Charles Leclerc has taken to social media to pay tribute to Ferrari counterpart Sebastian Vettel following the surprise announcement he will exit the team at the end of the 2020 F1 season.

This morning [Tuesday 12 May] Vettel and Ferrari confirmed they have agreed to part ways at the conclusion of the year after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract.

As it stands, it is unclear whether Vettel will continue racing in 2021 – with Renault and McLaren being identified as his most plausible options – or whether he will call time on a career that has yielded four F1 world championships to date.

While Vettel has remained coy as to the finer details of why he is leaving Ferrari after five seasons, there has been much paddock speculation over disagreements during contract negotiations, namely his de facto team leader status.

Last year, the German found his position as number one driver in the Ferrari team threatened by the success of new team-mate Leclerc, a brewing power struggle that led to several on-track spats between the pair.

With Ferrari making its future position clear by signing Leclerc to a new four-year deal during the off-season, Vettel lost his negotiating sway and was understood to be faced with accepting a shorter contract on a much reduced wage that potentially ceded his number one status, or depart altogether.

Despite the fractiousness on-track, Leclerc and Vettel have presented a more united front off it, with the young Monegasque insisting he has huge respect for his team-mate.

“It's been a huge honor for me to be your team mate. We've had some tense moments on tracks. Some very good ones and some others that didn't end as we both wanted, but there was always respect, even though it wasn't perceive this way from the outside.
 

“I've never learnt so much as I did with you as my teammate. Thank you for everything Seb”

 

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