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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Ferrari tell Vettel he can sign new contract with the team whenever he wants

The Italian team are pleased with the world championship leader's performances, but less so with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Sebastian Vettel's performances have delighted Ferrari management. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA
Sebastian Vettel's performances have delighted Ferrari management. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA

Ferrari have told Sebastian Vettel he just has to sign on the dotted line to stay with the Formula One team next season.

The championship leader is out of contract at the end of the year but Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne set out his team's position at the Austrian Grand Prix.

"I made it very clear that if he wants to stay then we’ll just renew it. It’s up to him," Marchionne said.

Vettel has delayed contract talks to focus on the championship battle, saying there will be plenty of time over the summer, and any haggling is likely to be about money and the number of years.

The German, a four times world champion, moved 20 points clear of closest rival Lewis Hamilton after finishing runner-up to the Briton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the Red Bull Ring.

With the 20-round season approaching the halfway point at Silverstone next weekend, Vettel has won three races and it would probably have been four had he been given one more lap on Sunday.

As it was, he missed out by only 0.6 secons to Bottas.

Speaking to the Italian media afterwards, Marchionne said there was plenty to be happy about however.

"It was very close. We are there and our German friends know it," he said.

"They can feel us breathing down their necks but we will cut this little gap. I am much happier than I was in the past. The boys know we have started the job and we must carry it through to the end."

While Vettel leads the standings, champions Mercedes stretched their lead in the constructors' standings to 33 points and are 5-3 to Ferrari on wins.

But while Hamilton and Bottas have shared the spoils of victory, Vettel has been leading the charge for Ferrari with more than twice as many points as his Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel's only obvious alternative to the most successful team in Formula One history would be Mercedes, but the German has already laughed off rumours of that happening.

"I think the way we are set up right now, we find ourselves very happy and the focus is on this year despite the fact for next year there is nothing on paper," he said in May.

Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has also dismissed a move.

"A Ferrari driver, his head is for Ferrari, and the money in the end is also there," he said.

While Ferrari are happy with the form of Vettel, they are less so with the fortunes of his teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Marchionne had said of the Finn before the race on Sunday in Austria, "I think Kimi has got to show a higher level of commitment to the process.

"There are days when I think he's a bit of a laggard, but we'll see."

Raikkonen finished a distant fifth in Austria, and is fifth in the drivers' championship on 83 points, 88 less than Vettel.

The 2007 world champion told reporters post-race in Austria that it was not for a want of effort that he had been unable to match the endeavours of Vettel.

"Obviously I want to do well," Raikkonen said. "My team wants to do well, and I can only do the best that I can. It's not like I'm not trying.

"Unfortunately it's not been very straightforward sometimes, but that's part of the plan and we keep pushing and I'm sure things will work out better."

Raikkonen and Ferrari now head to England for Sunday's British Grand Prix, a race that the Finn last won in 2007.

Since then in his previous seven appearances at Silverstone he has not finished on the podium, finishing fifth last year.

Ferrari themselves have not won at Silverstone since 2012, when Fernando Alonso prevailed, with the past four years having been won by a driver racing for Mercedes.