Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari when his contract runs out at the end of the season. Picture: REUTERS
Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari when his contract runs out at the end of the season. Picture: REUTERS

Formula One champions Mercedes must consider Sebastian Vettel’s situation when deciding on their 2021 line-up, team boss Toto Wolff said on Tuesday.

Earlier this week it was announced that four-times world champion Vettel will part ways with Ferrari when his contract runs out at the end of the season.

“Sebastian is a great driver, a major personality and an asset to any Formula One team,” said Wolff, in quotes provided by Mercedes.

The Austrian is currently in negotiations with six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton over a new deal.

“When looking to the future, our first loyalty lies with the current Mercedes drivers, but naturally we must take this development into consideration,” Wolff said. 

Hamilton and Finland’s Valtteri Bottas are out of contract with Mercedes at the end of the season and Wolff’s comments will be noted by both.

Hamilton, 35, has been linked to Ferrari in media speculation, but the Briton has indicated he plans to stay with the team that has won the last six drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

The mere fact Vettel is available could give Mercedes some useful ammunition when it comes to negotiating salaries at least.

Bottas finished runner-up last year and has been a solid teammate for Hamilton, who has enjoyed an easy relationship with the 30-year-old.

That has been a complete contrast to Hamilton’s near-feud with Nico Rosberg, his former German teammate who retired immediately after winning the 2016 title.

Vettel is reported to have left Ferrari after being offered a one-year extension with a salary reduction.

He joined Ferrari in 2015 after winning all his titles with Red Bull and dreaming of emulating his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, who took five of his seven titles with the Maranello-based team.

Charles Leclerc, who won two races last year and is only 22, has a contract until 2024 and is seen as Ferrari’s future and likely first champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.