The Formula 1 season hasn't officially started yet, but there's been a massive bombshell that has shocked the sport. The big news surrounds about one of the grid's most popular drivers: 4-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.
As confirmed by the team, the German driver will be out of Scuderia Ferrari by the end of the 2020 season.
Vettel entered Formula 1 in 2007, winning his maiden race (the 2008 Italian Grand Prix) on his sophomore season with Italian team Scuderia Toro Rosso. Vettel moved up to Red Bull the following season and became a consistent race winner, and secured the championship in four consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2014.
The German has been driving for Ferrari since 2015. His current contract with the team, signed in 2017, ends this year. Italian media outfits published that Vettel was offered a one-year contract extension by Ferrari. However, the team allegedly said that he can continue driving for them on the condition that he accept a reduced salary. While we don't know what happened behind closed doors, Vettel's exit from the team is certain.
With that, there are many questions hanging above the four-time champion's head. One of the biggest questions is, of course, where will he go? On that, there is still no word; officially-speaking, of course. This could leave Vettel with no team for the 2021 season. Does this mean Vettel will be retiring soon? Rumors have circulated about the sensitive topic, but he has since denied it during the last pre-season test in Catalunya. However, that early retirement might become a reality if he's unable to find a seat for next year.
This news bit has kicked off what's called the silly season; a time when rumors start swirling around the paddock and the internet regarding who will be driving for who in the next season, like who will drive the second car for Scuderia Ferrari now that Vettel is leaving?
There are those suggesting that Carlos Sainz Jr or Daniel Ricciardo are currently contenders for the coveted Ferrari seat for 2021. Renault, the team which Ricciardo drives for, has admitted their driver might leave by the end of this year. That could make him the frontrunner for Ferrari's next driver.
Whatever the outcome will be, it will be interesting to see how Vettel performs in his abbreviated final year with Scuderia Ferrari. Not only does he have defending champion Lewis Hamilton to contend with, but also his own teammate, Charles Leclerc, who outpaced the veteran last season.