Sebastian Vettel says he always intended to stay with Ferrari for the 2018 Formula 1 season despite being linked with a move to Mercedes, calling his signing of a new contract “a no brainer”.
Ferrari put an end to speculation that Vettel could leave at the end of the season by announcing a new three-year contract on Saturday, taking the German to the end of the 2020 season.
Speaking in Saturday’s press conference following qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, Vettel professed his love for racing for Ferrari, with the people involved being a key factor in his decision to stay.
“I love this team. I love the people that are working for this brand,” Vettel said. “I believe Ferrari has something unique, something I think other teams don’t have. If you talk and people talk about a legend, to me, it appears that this legend is still alive because the people that work for it day in, day out.
“If you walk down the streets in Maranello, the presence of Ferrari is huge, but if you see the people working at Ferrari, meet them, then it’s even bigger what they carry inside them, the passion for the brand.
“I think and I am convinced allowing every single one to go an extra step compared to other people, other teams, that’s my conviction and it’s extremely great to be part of that family.
“In a way it was a no-brainer to continue. We haven’t yet achieved what we wanted to achieve but things are looking pretty good. Obviously we have a long road ahead of us.”
Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda told British TV on Saturday that Vettel had “talked briefly” with the team about a move, but discussions never became serious or centered on a contract.
“I have been around in the paddock so I know people so it’s natural that you talk, but a bit more than chatting. Mostly about other stuff to be honest,” Vettel said.
“I’ve been talking for a while with Ferrari, as I said my intention was to stay. We haven’t succeeded so the mission is still going.
“I want to win in red. I talked about my inspiration early for Michael [Schumacher], he was mostly dressed in red, he won most of his races in red and his championships.
“I don’t want to step in his footsteps. I think the whole generation of the Ferrari team today wants to leave their own footsteps but certainly there’s a huge inspirations. Something that for me is now the biggest challenge, the biggest dream that I have and what I want to achieve.”
Vettel also confirmed that he signed the contract agreement within the 48 hours prior to the deal being announced, having said on Thursday that news on his future was unlikely for another two weeks.
“I didn’t think that it was probably the right time. I didn’t rush or push, but things were coming along together fairly quickly in the end,” Vettel said.
“We decided to go for it and make the call. I know it wasn’t the best in terms of one day and then the other, but that’s how it was.”