May 13th 2020 marks 70 years since the Formula One World Championship was inaugurated on an airstrip circuit at Silverstone, England. No doubt Liberty Media had extravagant plans for the celebration – not just their snazzy ’70’ logo. However, with an F1 steering wheel yet to be turned in anger in 2020, the celebrations have had to put on the brakes. Although, all too often with birthday celebrations, a present is opened early and not all birthday presents are something needed or necessarily wanted and that is exactly what can be said of Tuesday’s announcement.
Yesterday, the world of Formula One received the unexpected/expected news (the F1 Community is still split on this one) that Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari have made the decision to part ways at the end of 2020. Now, unsurprisingly, speculation is rife as to who will replace the 4-time F1 World Champion alongside Charles Leclerc. Also, the most important question for many, what will Sebastian Vettel choose to do after 2020?
Bernie Ecclestone has been part of the fabric of Formula One for decades and recently, in the weeks before this groundbreaking news, the F1 Maestro (or ‘used car dealer’ in his words) spoke out on what he feels Sebastian Vettel should do.
All too often, Bernie Ecclestone has been the man to see the bigger picture in the world of Formula One, a world many view him as having created, so it is hardly a surprise to hear his advice for Sebastian Vettel was – leave Scuderia Ferrari!
Bernie Ecclestone is known throughout motorsport as a straight-talking and uncompromising visionary and even at the grand age of 89, Ecclestone is still in the mind of many a fan of Formula One. So much so, that in the lead up to Formula One’s 70th birthday celebrations, the official Formula 1 website has been asking fans to vote for the ‘Most Influential Person in F1 History’.
At the time of writing this article, the final two icons of the sport were 7-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher and the man himself – Mr. Bernie Ecclestone.
You will most likely know the victor prior to reading this but irrespective of whether Bernie Ecclestone came out on top or not – his path to the final was quite something as shown with the portion of the public vote which he received at each round: Beating Herman Tilke, 89 % to 11%; Beating Ross Brawn, 58% to 42%; Beating Professor Sid Watkins, 72% to 28%; Beating Gordon Murray, 54% to 46%.
Overcoming these pioneering members of the motorsport world is quite something and further shows that many people still want to hear the thoughts of the former F1 supremo as clearly, they value his opinion. This in turn brings us back to Ecclestone’s recent prediction of Sebastian Vettel’s future as shared with f1-insider.com:
“I think that Sebastian’s performance has recently suffered under the Ferrari constellation with new teammate Charles Leclerc, who is also managed by the FIA President’s son. I suspect he doesn’t see Binotto as the supporter he needs in his situation. Sebastian should therefore stop or look for alternatives for 2021. McLaren, then again with Mercedes engines, could be one.”
There can be no doubt that many teams on the F1 grid would be interested in benefitting from the expertise, gentleman persona and million-dollar merchandising rights which Sebastian Vettel brings with him. Having achieved 4 Formula One World Championships in a car with a Renault engine, would Vettel head to the French manufacturer as they attempt to recapture past glories? With the prospect of a Mercedes engine and the mix of experience alongside exceptional youth by partnering Lando Norris, could McLaren be on the cards – as Ecclestone predicts?
Nearly every other team, bar Red Bull Racing, would surely throw their hat in the ring for the services of the much-loved German racer. So much so, that Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Formula One Team Principal Toto Wolff did his best attempt at ‘breaking the internet’ when he was quoted yesterday as having told the DPA news agency (Germany’s national news agency):
“Seb is a great driver, a great personality and an enrichment for every F1 team. With a view to the future, we are first and foremost committed to loyalty to our current Mercedes drivers, but of course we cannot ignore this development.”
No one knows what the future holds, which is what makes all the events so exciting and newsworthy. Over the last 70 years of Formula One racing there has been scandal, success, triumph over adversity and a whole host of headline making incidents.
In conclusion, maybe Sebastian Vettel’s own words actually hint at the fact that departing the F1 grid altogether may turn out to be his decision when the 2020 F1 season concludes:
“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. One needs to use one’s imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future.”
What chance then, if the 2020 F1 Championship materializes into reality, that Sebastian Vettel claims his 5th world title (his first in the red of Scuderia Ferrari) before then heading off into the sunset? Surely this is a ludicrous prospect indeed, after all, when did you last hear of a German Formula One racer beating Lewis Hamilton, claiming the Drivers’ F1 Championship, and then retiring immediately afterwards…?
Formula One is regarded as a circus and here’s hoping there are many more years to come. Even though Bernie Ecclestone may no longer be the Ring Master - what an exceptional contribution he had to the spectacle.
Happy 70th Birthday Formula One!