Ferrari understands Vettel surprise at 2020 exit call but the 'situation had changed'

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Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says he can understand why Sebastian Vettel would be surprised and unhappy at the decision to drop him after 2020.

On Thursday, the four-time world champion revealed that, contrary to a prior team statement, there had not been a mutual decision not to renew his contract for next season and that, instead, there was a phone call from Binotto revealing he had chosen to replace him with Carlos Sainz.

Unsurprisingly then, the Ferrari boss was quizzed on that when speaking to the media on Friday in Austria and he conceded the reality was, plans had changed.

“Certainly we always said to him during the wintertime privately and publicly that he would have been our first choice, which I confirm," he said.

“It’s normal that during winter time lots of drivers asked if there was an opportunity to drive for Ferrari, but that didn’t change our position, Seb was our first choice.

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“What happened since then? I think the virus, the pandemic situation, which changed the entire world, not only motorsport but [also] Formula 1.

“The budget cap has been changed, it is a lot more strict, the regulations have been postponed from ‘21 to ‘22 which was somehow important for us, the cars which have been almost frozen for ‘20 and ‘21, so the entire situation has changed.

“Even the season has not started, so there was no opportunity even for Sebastian to be back on track to prove how much he was really motivated to drive for Ferrari, which has been somehow unfortunate for him.

“So during the shutdown as Ferrari we had to reconsider eventually our position, we took our decision, it was our decision, that is our responsibility, and we communicated to him,” Binotto added.

“I heard that he was surprised, which somehow I remember if he was surprised I would say yes certainly, I understand it, I think that it is pretty normal to be surprised.

“I think that while he accepted our decision even today I can say he is not fully happy with it which I can say something which is normal, and obvious.”

With little to lose then at Ferrari this year, some have wondered if Vettel might go rogue and only focus on himself, particularly given the possible influence teammate Charles Leclerc had on Binotto's thinking.

But the German, who turns 33 on Friday, says he will do what's in the interest of the Scuderia if needed.

“Surely, should the situation arise and make sense, I think you expect both drivers to help each other out. I don’t think that has anything to do with the fact that my contract expires and I’m going to be leaving the team," he said via

“But at the same time you’re racing for yourself – you know, not trying to make Charles’s life easier on track in terms of waving him by. We have been fighting each other in the past and we will continue to do so."