Vettel and Ferrari have announced a parting of ways from 2021, ending the German’s six-year relationship with the famous Italian manufacturer and leaving him without a drive for next season as Carlos Sain moves from McLaren to take his seat.
Speculation is rife over where Vettel will end up, although options are somewhat limited as Daniel Ricciardo has agreed to leave Renault to join McLaren while Red Bull are invested in Max Verstappen and are known to rate his current teammate Alex Albon highly following his impressive 2019 debut season.
Mercedes though are one potential destination as neither Lewis Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas are signed up beyond 2020, and although the team are determined to keep the six-time world champion, they have not been as clear on the future of Bottas.
The chance to unite Hamilton with Vettel would combine the winners of eight of the last nine world championships, with Vettel dominating from 2010 to 2013 before Hamilton took over – only Nico Rosberg has managed to beat them to the title.
And despite the intense rivalry between Mercedes and Ferrari, team principal Binotto would be more than happy to see Vettel driving for the Silver Arrows next season because of the joy it would bring him to see the German remain on the grid.
“It would be a loss, because we love and appreciate him, and it would be important for him to find a good seat next year,” Binotto told Spanish newspaper Marca.
“I hear rumours that he could find himself in a Mercedes and I would be very happy for him, I really would be.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff refused to rule out a move for Vettel when addressing his availability last season, with the team principal and chief executive of the F1 team admitting they “owe it” to a driver with a record such as Vettel’s to genuinely consider him.
“It’s not lip service. We owe it to a four-time world champion not to come out and say straight away ‘no’. You need to think about it,” said Wolff, who also manages Bottas.
Binotto was also asked about how Vettel’s contract negotiation quickly unravelled into the two parties going their separate ways, with the former Red Bull driver expected to remain with the team alongside Charles Leclerc – who is signed up until 2024 after his successful debut season with the team in 2019 – only to confirm his departure.
It was suggested that the offer of a short-term deal to Vettel proved the decisive factor in forcing him out of the door, but this was dismissed by Binotto, with the Italian revealing that the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic fallout and the financial hardship ahead resulting in the team opting for a “new cycle”.
Asked if it was a difficult decision, Binotto said: “Without a doubt, for many reasons. Ferrari loves Sebastian as a driver and as a person, he is part of our team, our project, so it is never an easy decision.
“Seb was our first option and then the Covid-19 (outbreak) came, a situation that has changed many things, from the regulation to the budget ceiling, things that have changed the vision of the situation, looking ahead as with the new car postponed to 2022. Difficult internal reviews had to be done, and that’s what we did.”
Stressing that the short-term contract offer rumours were unfounded, he added: “No, that is not true. It is simply that things have changed and we are looking at a new cycle, and it seems that this vision, in terms of timing, did not coincide with his vision. It was not because of the type of offer or its duration.”
Vettel’s other options include Ricciardo’s vacant seat at Renault or one at Racing Point – which will receive Aston Martin factory backing next season, and seats at Alpha Tauri, Williams and Haas are also available. However, all would represent a sizeable step down from Ferrari, with Mercedes the only team able to offer anything like what he experienced at Ferrari in terms of success on the track.