Ferrari has already started discussions with Sebastian Vettel over a new Formula 1 contract, according to team principal Mattia Binotto.

Vettel endured a frustrating and disappointing 2019 campaign in which he managed just a single victory and was outperformed by new Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, while he also found himself fending off suggestions he was considering an early retirement at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old’s current contract expires at the end of the upcoming 2020 campaign but Ferrari team boss Binotto confirmed at the Scuderia’s launch of its latest F1 car that negotiations over a new deal are well underway.

"Discussions with Sebastian have already started, they started before Christmas at the end of last year and continued here,” Binotto told RTL.

Ferrari has been linked with six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in recent months with the Briton available for 2021, but it looks increasingly likely that he will continue his successful partnership with Mercedes, despite holding a meeting with Ferrari chairman John Elkann last year.

Binotto told reporters at Ferrari’s launch of its SF1000 challenger that it would choose Vettel over Hamilton, despite revealing that the German will no longer have No.1 status at the team, with the Italian squad adopting a ‘let them race’ policy for its drivers in 2020. 

“I think it is something that we need to understand between us what are his intentions, what are our intentions, but he is our first option,” Binotto added.

“We are very proud of our drivers. We believe we have the two best drivers in F1. I think it will be good for us to retain both of them.”

Vettel said he still wants time to mull over his future but would “currently say yes” to extending his tenure in F1 into the championship’s new era post-2020.

 

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