Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel won't return to Ferrari in 2021

Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari career is over after the 2020 season.

Ferrari announced Tuesday morning that Vettel would not return to the storied Formula 1 team in 2021 after the completion of his current contract. The four-time F1 champion has won 11 races over the past three seasons.

“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said in a statement. “It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person. There was no specific reason that led to this decision, apart from the common and amicable belief that the time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives.”

None of Vettel’s four titles have come with Ferrari. He won four straight championships from 2010-13 while driving for Red Bull Racing and moved to the Scuderia after a winless 2014. He immediately won three races in his first season with Ferrari but finished behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the standings.

Mercedes has won each of the past six titles. Hamilton has five of those.

“In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony,” Vettel, 32, said. “The team and I have realized that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season. Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.

“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. One needs to use one’s imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future.”

Sebastian Vettel won't be back with Ferrari in 2021. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Vettel’s departure from Ferrari means that one of the most coveted seats in the 20-car F1 garage is now available. Oh, and Hamilton is a free agent at the end of the season. While it seems very likely that he’ll return to Mercedes on a new deal, both he and Ferrari now have some leverage when it comes to making their 2021 plans.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo can also get out of his contract with the French team after two years. Ricciardo struggled in his first season with the team in 2019 as it tries to compete with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.

Charles LeClerc emerged as a worthy teammate for Vettel in 2019 as he won two races to Vettel’s one. LeClerc, 22, seems to be the most likely challenger to Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes in 2020 unless Vettel and Ferrari can find some magic whenever the 2020 season officially begins.

F1’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix was canceled in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the world. The series says it hopes to restart at some point during the summer but has not given a timetable or a schedule for when it does restart.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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