Reports are circulating that Sebastian Vettel is poised to leave the Ferrari F1 team at the end of this year, in a shock move that will free up one of the hottest seats on the grid.
The German four-time world champion joined Ferrari in 2015, after being upstaged by his then Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
However, well-respected German media outlets Bild and Auto Motor und Sport are both reporting Vettel’s departure from the Maranello team is expected to be announced on Tuesday in Europe.
Currently, the 32-year-old is signed to Ferrari as part of a three-year contract, which expires at the end of 2020.
It is understood that Vettel was offered a one-year contract for 2021, with a reduced salary.
Meanwhile, his teammate Charles Leclerc – viewed as a golden child within Maranello – is contracted to the team until the end of 2024.
Intra-team tensions rose within the Ferrari squad, with Vettel’s number one status being threatened by the young, fast, and talented Leclerc.
Vettel’s departure will be the beginning of a complicated silly season of driver transitions for Formula 1, as the four-time champion will have to either find a new seat, or potentially retire from the sport.
Ricciardo is believed to have signed a pre-contract to join Vettel at Ferrari in 2019 before Leclerc was parachuted into that seat at the behest of the late-FCA head honcho Sergio Marchionne.
Instead, Ricciardo moved to Renault, where despite the Australian’s sizeable pay packet, positive results have yet to become apparent.
European media have reported that Ricciardo is looking for an out from the French squad, and the Aussie has even admitted he wouldn’t rule out a return to Red Bull Racing if possible.
If Ricciardo’s relationship with the Ferrari team remains intact, and the cards fall his way, the Aussie could finally join the Scuderia in 2021.
Read next: Is Daniel Ricciardo overrated?
Another option for Vettel’s vacant seat is Carlos Sainz, who has a contract with McLaren until the end of 2020. Often overlooked, the young Spaniard has established himself as the best of the mid-pack, leading McLaren’s recent rebuilding phase from the driver’s seat.
Another tantalising option to consider is where Lewis Hamilton ends up. He has a contract with the dominant Mercedes-AMG team until the end of 2020, and has not confirmed his future plans.
A move to Ferrari would be risky for the six-time world champion, but a seventh title, with a third manufacturer, would seal his position as the greatest F1 driver of all time in the eyes of many fans.
With no ‘real-world’ racing for another couple of months, prepare for the 2020 silly season to begin in earnest very soon.