Spa-Francorchamps - World
championship leader Sebastian Vettel will stay with Ferrari until 2020
after agreeing a three-year contract extension, the Italian team
announced on Saturday.
In a statement that ended weeks of speculation over the future of the
four-time champion German, Ferrari said it had "extended its technical
and racing agreement with driver Sebastian Vettel for the 2018, 2019 and
2020 racing seasons."
It had been widely rumoured that the 30-year-old German was flirting
with the possibility of joining Mercedes, a prospect dismissed on Friday
by his title rival Lewis Hamilton.
The announcement came as little surprise to paddock observers, even
if the timing was unexpected. Ferrari usually make their driver
announcements at their home Italian Grand Prix at Monza, scheduled for
The three-year extension ties in with Ferrari's own contract with
Formula One that runs until 2020 when the team will seek to negotiate
new terms for its participation with the sport's new US owners Liberty
Vettel's original contract with Ferrari was scheduled to run to the
end of this season, a situation that allowed him to use possible talks
with other teams as leverage in his negotiations to stay.
However, given the team's resurgent form this year - he was second
behind team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who has re-signed for 2018, in the
third free practice on Saturday morning - there has been little doubt
that he would remain with the Italians.
non-executive chairman Niki Lauda revealed on Saturday that discussions
had taken place with Vettel, but they did not go far.
"We discussed it briefly once with him, but the more competitive
Ferrari goes, the less the reason he would want to leave," Lauda told
Sky Sports F1. "So therefore we stopped right away a couple of months
"I think every driver, if he's clever, talks to more than one team.
Then when you negotiate you're in a better position. That's what he
The duration of his new contract will keep Vettel out of the driver
market beyond d 2019 when a hectic spell of activity is expected in the
sport with Dutchman Max Verstappen, still only 19, likely to become
available unless his current Red Bull team become serious title
Raikkonen's extension for just one year signals also that Ferrari may
swoop for Verstappen or any other rising star to partner Vettel in
Following Ferrari's announcement, it is now expected that Mercedes
will extend Finn Valtteri Bottas' contract. He was signed on a one-year
deal for this year as a replacement for retired 2016 champion Nico
Both Red Bull drivers Verstappen and Australian Daniel Ricciardo are
under contract until the end of next year, as is Hamilton with Mercedes.