Sebastian Vettel is Ferrari’s first choice to partner Charles Leclerc next year, team boss Mattia Binotto said on Tuesday, despite speculation that they want six times world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The 32-year-old German had a difficult and disappointing 2019 season, outperformed by Leclerc in the young Monegasque’s first year at Ferrari, and is out of contract at the end of 2020.
Hamilton is in a similar position with Formula One champions Mercedes, although the Briton is expected to stay, and met Ferrari chairman John Elkann last year.
Binotto told reporters at the launch of the Italian team’s new SF1000 car, however, that Vettel remained very much part of future planning even if he no longer retained clear number one status.
"Seb is our first choice at the moment," he said.
"Obviously it is something we are discussing with him and we will continue discussing, but he is certainly our first option, our preference."
Asked whether he could therefore rule out Hamilton, who can expect to become the highest-paid Formula One driver of all time if he stays at Mercedes, Binotto refused to be drawn.
"We are focused on our drivers," he said. "And we are considering Seb as our option at the moment."
Pressed on whether Hamilton might still be a fallback option’, Binotto said that was not under consideration.
Vettel, asked if he wanted to stay at Ferrari for what would be a seventh successive season, said age was certainly not a factor.
"I feel young enough. You spoke about Lewis, he’s even older," he said of the 35-year-old who can equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships this year and also beat the German’s unprecedented 91 wins.
So that’s not a limitation. So yeah, happy to keep going.
Vettel started last season as the clear number one at Ferrari, the sport’s most successful team but without a title in 12 years, only for Leclerc to take more wins, poles, podiums and points.
In December, Ferrari extended 22-year-old Leclerc’s contract to the end of 2024 a huge vote of confidence from a team that has rarely committed itself to even the greatest of drivers for so long.
The pair clashed on track, most famously with a collision in Brazil when they were warned about their behaviour, but Binotto said they would be free to race on equal terms from the start of this season.
"Last year we said Seb would have been first driver, and Charles second," he said.
"I think that after a year both have shown they can fight for the best result so they will be on the same level. Let’s say they can both fight for being ahead and that’s it. So let them race."
The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday sanctioned 5 players from Bangladesh and India for their misconduct and indulging in a scuffle on the field after Bangladesh won their maiden U19 World Cup title in Potchefstroom on Sunday.
After Bangladesh defeated India by 3 wickets in the final, their players stormed onto the field to celebrate their historic triumph as members from both the teams were seen shoving and pushing each other, forcing the umpires to intervene and calm the players.
ICC charged 5 players from the 2 teams for their misconduct, saying, such behaviour from the players has "no place in our sport".
"The elation and disappointment experienced by some players after the game spilled over into unedifying scenes that have no place in our sport," said Geoff Allardice, the ICC's General Manager Cricket.
"Respect is at the very heart of the spirit of cricket, and players are expected to show self-discipline, congratulate the opposition on their successes and enjoy the success of their own team.
"It is disappointing that Code of Conduct charges needed to be laid after such a closely contested match, but it is important to reinforce the standard of behavior that will be expected of these young players should they transition to senior international cricket."
From the Bangladesh squad, Towhid Hridoy, Shamim Hossain and Rakibul Hasan were handed 6 demerit points each their Level 3 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct while from India, Akash Singh and Ravi Bishnoi were slapped with 5 demerit points.
Ravi Bishnoi, who took a 4-wicket haul in the final and finished as the highest wicket-taker in the U19 World Cup was also found guilty of using "language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batter" and was handed 2 more demerit points for the behaviour.