Despite being outperformed by his teammate Charles Leclerc in 2019, Sebastian Vettel always felt like he was an integral member of the Ferrari team both in the short and long term. However, a phone call with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, left the German temporarily reeling after the Italian team boss informed him that his services were no longer required beyond 2020.
After a brief period of uncertainty, including rumours of a possible retirement, the German ultimately chose to sign for the Lawrence Stroll owned Aston Martin outfit. While this is no doubt an exciting period in time for the four-time world champion, his time at Ferrari, where he was brought in to emulate the great Michael Schumacher, will largely be looked at a disappointment.
Speaking to Racer.com, Vettel opened up on his time with the Italian marque including the phone call that left him "confused."
“I don’t need to (understand Ferrari’s decision), to be honest, and it doesn’t change anything," the German says. "I don’t look at it that way. I don’t work that way. It’s fine for me and I completely accept it, and when Mattia told me on the phone, it was clear. It wasn’t like I was trying to fight back or convince him otherwise – not at all.
“I think very much that if one door shuts another one will open, and obviously it took a bit of time and it raised a lot of questions about which door I want to open. It’s not that I had all of the teams of choice, but just in terms of what I want to do – more for the future, if I want to stay in Formula 1 or not. But obviously I’ve made my decision and opened the door.”
So how close was he to actually retiring from the sport? Vettel says, "Well, that thought process probably is true for all of us, with what happened (with COVID-19) as a number one puts a lot of things in perspective, not just whether you’re changing team, or whether you’re doing something else."
"I’m quite rational in these things, I look at it, and I don’t see myself in Formula 1 when I’m 40. So I will have a couple of years, but we’re not looking at 10 more years. So I think you need to be aware of that. And after what I’ve achieved in the sport, there was the time and the room – which I think is fair – to think of what you want to do next. Obviously we know the outcome, and we will see how I get on.”
Vettel is also quite candid about the regrets he has from his six seasons with the Scuderia. He says, "The title was the big thing, so for sure there’s something missing, but I’m quite sure I won’t be frustrated by it for the rest of my life. I think everything happens for a reason – the good things happen for a reason and the bad things happen for a reason – and the last six years, speaking of track performances and so on, I’ve learned a lot."
Vettel also believes his time with the prancing horse will help him when he finally turns a wheel in anger at Aston Martin, rather than starting a new book, the ex-Red Bull driver believes that his move to the Silverstone based Aston Martin team is an evolution of his experiences from the past six seasons, "I think it will help me for the rest of my path in Formula 1 and outside Formula 1, about myself, about people… I’m definitely of the conviction that I leave richer than I was before, and I don’t mean this financially or with more wins, but I think richer in experiences and things that will help me along the way,” Vettel concludes.