Motor racing: Leclerc’s rise meant the writing was on the wall for Vettel

LONDON (Reuters) – The writing has been on the wall for Sebastian Vettel since September 2018 when Ferrari introduced Charles Leclerc as his Formula One crew mate.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 29, 2019 Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The German, who will depart the Italian crew at the finish of a pandemic-hit 2020 season that has but to start out, was high canine at Maranello at the time however Leclerc was younger, hungry and decided.

Strapped into the purple automobile for 2019, the Monegasque — now 22 — outperformed the four-times world champion on nearly each measurement.

He received extra races (2-1), scored extra factors (264-240), began from extra poles (7-2), stood on extra podiums (10-9), had extra quickest laps (4-2) and drew extra applause than his 32-year-old crew mate whose standing as the foremost man slipped out of sight.

By the finish of the yr, Leclerc had a brand new contract taking him by way of to the finish of 2024 and was clearly the face of the future.

Vettel, who arrived at Maranello from Red Bull in 2015 as the substitute for Spaniard Fernando Alonso, is paid a reported annual wage of $40 million.

In return he has taken 14 wins over the previous 5 years, just one greater than in his remaining 2013 season at Red Bull, to take his profession tally to 53.

The German had hoped to emulate Michael Schumacher, a boyhood hero who received 5 of his seven titles with the sport’s oldest and most profitable crew, however the closest he got here was second general in 2017 and 2018.

In 2016 he was fourth general, with out a win, and final yr he completed fifth, additional away than ever to bringing Ferrari their first drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has accelerated previous him and is now a six-times champion on the cusp of matching Schumacher’s document.

Vettel has appeared unwell relaxed in the automobile, making pricey errors each pressured and unforced. Some have questioned his motivation and puzzled about retirement.

That stress and frustration was evident in Canada final yr when a time penalty dropped him from first to second and he angrily changed the primary signal positioned post-race in entrance of Hamilton’s automobile with the quantity two.

At Monza final yr, with Leclerc on his technique to successful Ferrari’s house race from pole place, Vettel spun off after which practically took out Lance Stroll’s Racing Point as he returned clumsily on observe.

In Brazil, the two Ferrari drivers collided and retired from the race.

“In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony,” Vettel stated on Tuesday.

“The crew and I’ve realised that there isn’t a longer a typical need to remain collectively past the finish of this season.

“My speedy purpose is to complete my lengthy stint with Ferrari, in the hope of sharing some extra lovely moments collectively, so as to add to all these now we have loved up to now.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, modifying by Christian Radnedge