Rumours are currently doing the rounds that Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel could not settle on an agreement for 2021.
According to reports, the team has offered the German driver a one-year deal for 2021, but a massive pay cut accompanies the shortened agreement. While nothing is a certainty in Formula 1 until an official announcement is made, it's believed that Vettel turned down the offer.
Ferrari gave the driver until the end of April 2020 to decide whether or not he'll accept the offer.
This is big news because, for the first time in his career, Vettel has a one-year contract on the table to his customary three-year deals. It further underlines a vital point: Charles Leclerc is the team's new priority, and Vettel's stock with Ferrari has dropped.
If Vettel fails to come to a new agreement with Ferrari, the team will have to look at a replacement driver. These are the frontrunners for the seat.
Sebastian Vettel. Image: Charles Coates/Getty Images
At 30-years-old, Ricciardo does not have many years left in F1 and would be looking for an attempt at the drivers' championship. However, that may pose a challenge, because both he and Leclerc would chase the title. And that could hurt Ferrari if both drivers get equal opportunity. (Look at Vettel and Leclerc in 2019 as an example.)
If Ricciardo signs with Ferrari, it would be a dream come true for the Australian who's been linked with the team before. He will come with a wealth of experience and a proven track record of winning races.
In this regard, Ferrari will at least know that it has two drivers who can take the fight to Mercedes and possibly win both championships in 2021.
But it is an open-ended question as to whether or not Ricciardo will play second fiddle to Leclerc - a driver in who the team made a massive investment.
Daniel Ricciardo. Image: Getty Images
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sainz is no stranger to F1 and made his debut in the sport alongside Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) in 2015 when driving for Toro Rosso. But in 2016, Verstappen was called up to Red Bull Racing, and Sainz remained at Toro Rosso. In the years since, Sainz raced for a couple of teams and achieved his first podium for McLaren-Renault at last year's Brazilian GP.
Sainz never had a real competitive car but has shown signs of brilliance behind the wheel. If he joins Ferrari, he'd be in the same situation as with Verstappen; whereby the team supports one driver, and he is the support. But perhaps the lure of driving for Ferrari might change that.
Vettel has also been linked with a move to McLaren for 2021, and it's a possible scenario that he and Sainz will swap seats.
Carlos Sainz Jr. Image: Getty Images
Giovinazzi is, rightly so, the third option on the list. Driving for Alfa Romeo, Ferrari's B-team, the Italian's name has been mentioned because of the simplicity of the move to Ferrari. While he is not as fast as Leclerc, Giovinazzi will be the perfect wingman for his team mate.
Also counting in Giovinazzi's favour is the fact that he is a former student of the Ferrari Academy. He knows Ferrari's setup and is familiar with how the team operates.
If he does get the call-up for the highly sought-after seat, Ferrari would have two youngsters in its driver line-up - something that's never happened before.
The risk is that you'll have two cocky roosters trying to upstage one another, which, in turn, will allow for mistakes to creep in. If Ferrari does go this route, expect the team's PR team to scramble as they try to justify every action on and off track.
Antonio Giovinazzi. Image: Getty Images
If Vettel stays
F1 pundits have split opinions on the Vettel-Ferrari situation. Some feel that Ferrari's one-year offer and subsequent pay cut are an insult to a four-time F1 champion, while others think that Vettel should be lucky to at least receive an offer following his lackluster showing in 2019.
Either way, Vettel has been on a decline in recent years, which suggests that he might be past his prime. There is too much counting against Vettel in that Ferrari should give him the deal he thinks he 'deserves.' As a champion driver, you need to build on your previous year's performance and improve your game in every facet. This is something Vettel has failed to do since winning his last championship in 2013.
In 2014, when driving for Red Bull Racing, Ricciardo drove Vettel under the table. It's been speculated, however, that Vettel deliberately drove poorly that year to activate an escape clause, which saw him sign for Ferrari in 2015.
But every season since, Vettel's performance has been up and down like a yoyo. He's been close to winning the championship from Lewis Hamilton on a few occasions, but self-inflicted mistakes prevented that from happening.
It hurts to say it, but Sebastian Vettel is done at Ferrari. His best bet would be to try and join McLaren and reset his career. Maybe he'll salvage something from his ailing F1 career.Sebastian Vettel. Image: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP