As well as providing spectacular racing for the past 70 years, Formula One has also been at the pinnacle of innovation for global motorsport and the wider automotive industry.
Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Ferrari has caused one of the biggest driver market shake-ups in recent years.
Nobody could have predicted what has unfolded over the past few days.
It all started on Tuesday with the announcement from Maranello that Vettel would be leaving Ferrari at the end of this season. It came as a shock to many – including me – but in hindsight shouldn’t have been a complete surprise.
It was clear the power dynamic inside Ferrari had changed. With the arrival of Charles Leclerc last season, Vettel was no longer the top dog.
Leclerc is the young prodigy who has come up through the ranks as part of the team’s driver academy. He is now being seen as the man who can break Ferrari’s title drought.
That was once expected of Vettel. His time at Ferrari ends in disappointment, with two world title chances having slipped away. The mistakes had become more frequent and the cracks were beginning to show as the pressure continued building.
When I started gaining interest in F1 back in 2012 Vettel was at the top of his game and well on his way to four consecutive world titles between 2010 and 2013.
His move to Ferrari in 2015 looked like it would pay off when the Scuderia offered a serious challenge to Mercedes after the regulation changes in 2017.
But it was not to be. It fell apart after a crash with teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in Singapore in 2017 and in a gravel trap at Hockenheim in 2018.
Vettel leaves Ferrari having met his match in Charles Leclerc. It’s not too dissimilar to how Vettel left Red Bull Racing after a difficult 2014 when
Daniel Ricciardo finished higher in the championship.
I’m not saying it’s exactly the same situation, because we don’t know the full reasons for Vettel’s departure. In his statement Vettel talked about evaluating his priorities in life, saying he will “take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future”.
However, when Vettel says, “The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season” it’s hard not to infer he wasn’t happy with his position inside the team relative to Leclerc.
Whatever the reasons behind the decision, it leads to a new dawn at Ferrari. Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will form the team’s youngest driver partnership in 50 years.
The Spaniard is on a two-year contract and I look forward to seeing what success he has at a top-three team.
Daniel Ricciardo will take Sainz’s place at McLaren. I think he will fare better there than he would have had he stayed at Renault. As things stand, McLaren are outperforming Renault, and with McLaren switching to Mercedes power from next year, they look set to do so for many seasons to come.
Renault are aiming for titles after the next major regulation change, now delayed to 2022, but I’m not so confident. Neither, it seems, is Ricciardo. His move to McLaren is a massive blow to the French manufacturer.
At the moment Sebastian Vettel has two options available to him: move to Renault or retire. A move to Red Bull Racing is off the cards as is a switch to Mercedes.
Who knows where Vettel goes from here. One thing’s for sure: it would be a shame if his F1 career ended like this.