Binotto takes shot at Mercedes as he explains early decision on Vettel exit

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Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has taken a shot at Mercedes after revealing Covid-19 and Formula 1's budget cap led to the decision to part with Sebastian Vettel.

Last month, it was suddenly confirmed the four-time world champion would be departing the Scuderia after six seasons at the end of 2020, with McLaren's Carlos Sainz signed as his replacement a few days later.

But while most have pointed to the rise of Charles Leclerc and Vettel's poor form last year as key in their agreement to part ways, Binotto revealed otherwise.

“Without a doubt, for many reasons,” he told Spain’s Marca initially on whether splitting with the German was a difficult call.

“Ferrari love Sebastian as a driver and as a person as he is part of our team and our project, so it is never an easy decision.

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“He was our first option and then the coronavirus pandemic came, a situation that has changed many things, from the regulations to the budget cap," Binotto added.

“There are things that have changed the situation, with the new car postponed to 2022. We had to make internal reviews and that’s what we did.”

One possible though unlikely outcome looking ahead to next year is Vettel lining up against Ferrari with Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton.

But asked about the impact would be of Vettel retiring, the Ferrari boss voiced his support to see him move to the German manufacturer.

“Yes, it would be a loss, because we love and appreciate him and it would be important for him to find a good seat next year," Binotto said.

"I hear rumours that Mercedes are interested and I would be very happy for him, I really would be.”

However, Mattia appears to have little love lost for his counterpart at the Brackley-based team, Toto Wolff, as he fired a rare shot over the Austrian admitting his surprise at Ferrari confirming their 2021 line-up this early.

“Regarding our driver decision, I’m glad Mercedes always has opinions about us,” he told La Stampa.

“I’m surprised they haven’t signed the contract with Hamilton yet too. We would have done it much sooner.

“We decided this out of a sense of transparency towards Seb. He must think about his future, we could not delay the decision. Our choice was fair to him and gives us credit."