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Sebastian Vettel Isn’t Promising to Stay in Formula 1 After Next Year

Vettel isn't sure that F1's coming rule changes will be to his liking, and can't say for sure he'll be around to compete under the new regulations.

Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel revealed that his future in Formula 1 is tentative and will depend on whether the competitive environment will favor him.

“I’m certain I really want to drive this year and next year; then I don’t know what happens to the regulations,” Vettel told The Sunday Times. “I certainly can’t sit here and say ‘no[, I won’t quit]’ just for the sake of being in Formula 1.”

F1’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media and its regulating body, the FIA, are planning a major overhaul to the sport’s technical regulations and financial structure, due for enactment in 2021. Cheaper, louder, more reliable engines along with more competition-conducive aerodynamics are the focal points of how cars will differ, while teams will be expected to get by on smaller budgets, with more even distributions of prize money. Like all major regulatory changes in F1’s history, it will be an opportunity for teams to start from a clean slate.

Vettel hinted that he doesn’t think that F1 as it is now (or will be in the near future), despite its emphasis on close competition, is as best-man-win as it used to be, despite being the beneficiary of best-in-field cars for a significant portion of his career.

“A lot of the values that used to be around, they are only partly around [now],” Vettel continued, seemingly insinuating F1 to be more an entertainment product than a sport. “You can say the same probably for other sports, but maybe in other sports it doesn’t filter down as much to the actual athlete as much as it does here.”

Vettel, once a young hotshot likened to Michael Schumacher, has come under scrutiny by the F1 world since winning his fourth title in 2013. An unflattering performance against a less-experienced Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 followed by title challenges that ran out of steam in 2017 and 2018 (in part due to high-profile driver errors) have lessened opinions of Vettel for fans and drivers alike—2016 champion Nico Rosberg highlighted on-air during the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix Vettel’s tendency to crack under pressure. Faced with an ambitious teammate in Charles Leclerc, who looks ready to challenge Vettel’s status as number one driver at Ferrari, Vettel may be seeing his best days as being behind him.

Vettel is now F1’s fourth-most veteran driver, behind Kimi Räikkönen, Robert Kubica, and Lewis Hamilton, all of whose competitive F1 debuts came before. Räikkönen, 39, who has children and an Alfa Romeo contract running through 2020, is not expected to continue racing in F1 after 2020. Hamilton has insinuated that he will give F1’s 2021 rules a try before making up his mind regarding the future, and Kubica’s future in F1 will hinge on how he performs against his rookie teammate, 2018 FIA Formula 2 champion George Russell.