Ferrari: Vettel first choice to pair Leclerc in F1 2021, not Hamilton

Sebastian Vettel is Ferrari's first choice to partner Charles Leclerc for the 2021 Formula 1 season, says team principal Mattia Binotto

Vettel scored one victory to Leclerc's two in 2019 and was outscored by his team-mate, who was in his first year at Ferrari and has since earned a new deal that runs until the end of the 2024 season.

Four-time champion Vettel's current contract expires at the end of this year.

But though there were flashpoints between Vettel and Leclerc in 2019, and Ferrari's senior management has publicly entertained the idea of moving for six-time champion Lewis Hamilton, Binotto clarified that keeping Vettel is the team's "preference".

Asked at the launch of Ferrari's 2020 car whether Hamilton was an option for 2021, Binotto said: "I want to reply on a different way.

"I think Seb is our first choice at the moment, and obviously it's something we are discussing with him and we will continue discussing, but he's certainly our first option, our preference at the moment."

Binotto subsequently said recruiting Hamilton was not something Ferrari is "considering at the moment".

Vettel said he preferred to "live in the moment" rather than beginning to think about his post-2020 F1 prospects.

"If you compare to three years ago, I didn't have a contract until August, so strictly speaking I was out of business half a year before the season finished," he said.

"So, I don't think it changes much.

"You're obviously focused on what's going on in the moment.

"At some point obviously you have to sort out what's going on in the future. But I think we'll have enough time to do so."

Asked about a timeframe for agreeing a new deal with Vettel, Binotto said: "It's firstly a common decision, something we will discuss together.

"It will take the time that is needed.

"Obviously now we are focused on the car, we are focused on what will be the winter testing and the first races, and there will be a proper time for the rest."

Previous article "Extreme" 2020 Ferrari F1 design aimed at "maximum aero performance"
Next article 2020 F1 Chinese GP set to be called off after coronavirus outbreak