A Formula 1 insider said he can "understand" Sebastian Vettel if the German has turned down Ferrari's contract extension offer for 2021.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Ferrari offered the quadruple world champion a one-year deal with a monetary offer that would slash his annual pay by over a half.
Vettel, 32, is said to have rejected it, with a source at the Maranello team telling f1-insider.com that Ferrari's offer was "a joke".
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Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Antonio Giovinazzi and even Fernando Alonso are named as potential new team mates for Charles Leclerc.
Days ago, when asked if he might even return to Red Bull next year, Australian Ricciardo said one should "never say never".
But on Vettel's apparent contract rejection, Russian F1 commentator Alexei Popov, working for Match TV, said he can "understand" that decision.
Sebastian Vettel. Image: Chris Putnam/ZUMA Wire
Have some respect
Popov told told Sportbox: "Don't forget that no one was really present at the negotiations. Communication is being done via video and so any information that gets into the press is the initiative either of the team of the driver. So firstly we don't know how true it is. But if it is true, I can understand Vettel. Yes, Leclerc was a little better last year and was extended for five years, but you need to have at least a little respect for the four-time champion."
"Even in the current situation, a decrease from 40 to 10-15 million is very serious. In that situation, it's easier for him to leave.
"It is said that two other teams, including McLaren, are interested, and while they are not on Ferrari's level, it can be a real challenge for Sebastian - to take a team and start winning with them."
Popov also has some understanding of Ferrari's attitude, as the team "does not need a second alpha male" alongside Leclerc.
He said: "I think they could take Sainz, who has experience but is not so fast as to disturb Leclerc. The second option is Ricciardo, who has Italian roots and at Red Bull he proved that he is not difficult to work with. And the third option is Giovinazzi, but he is not very fast.
"There are also Mick Schumacher and Robert Schwartzman, but it is not Ferrari's style to take someone that early into the team. They never do that."