'I'm not surprised Vettel is leaving Ferrari' says Scuderia race winner Massa
The wrench of leaving Ferrari after many years driving for F1’s most famous team is an emotional journey very few can talk about with authority – but Felipe Massa can, and the former Scuderia driver says he is not surprised that Sebastian Vettel is leaving Maranello at the end of the year.
Massa is a veteran of 139 Grands Prix with Ferrari and notched up 11 wins with the team in red, making him the third most experienced driver and their fifth most successful – tied with Fernando Alonso on victories.
He told Sky Sports F1 that Vettel’s decision to leave the team in 2021, with Carlos Sainz joining as his replacement, stemmed from the four-time champion’s wish for a “different direction”.
“It’s not a surprise [that Vettel will leave]," he said. "I think he, to stay with the team, he needs to be 100% sure that he wants to stay, but the team [need to be sure] as well. He’s arrived at the moment that he’s just trying to have a different direction, you know?
“So, definitely I’m not surprised on that. Now if he will stay in Formula 1 or not is another question. I think Sebastian is a driver, a guy that is always very focused on what he wants, and I’m not even surprised that maybe he decides to stop [in 2021].”
Massa, who announced his retirement at Williams in 2016 only to return to the team as Valtteri Bottas left for Mercedes – in place of retiring champion Nico Rosberg – shed some light on how Vettel may be left with lingering doubts over his future in F1.
“I think, definitely in his position, to stay, he needs to find a team that gives to him the opportunity [to win]. Otherwise I’m not sure he will stay.”
Massa also pointed to Charles Leclerc’s rapid rise at Ferrari as another reason why both parties have decided to part ways.
“It’s true we cannot forget what Charles did. I’m watching him since karting, [and] when he started to race in cars, he shows he’s really a big talent and he shows he can be a champion or a top driver in whatever team he raced [for].
“Sebastian... he had some pressure inside [the team] and maybe that was also a [factor in the] different decision that Ferrari took.”
Regardless of Vettel’s decision, his legacy at Ferrari is clear to Massa and the Brazilian had strong words to say about the quality of hardware afforded to Vettel from 2015 onwards.
“I would say, in my opinion he did a very, very good job for Ferrari winning many races, even fighting for championships.
"It’s also true that he never had the car to win the championship, even if it was close – it was not the quickest car,” he added.