Scuderia Ferrari announced on Saturday morning in Belgium that it reached an agreement with its current German driver Sebastian Vettel over an extension of his contract. The German will stay at the Italian team until at least 2020.
Vettel’s first contract with Ferrari runs out at the end of the 2017 championship season which left the paddock with plenty of speculations over the last months. The quadruple world champion was also linked with a shock move to the reigning world champion team Mercedes.
Speaking to SkySport on Saturday, Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda admitted that talks have taken place earlier this year, but the negotiations did not go very far.
"We discussed it briefly once with him, but the more competitive Ferrari goes the less the reason he would want to leave," Lauda told Sky Sports F1. "So therefore we stopped right away a couple of months ago."
"I think every driver, if he's clever, talks to more than one team. Then when you negotiate you're in a better position. That's what he did," said the triple world champion.
Ferrari seemed to be eager to put an end to the negotiations process to eliminate any factors which could act a distraction in the fierce title battle of Vettel against Lewis Hamilton.
The German’s contract ties him to the Maranello-based squad for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons. The extension of Vettel’s and Räikkönen’s contracts could also trigger multiple confirmations on the driver market with Mercedes expected to sign Valtteri Bottas for another year.