Mika Hakkinen does expect Sebastian Vettel to stay in Formula 1, but says he may “lack energy” after starting so young.
At 32, the four-time World Champion is far from past it in terms of age, but he has already enjoyed an extensive career after debuting at the age of 19.
Hakkinen doesn’t think Vettel is finished with Formula 1 after he announced he will leave Ferrari at the end of 2020, but understands that heading into your 14th season must require a great deal of energy.
“Looking at the Ferrari announcement, two things are clear,” Hakkinen wrote in his Unibet column.
“The first is that negotiations ended without a solution and they decided to split. Negotiations means that, for both the team and driver, the original intention was to try and do a deal.
“In public Sebastian had been quite open about his hopes to agree a new deal, so this is not about a decision to retire; they were simply unable to agree a deal.
“This brings me to my second point which is that the negotiation took place in the context of last December’s announcement that Charles Leclerc had signed a new contract until the end of 2024, guaranteeing that he would drive for the team for at least five more seasons.
“Remember Charles had a very strong 2019 season, with seven pole positions and two victories, including winning the Italian Grand Prix in September – Ferrari’s home race. He finished fourth in the World Championship in his first year with the team, while Sebastian was fifth.
“This meant that Sebastian’s negotiations with Ferrari were never going to be easy because the team had already made a long term commitment to Charles, and Sebastian’s performance had not been quite as good.
Sebastian is a great Grand Prix driver. To win four World Championships is a major achievement and he finished second in the World Championship to Lewis Hamilton in both 2017 and 2018.
“Indeed he won the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix almost exactly 11 years after winning his first Grand Prix for Toro Rosso in Italy in 2008. He has been a very consistent performer, with 53 wins and 57 pole positions.
“Sebastian has a big decision to make about his future. He was not considering retirement, but he will now have to look at what other options are available in 2021 and 2022, as well as consider how he feels about the job of remaining a Formula 1 driver – especially if he is unable to drive for a winning team.
“Although he is only 33 this year, he made his debut in Formula 1 at a very young age, 19, and I am sure that when you start so young it also becomes more difficult to maintain the high energy levels you need to stay at the top of this sport.
“Personally I would like to see him continue as he remains a quick driver and a great ambassador for Formula 1, but only he can make the final decision. He will know in his heart what the right decision is.”