McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes Sebastian Vettel will leave Formula 1 entirely at the end of the season.
The four-time World Champion revealed that he will not be signing an extension to his deal with Ferrari, and quickly they moved to secure Carlos Sainz from McLaren for 2021.
And with Daniel Ricciardo getting involved in silly season by joining McLaren, that means his Renault seat is the only likely option for Vettel.
But Brown thinks that rather than take it, Vettel will instead leave Formula 1 at the end of the year.
“Clearly it’s not a nice environment inside the Ferrari garage at the moment with the drivers and management, it seems to not be a happy family at the moment,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“Which I think is going to make for some pretty exciting racing in 2020 because I think we saw in Brazil the fireworks that were inevitable and building up… I’m anticipating more of that this year.
“It really depends, if Seb looks around, it doesn’t look like there’s a Mercedes or Red Bull opportunity for him, there’s not a McLaren opportunity for him, clearly not at Ferrari, so the next best is Renault.
“And the next question is does Seb want to go with a team that is probably not going to win in 2021? It’s a great team and they too should be moving up the grid but I think unless Seb wants to restart a journey with a team that’s back on a journey – then I think he’ll end up probably leaving the sport unfortunately.”
Brown also confirmed that at no point was Vettel an option for them as Sainz’s replacement.
“Obviously Seb’s an awesome driver and a four-time champion,” he said. “But I think we were pretty far down the path in the off-season and knew we would either land with Daniel or Carlos.
“We never really entertained anyone beyond that, and especially with Seb’s late breaking news – we were pretty far down the path at that point.”
McLaren have been a fan of Ricciardo for some time Brown said, so he was delighted to have secured him after narrowly missing out a few years ago.
“We went after Daniel a couple of years ago and narrowly missed out,” he revealed.
“So we’ve been a fan of Daniel’s for some time.
“Obviously he went to Renault [from Red Bull] and we brought in Carlos and Lando [Norris] who have done a fantastic job.
“But as things turned out we were out of contract with Carlos [for 2021] and he had some opportunities. We’re going to miss Carlos, he’s done a fantastic job but now we have a seven-time Grand Prix winner in the car and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Sainz was given permission to speak to Ferrari in the off-season after talks with Brown and McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl, but Brown said “it was all very above board”.
“I’ve come to learn in Formula 1 don’t expect anything except for the unexpected,” he explained.
“We had a sense, we started talking to Carlos in the off-season about his future with us and whether he wanted to drive for McLaren or Ferrari.
“We’ve got a very strong, open relationship with Carlos, his management and his father. This didn’t come as a surprise given how quickly we announced Daniel, and how quickly Carlos announced what he was doing. We were very joined up through this entire process.”
He added: “I think these movements would have probably happened with or without COVID because we started these conversations pre-COVID.”
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