Gerhard Berger, the man behind Sebastian Vettel’s first-ever Formula 1 victory, believes the German could decide to pull out of his Ferrari contract at any time.
The quadruple F1 world champion has won a grand total of 52 Grands Prix, the third-highest tally in the sport’s history, but his last win was exactly a year ago, at Spa-Francorchamps and amid a problem packed season, there remain uncertainties about Vettel’s future.
32-year-old Vettel, who keeps his family life fiercely private, has admitted a certain disillusionment with the direction of modern F1 while his wife Hanna is understood to be pregnant with their third child.
Turun Sanomat newspaper claims that a clause in Vettel’s contract, which is valid also for 2020, would allow the German to quit Ferrari earlier than then if he is outside the top three drivers in the championship.
The report claims Vettel could use the opportunity to return to Red Bull, where he won all of his four titles.
But Berger, who was Vettel’s first F1 team boss at Toro Rosso, thinks he could retire from the sport altogether and told DPA, “Sebastian is a very intelligent guy and certainly he has a lot of other aspects to his life.
“He is very family-oriented, he has children, and he has a lot of money – he doesn’t need any more. His heart is very much with his family and his old motorcycles and cars.”
Vettel has regularly played down any retirement talk, but Berger is not so sure, “I can well imagine that he wakes up one morning and says: it’s all getting on my nerves, I’m doing something else or I’m going to drive cars that are more fun and not operating under such complex rules.”
“It’s not like Sebastian is not good at surprises,” he warned.
Berger, a former Ferrari driver, says the situation Vettel is in, where he is not currently winning and young teammate Charles Leclerc could begin to get the upper hand, is “not easy for Sebastian”.
“He is running out of time. It’s a bit different to Michael [Schumacher], who was much stricter with his team and guided it more, which is not a criticism of Sebastian because he is very clever and hardworking, it’s just not his nature. It’s the management’s duty to make the team work,” added Berger.
But Vettel is keeping the faith, “I am convinced that we will stand on the top step this year. We will certainly not give up. We are actually pushing the development of the car and I feel like the problems I had with the rear are now not as bad.”
Big Question: Why would Seb quit?