While all normal decisions in Formula 1 remain on hold during the coronavirus crisis including the driver market, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has explained the team “love and appreciate” Sebastian Vettel as one of its drivers.

After Ferrari tied down Charles Leclerc with a long-term F1 deal to keep him at the Scuderia until at least the end of 2024, all focus on its driver line-up switched to four-time world champion Vettel.

Having been linked with a move for Lewis Hamilton over the winter, Ferrari boss Binotto has reaffirmed the German as its number one choice to race alongside Leclerc from 2021 onwards.

But with the F1 season stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic, any progress on a new deal between Vettel and Ferrari has been put temporarily on hold until a sense of normality resumes when focus can shift back to racing rather than the ongoing shutdown and race calendar reshuffle.

Binotto says the delay to the start of the 2020 F1 season doesn’t provide worthwhile benefits for either of his drivers as both remain eager to return to racing. The Ferrari boss also said Vettel’s very nature makes him a driver the team appreciates and enjoys having in one of its cars.

“I don’t think the interruption is suiting either driver as they all really love racing as it is part of their lives,” Binotto told Sky Sports. “I know that Sebastian is missing normality and misses that we are not on track racing, he would like to be back as soon as possible but we need to do that when everything is gone and we are back to normality.

“I think his desire is to race at any moment, Seb is a genuine and straightforward person. He loves his job and that is one of the reasons why as Ferrari we love and appreciate him so much.”

Binotto is also delighted to see Leclerc keeping himself busy through Esports racing, after winning on debut in F1’s Virtual Grand Prix series last weekend and helping set up the ‘Race the World’ sim championship to raise funds for a coronavirus charity.

“Leclerc enjoyed the Esports race and I think for him it was important to get back in the cockpit, he was missing the cockpit and missing racing,” Binotto explained. “It has been a great event with a lot of enthusiasm and feedback, people were positive which is good. Charles started on pole and won which is good and what he was looking for so he enjoyed the moment.

“I am in contact with both drivers maybe on a daily basis just to make sure that everything is going OK with them.

“They are both trying to occupy themselves, they need to stick to the laws of their countries but they are training, they are trying to keep fit, not only on the physical side but also the mental side, making sure that whenever we return to normality that they are ready to start again.”