Wednesday, April 17, 2024

F1: What the Vettel/Ferrari split means for the 2021 lineup

Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow announced late Monday night that they would not be retaining the four-time world champion driver of Sebastian Vettel for the 2021 season. Meaning that due to the uncertain times in the world, and with sport canceled worldwide, 2021 silly season has begun before the actual world championship has got underway.

The German played second-fiddle for most of the 2019 season as Charles Leclerc had a monster first campaign and publicly showed more and more frustration as the season went on, so this isn’t a surprise to anyone at all. We’ve been expecting the 32-year-old to think about finishing his F1 career for the past 12 months or so.

In an official statement released on Ferrari’s F1 website, Vettel began with “My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will finish at the end of 2020. In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony. The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season.”

He continued with “Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.”

Speaking on how the COVID-19 situation has affected this decision, Seb stated “What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. One needs to use one’s imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future.”

The former Red Bull driver finished with “Scuderia Ferrari occupies a special place in Formula 1 and I hope it gets all the success it deserves. Finally, I want to thank the whole Ferrari family and above all its “tifosi” all around the world, for the support they have given me over the years. My immediate goal is to finish my long stint with Ferrari, in the hope of sharing some more beautiful moments together, to add to all those we have enjoyed so far.”

Finally, his Team Principal Mattia Binotto went on to thank Vettel for his five years of racing in F1 for Ferrari with, “On behalf of everyone at Ferrari, I want to thank Sebastian for his great professionalism and the human qualities he has displayed over these five years, during which we shared so many great moments. We have not yet managed to win a world title together, which would be a fifth for him, but we believe that we can still get a lot out of this unusual 2020 season.”

Who’s in line to replace Vettel?

F1, Sainz, McLaren, Ferrari
Sainz finished 3rd at Interlagos in 2019.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz will partner Charles Leclerc in 2021, Ferrari confirmed This Morning. The Spaniard is currently in his sixth season in F1, having previously raced for Toro Rosso and Renault. He’s had an up and down career, starting at 20, and almost falling out of F1 at the end of 2018 when Daniel Ricciardo was announced at Renault.

Sainz seems like the right move for the Italian constructor, especially after his impressive 2019 season.

One little nugget with the Sainz signing is how similar his career is panning out compared to his idol, Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s first four F1 teams were Minardi, Renault, McLaren and Ferrari, which with Sainz making the jump up to the Scuderia would be the exact four for him too. Minardi became Toro Rosso in 2005, who Sainz raced for between 2015 and 2017.

Other candidates we saw flying about were Daniel Ricciardo and former Ferrari reserve/development drivers Antonio Giovinazzi, who currently races for Alfa Romeo and Danil Kyvat of Alpha Tauri.

Ricciardo is out of contract with Renault at the end of the 2020 season and has actually been confirmed to replace Sainz in 2021, at McLaren. But what about the rest of the 2021 F1 grid? Below is a list of who’s confirmed to be racing in 2021.

Current F1 2021 Grid (All could change)

Red Bull F1 Car driven by Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen is confirmed for 2021.
  • Mercedes – ?
  • Ferrari – Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
  • Red Bull – Max Verstappen and ?
  • Aston Martin (Currrently Racing Point) – Sergio Perez and ?
  • Renault – Esteban Ocon and ?
  • McLaren – Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris
  • Alpha Tauri – ?
  • Alfa Romeo – ?
  • Haas – ?
  • Williams – George Russell and ?

Both Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas have their Mercedes contracts expiring at the end of 2020, as do Alex Albon, Lance Stroll, Danil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly, Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen with their respective teams. Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean and Nicholas Latifi are also on that list.

I expect most of these drivers to remain where they are for the 2021 season, not only because of the unknown nature of when that may be, but also because of the probable upcoming financial crisis.

Here’s how I currently see the grid shaping up.

  • Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas
  • Ferrari – Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
  • Red Bull – Max Verstappen and Alex Albon
  • Aston Martin (Currently Racing Point) – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll
  • Renault – Esteban Ocon and ? (Maybe Christian Lundgaard, Guanyu Zhou or Fernando Alonso)
  • McLaren – Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris
  • Alpha Tauri – Pierre Gasly and Danil Kvyat
  • Alfa Romeo – Antonio Giovinazzi and ? (Possibly Mick Schumacher or Robert Shwartzman)
  • Haas – Kevin Magnussen and ? (Maybe Nico Hulkenburg)
  • Williams – George Russell and Nicholas Latifi

I expect Lewis and Valterri to remain at Mercedes at 2021, especially if Hamilton wins his 7th world title this season. I see George Russell joining the team when the new regulations come in, either in 2022 or 2023. That all depends on what happens with Toto Wolff. At the moment I expect him to stay.

I can’t see Sebastian Vettel remaining in F1, now may be a good time for him to call it a day.

As for Red Bull, I expect Albon to return to partner Max Verstappen, as do I expect both Gasly and Kvyat to remain at their B team, Alpha Tauri.

The newly branded Aston Martin is owned by Lawrence Stroll, who surely can’t fire his own son. I expect Lance to partner Sergio Perez in 2021.

Renault and Haas are a mystery. Some are saying they could even drop out of the sport in 2021 due to financial reasons. For this purpose I’ve left a ? by their names. Ocon is under contract for next season, whilst I can see Haas retaining Kevin Magnussen.

To partner those two I can see them going with a veteran, in Renault’s case Fernando Alonso, who’s never ruled out a return to F1 and seems to be teasing us all on Twitter at the moment. Don’t rule out Renault going after one of the Formula 2 drivers from their Renault Sport Academy (Christian Lundgaard and Guanyu Zhou.)

In Haas’s case, they were linked with Nico Hulkenburg last year and I can see them going after him again, especially if Romain Grosjean has another poor year. Haas have come out and said they don’t want a Ferrari Academy driver, so don’t expect that to happen.

Finally Alfa Romeo and Williams. The latter I expect to retain both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, but that decision will be down to what Mercedes do.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen isn’t contracted for the 2021 season, and may well retire. Look for them to go down the route of a young Ferrari driver, probably one of Mick Schumacher or Robert Shwartzman who both race in F2 and are part of their driver academy.

Then again, we’re yet to get underway in 2020, so expect for these predictions to potentially be horribly wrong when the time comes.

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