Max Verstappen has been left taken aback by Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel announcing they will part ways.
Max Verstappen admits he expected Sebastian Vettel to stay with Ferrari for at least another season. Vettel and Ferrari announced last month they will part ways when the 2020 F1 campaign comes to an end.
The decision has left the four-time champion in limbo, with doors closed to him by rival teams and the chances of an attractive offer coming in low.
Ferrari, meanwhile, wasted no time in lining up a replacement and have confirmed McLaren driver Carlos Sainz will take Vettel’s seat for 2021.
Verstappen, who drives for Vettel’s old team Red Bull and put pen to paper on a long-term contract during the winter, was surprised by Ferrari opting against agreeing a new deal with the German.
He admits, though, the way events have unfolded has presented a fantastic chance for his former Toro Rosso team-mate Sainz to show what he’s got in his locker.
“I also expected that [Vettel] would drive there for another year or two, but Ferrari decided that,” Verstappen told Sky Sport in Germany.
“This is of course a great opportunity for Carlos Sainz. Now we’ll see what Seb does.”
Verstappen was never in the running to replace Vettel having committed his future to Red Bull during the off-season.
The Dutchman is aiming to outshine his predecessor this year and take away his status as the youngest F1 champion in history.
Lewis Hamilton is foremost among those who stand in his way, however, with the Mercedes driver now a six-time title winner following last year’s success.
Verstappen says it’s tough to predict where Red Bull will be placed when the 2020 season kicks off in July due to the lack of action in recent months.
However, he’s hopeful the new RB16 will allow him to mix it with Hamilton, who’s won the past three World Drivers’ Championship titles on the bounce.
“Of course we have to wait and see because there have been no races in the last few months,” Verstappen said. “There will continue to be updates to the cars.
“Nevertheless, I expect Mercedes to be very strong and hope that we will be close.”
Verstappen and co. will get this year’s campaign underway in Austria, with a behind-closed-doors Red Bull Ring double-header on the cards as part of a revamped 2020 calendar.
The 22-year-old has come out on top there in each of the past two years and he admits not having his fans there to support him this time around will be a blow.
“What happened in the race last year was incredible,” Verstappen said. “It is extremely motivating. A race without fans will be the first time for everyone.”