Sebastian Vettel will remain at Ferrari after it was announced he has agreed a new three-year contract.
Championship leader Vettel, who heads Lewis Hamilton by 14 points in the title race ahead of tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix, will now be committed to the Italian team until the end of the 2020 season.
The length of Vettel’s contract ends speculation he could join forces with Mercedes, and the likelihood of Hamilton moving in the opposite direction when his deal expires next year.
Vettel, 30, had said only on Thursday that news of his whereabouts for next season and beyond would not be announced within the next fortnight.
But less than 48 hours later, Vettel’s Ferrari team confirmed his long-term future will be with the Maranello team.
“Ferrari has extended its technical and racing agreement with driver Sebastian Vettel for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 racing seasons of the Formula One world championship,” the Italians said in a short statement released ahead of qualifying.
Vettel will continue his partnership with Kimi Raikkonen after it was revealed earlier this week that the Finn will be retained by Ferrari for at least one more season.
Vettel’s contract extension is also likely to mean Valtteri Bottas will be handed a new contract to partner Hamilton at Mercedes for 2018.
The four-time champion’s failure to commit to Ferrari, prior to Saturday’s announcement, aroused suspicion that he may be angling for only a one-year extension.
Such a move would have made him available to Mercedes when Hamilton’s current deal expires at the end of next season.
But the announcement of his new three-year deal is set to mean Hamilton’s next contract will not be at Ferrari, with Vettel unlikely to be keen on his rival partnering him at the Italian team.
Vettel joined Ferrari from Red Bull in 2014, and won three races in his opening season with the famous constructor.
After a troubled 2016, Vettel has returned to the fore with his resurgent Ferrari team this year, and leads the championship with nine rounds remaining.
Vettel and Hamilton have both won four races apiece this season, but it is the former’s greater consistency which sees him in charge of the title race ahead of tomorrow’s grand prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.