Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel waves to the audience. File photo
Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the season, the Italian team announced on Tuesday.
"This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best," team principal Mattia Binotto said in a statement.
"It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person."
Vettel, who joined in 2015 with the dream of emulating boyhood hero Michael Schumacher in winning titles with the sport's oldest and most glamorous team, is out of contract at the end of the year.
Where the 32-year-old German will go now, and indeed whether he will remain in a sport whose delayed season has yet to start due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are the big questions.
"The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season," Vettel said.
"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."
"What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life," he added.
Vettel said he would now take time "to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future".
German media, who flagged up the departure on Monday night, reported Vettel had rejected the terms being offered by Ferrari.
Italy's Gazetta dello Sport newspaper recently reported Vettel, who won 14 races with the team and is their third most successful driver, had been offered a one-year extension with a salary reduction.
The German, who won his titles with Red Bull, told reporters last month he could have a new deal done before the start of a season delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Ferrari had also said the German was their first choice to partner Charles Leclerc.
Max Verstappen suggested on Tuesday that Carlos Sainz would replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari after saying he didn’t think Daniel Ricciardo would move to the Italian F1 outfit next season.
Sainz, 25, will leave McLaren following the 2020 season to partner 22-year-old Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, forming the team’s youngest pairing in the past 50 years.
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