outcome of the negotiations between Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari had already transpired last week. To recover from this situation it would have been necessary for one of the two parties to take a step back, but both Seb and the Ferrari officials remained firmly in their respective positions.
The natural consequence could only be the separation, which was officially confirmed on Tuesday morning. No rags flew, but the divorce that took place in Maranello was not a high rate of consensuality, because the story between Vettel and Ferrari was not about to reach a natural conclusion, as was the case with Kimi Raikkonen.
Marilyn Monroe said that when a love ends one of the two suffers, if nobody suffers then it never started, if they both suffer, it never ends. This story seems to be reflected in the first case, and to suffer the most is Sebastian Vettel.
Seb could have continued his experience in Maranello, but to do so he would have had to accept the conditions set by Ferrari, which most likely were clear and firm: one-year contract, and a decrease on the economic front. It is conceivable that the Scuderia’s proposal on the table was an alignment on all fronts with the position of Charles Leclerc, the same compensation and the same priorities, a consequence of the analysis of what Sebastian Vettel has shown on the track in the last two years. For Seb accepting these conditions would have implied the quiet admission that in 2018 and 2019 he did not meet the team’s expectations, a step which is not easy to do.
It is not a question of money per se, but of what money (and the duration of the contract) represents. “If you make a lot of money it is because you deserve it and are worth a lot,” said Ayrton Senna, confirming that money for the drivers is another ranking to climb (no less important than the World Championship) and losing positions is not easy for anyone to accept, especially for a four-time world champion who for the first time has faced such a situation.
Ferrari’s position is not the result of a recent decision, but probably the effect of a situation that has arisen for some time, perhaps on a specific date: 22 July 2018, the day when Seb lost control at the Sachs Kurve hairpin in Hockenheim’s Stadium section.
Everyone realized that the slight but fatal impact on the tires placed outside the slower stretch of the Motodrome would have consequences on the outcome of the 2018 World Championship, but no one could have imagined that it would be the first act of a long series of events whcih led to the end of the relationship between Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari.
That first crack quickly expanded, a crack that grew every time Seb made mistakes (and he made several), affecting the image of a World Championship driver. The comparison with the ‘error-free’ performance of Lewis Hamilton also did not help. Hamilton does driver another car, but he guaranteed that contribution that allowed Mercedes to win the 2017 and 2018 World, a performance which would not have been possible with two drivers like Bottas.
In Maranello they have always defended Seabstian Vettel, also considering the economic investment allocated in the summer of 2017, when the then president Sergio Marchionne granted the German a three-year contract for a total amount (whispered in the paddock) of around 100 million EUR.
The Scuderia’s last ‘beau geste’ was seen last September in Singapore, when the team put the German in a position to return to victory, sacrificing the highly launched Charles Leclerc.
A noble operation, that of Mattia Binotto, similar to that of football coaches when they do not replace a player after a huge mistake. Calling an ailing athlete back on the bench means getting him out of the whistles and destroying him psychologically, and a ‘coach’ of experience knows this well: better to go to meet him and try the recovery operation. Then, however, comes the day to sum up and think about the future of a team, a moment in which you cannot make discounts.
For Vettel and Ferrari that moment came in April, when the negotiations got underway. Binotto has always stressed that Seb would have been the first choice, and so it was, but the two sides were faced with insurmountable obstacles.
Vettel loved Ferrari very much, but not so much as to allow him to question himself, and he is certainly not the first driver in the history of Formula 1 (even recently) to fail to take a step back. Among the qualities of champions there is that of an above-average self-esteem, without which it would be difficult to manage the pressure that never fails when you are on the upper floors, but in certain circumstances this gift can prove to be a limit.
As always, time will tell whether or not Sebastian Vettel has made the right choice, the only judge who issues final verdicts on the choices of every sportsman, and indeed, of every man.