Four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel could find himself out of the sport next season amid rumours Mercedes will re-sign Finnish wheelman Valtteri Bottas for 2021.
Vettel’s start to his final season with Ferrari couldn’t have started worse in the first two grand prix of the season, finishing 10th in the Austrian season opener before retiring from the second race at the Styrian circuit last weekend.
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The former Red Bull Racing ace’s options had been narrowing since his split from Ferrari was revealed, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo snaring the vacant 2021 seat at McLaren and Renault signing former champion Fernando Alonso.
English newspaper The Sun is reporting Bottas has inked a one-year extension with the German manufacturer, with Mercedes CEO Ola Kallenius reportedly giving his blessing to the Finn’s return.
Bottas leads the drivers’ championship after two races, after winning the season opening GP and placing second last weekend.
It potentially marks an underwhelming end to Vettel’s tenure with the iconic Italian team, who he signed with in 2015 in the hopes he could emulate the title-winning feats of fellow German driver and F1 legend Michael Schumacher.
Unfortunately for Vettel, those hopes never materialised, save for valiant title fights against Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton in 2017 and 2018.
The 33-year-old struggled in 2019 thanks to the arrival of new young gun teammate Charles Leclerc, but Ferrari’s woeful pace so far in 2020 has stymied the championship hopes of both drivers, despite Leclerc’s impressive second place finish in the season opener.
Ferrari rue missed opportunity at Styrian Grand Prix
Leclerc apologised to Ferrari and Vettel after causing a first-lap collision that put both drivers out of the Styrian Grand Prix.
Both cars suffered damage and returned to the pits, with four-times world champion Vettel wheeled into the garage while Leclerc rejoined in last place after having a new front wing fitted.
The Monegasque, whose car was tipped onto Vettel's after he tried a lunge down the inside of the German and hit a kerb in the turn three incident, retired on lap five.
The 22-year-old recognised he had been over-optimistic in his move.
"I apologised. Obviously, excuses are not enough in times like this," the youngster told Sky television.
"I am just disappointed in myself. I have done a very bad job today, I let the team down. I can only be sorry even though I know it's not enough. I hope I will learn from this and will come back stronger for the next races.
"But it's a tough time for the team. We don't need that. The team doesn't need that and I put all the efforts of the team in the bin. So I'm very sorry."