Sebastian Vettel Sees 1 Path To His Fifth Formula One Championship

When you think about it, there’s an interesting symmetry in the developments this year for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel.

Both announced early in 2020 that they were departing; it’s not clear how hard their teams worked to keep them. The two, giants in their respective sports, were also both leaving organizations with rich histories but questions going forward.

Brady left the New England Patriots as a free agent and has stepped into a situation that could see him playing in the Super Bowl on his home field in February. Vettel has a few races left at Scuderia Ferrari but will exit next month.

It’s where the similarities end. That’s because Vettel faces much longer odds of winning a championship in the new year.

Sebastian Vettel has had an impressive career

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German driver Sebastian Vettel, 33, has been a major name in Formula One racing since winning the 2008 Italian Grand Prix as a 21-year-old. He has the distinction of capturing four straight series championships from 2010-13. His other accomplishments include winning a record nine consecutive races and ranking No. 3 on the world’s best-know racing circuit with 53 victories.

When he left Red Bull Racing for Ferrari in 2015, it was huge international news because of his new team’s rich history in the sport. Ferrari drivers have won 15 Formula One championships, with the legendary Michael Schumacher earning five straight beginning in 2000.

The racing program means everything to Ferrari in its marketing for its high-end consumer vehicles. Joining Ferrari immediately made Vettel one of the company’s most valuable assets, as is the case at Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton. Unfortunately, Vettel’s four championships and 38 race victories with Red Bull didn’t translate into enough success with his new team.

Former Formula One champ is on the move

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Though he has won 14 Grand Prix events since arriving at Ferrari in 2015, Sebastian Vettel slipped to fifth in last year’s standings last year, making 2020 a potential make-or-break season for his future with the team.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a pre-emptive strike. With the season on hold in the spring, Vettel and Ferrari reached an impasse during negotiations on a contract for 2021 and beyond. With the team ready to turn to Charles Leclerc as its new No. 1 driver, Ferrari ended discussions and the sides announced 2020 would be Vettel’s final season.

Vettel, widely reported to be making $40 million this season, scrambled this summer and fall because there is typically little movement by drivers each season. One estimate puts Vettel’s net worth at $120 million, but that couldn’t buy him a seat in another team’s car.

Sebastian Vettel sees a way to win his fifth Formula One title

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With just one podium finish thus far, the 2020 season will go into the books as the worst of Sebastian Vettel’s Formula One career. His lame-duck status has meant that Ferrari has shifted resources into Charles Leclerc’s team, which hasn’t had much more success.

Ferrari sits sixth in the constructor standings and could be in for a difficult future. Ferrari outspends everyone but Mercedes by a significant margin but faces reductions in the future as Formula One moves toward capping costs. Even if the salary was right, Vettel could have had legitimate concerns about other teams catching up to Ferrari.

Vettel finally struck a deal this fall to secure a ride in 2021. Barring a late change, he will drive for the new Aston Martin team, rebranded from Racing Point BWT Mercedes. The team is not to be confused with the Mercedes operation featuring Lewis Hamilton, but Racing Point is third in the current constructor standings.

Vettel should be able to take a run at returning to the podium on a more frequent basis, but he is realistic about the odds of his winning a fifth Formula One championship.

“Let’s be honest,” he said, according to TheSportsRush.com, “Now, only those who drive a Mercedes can win it. But I’m happy where I’m going, we have the potential to impress. And then in 2022 the rules will change. Never say never.”

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