Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 September 2020

Sebastian Vettel admits he came close to quitting Formula One before signing for Aston Martin

Ahead of this weekend's Tuscan Grand Prix, German also says that he 'failed' at Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel has said that he came close to quitting Formula One before the re-branded Aston Martin team offered him a chance to continue racing next season.

The 33-year-old German was told by Ferrari in May, after the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed the start of the new season, that they would not be extending his contract beyond this year.

Ferrari elected to replace him with McLaren's Carlos Sainz following Charles Leclerc's emergence as the Italian team's main man.

Vettel heads into the ninth round of 17 this weekend a lowly 13th in the championship following the worst campaign of his career.

Asked on Thursday, ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix at Italy's Mugello circuit, how close he was to walking away, the four-times world champion replied: "Close".

"I don't know if there is a measure of how close you can get, but it was close in terms of having a lot of thoughts and deciding that ultimately I have to put myself first and what's best for me," Vettel told reporters in a video conference.

"And what I have decided, I believe, is what is best for me and I'm looking forward to proving that."

Vettel, who won four consecutive titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, and in terms of victories is the third most successful in the sport's history behind only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, was signed by Ferrari to end a drivers' championship drought which stretches back to 2007.

But the Ferrari hierarchy grew tired of a number of error-strewn seasons from Vettel which allowed Hamilton to march to the last three world championships.

Leclerc's arrival last year hastened his exit, with Ferrari not even entertaining the concept of offering Vettel an extension to his deal which expires at the end of the year.

"I joined Ferrari not just to join Ferrari but to win championships and obviously in that regard we have failed," said Vettel.

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Gallery from last week's Italian GP

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"From the very beginning Ferrari had a special place in my heart because of the way I looked up to Michael.

"I wanted to do better than I did but I tried everything. I had good times and bad times but now, for both sides, it is the right time to move on."

Vettel, who will team up with Lance Stroll, 21 – the son of Canadian fashion billionaire Lawrence Stroll, a co-owner of Racing Point, who will be called Aston Martin F1 next season – hopes the switch will breathe fresh life into his career.

Vettel's announcement came after Sergio Perez revealed he had been dropped after seven years with the Silverstone-based team.

Six time-world champion Hamilton said: "I just saw Seb and I am pleased to hear the news. That team has taken a huge step forward in its performance this year and they will continue to grow.

"I am biased but I believe that experience counts. Seb has had a difficult time of it at Ferrari but he is a four-time world champion and he can help steer that team. That should never be taken for for granted."

Updated: September 10, 2020 09:32 PM

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