Sebastian Vettel's split with Scuderia Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel is one step from retirement - his relationship with Ferrari in tatters, midfield manufacturer Renault his only real forward option - and Carlos Sainz confirmed as his replacement.

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Sebastian Vettel is one step from retirement - his relationship with Ferrari in tatters, midfield manufacturer Renault his only real forward option - and Carlos Sainz confirmed as his replacement.

No doubt weighing heavily on Vettel will be endless regrets - having failed to emulate his childhood hero Michael Schumacher. Vettel out of luck and it seems - out of love with the marque he once adored.

“The team and I have realised there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season,” he said.

Vettel joined a different Ferrari in 2015 to the one he originally signed for, with the relationship unravelling after unforced errors under pressure on both sides, disappointing results, and Monégasque Charles Leclerc, who arrived from Sauber-turned-Alfa Romeo…

…and then outqualified his four-times a champion teammate across 2019 - 12-9, including seven pole positions, more than anyone that year, and scored two wins to the German’s one.

… with Vettel’s copybook again blotted - in Brazil, where he collided with Leclerc attempting a pass on Lap 66: forcing the pair to retire on the spot - and the team to reiterate its stance in 2020.

SOUNDBITE (English) LOUIS C. CAMILLERI, CEO, FERRARI: “It will be their second F1 season together, and other than their incredible talent, we know that they share a passion and pride for Ferrari - and are loyal to Ferrari.”

But, the real watershed moment came late last year when Ferrari offered Leclerc a lucrative new five-year contract, keeping him at Maranello until 2024 - formalising his place as the future of the Italian marque.

Still, Vettel’s passion for the brand was expected to see him through into another contract - beyond 2020 - racing in Rosso Corsa red.

SOUNDBITE (Italian) SEBASTIAN VETTEL, 4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION: “I like the people, I like the culture, the food in Italy. But above all, I have a great passion for Ferrari - for the red cars. And I believe that Ferrari has written a major part of the Italian history.”

But, it’s been revealed a deal may never have been on offer - Ferrari allegedly making up its mind over the off-season - with Leclerc and Sainz the new path forward.

SOUNDBITE (Italian) MATTIA BINOTTO, TEAM PRINCIPAL, FERRARI: “It is going to be a long road with plenty of difficult bumps but I do really think we are creating the basis for a new winning cycle in the future. We discussed those prospects with Sebastian Vettel but unfortunately, we did not have the same objectives in the short term.”

Those bumps should include this season with Vettel unlikely to play number two to Leclerc - setting the scene for fireworks, especially if the squad expects him to comply with any team orders.

Regardless, Vettel’s imminent Ferrari split is a shame - given he stormed to four-straight world titles with Red Bull riding high on the blown diffuser era, as one of the greatest of his generation…

But, since then has struggled - often overdriving machinery - stretching to challenge dominant rival Mercedes, which has romped to six-straight title doubles in the hybrid era.

To-date, Vettel has scored 14 of his 53 wins at Ferrari, 12 of his 57 poles and 14 of his 38 fastest laps. Precious few against the juggernaut that is the almighty Silver Arrows.

But it’s a battle Leclerc will now lead: the apprentice becoming the master just as it’s been done through F1’s past seven decades.