Ferrari Signs Sebastian Vettel to Contract Extension Through 2020
The Maranello team retains the sport's top driver.
Ferrari has put the rumors to rest by signing its ace driver Sebastian Vettel to an extension through the 2020 season. By retaining the four time world champion for the next three years, Ferrari's gameplan is a strong one that includes veteran driver Kimi Raikkonen and young guns LeClerc and Giovinazzi, all in efforts to tack on more world championships to its regime. While the deal keeps Vettel on board for next year, it also takes him out of the free agency drama that is expected to surround 2019.
This ends speculation that Vettel could be on the move to Mercedes Benz, a suggestion that circulated heavily for the first part of the year. Mercedes chairman Nikki Lauda released earlier in the week that the team had entered talks with the current points leader, but conclusively decided not to move forward with negotiations.
"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. "So therefore we stopped right away a couple of months ago.
"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 did."
Additionally, this rounds out F1's top three teams in Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, and Red Bull, all of which will retain their current driver crews for next year. The end of 2018, however, will set in a new wave of driver availability with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen both finishing out their contracts. While Hamilton is expected to renew with Mercedes, Verstappen could be in the market for an upgrade if he doesn't get a better car, meaning he could land right in the lap of another top team. Ferrari's decision to re-sign Raikkonen for just one year keeps its options open dependent on what comes to fruition come 2019.
Vettel's decision to sign with Ferrari allows the team to focus on the second half of this F1 season. He currently sits 14 points ahead of Hamilton in the driver's standings, sitting atop the championship category with the Belgian Grand Prix coming on Sunday. Hamilton's pole position for the race will make it interesting as the two both have respectable track record at the Spa circuit.