Sebastian Vettel's F1 future at Ferrari thrown into doubt - 'everyone must earn their place and salary'
Sebastian Vettel’s future at Ferrari has been thrown into doubt after Maurizio Arrivabene, the team boss, said the four-time champion had to earn his place with the Scuderia beyond 2017.
Vettel has had a relatively average season after winning three races last year, while Ferrari have dismally failed to live up to expectations of a proper challenge for the title.
The German has a contract to the end of 2017, which is among the most lucrative in Formula One, worth at least £25 million a year.
But Arrivabene suggested Vettel’s place at Ferrari is not certain, despite a stunning debut year in 2015. Since colliding with Nico Rosberg at the first corner in Malaysia, Vettel has been heavily criticised in Italian media.
Arrivabene added to the speculation surrounding Vettel. The 59-year-old told Italian television: “Sebastian has a contract. We work together this year and next year. Then during next year we'll see.
"Each of us has goals. So it is only right that anyone, no matter who it is, earns their place and their salary."
Asked if a contract renewal might boost Vettel’s confidence, as Ferrari have done in the past with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, Arrivabene added: “I do not think people can be conquered with renewals.
"Sebastian just needs to focus on the car. He is a person who gives so much, and sometimes this means he is interested in a bit of everything - so sometimes you have to re-focus him, remind him to be focused on the main job.”
Vettel qualified fourth for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, but will start seventh due to a three-place penalty for his collision with Rosberg in Sepang. Kimi Raikkonen qualified third behind the two Mercedes, continuing his return to form in the second half of the year.
The Finn has outscored his team-mate by seven points this year, although without unreliability and some poor strategy calls by Ferrari, Vettel would almost certainly be leading the way.
Vettel said Arrivabene had not communicated his message about “earning” a new contract to him personally.
“I enjoy a straightforward and honest relationship,” Vettel said. “As much as the team wants to perform, I want to perform. I have races this year where I didn't do so and I wasn't happy with myself.
“It has been an up and down year. The results we had have not always been fair and rewarding. The main focus is not looking at that [his comments], but trying to make progress as a team.
“If there is something I don't like I tell him and equally the other way round. I know there is nothing between us, nothing that we need to sort out. We are trying to achieve the same thing, win races, get stronger and that is where the main focus goes.”