Japanese GP: Vettel needs to 'earn' place at Ferrari - Arrivabene

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Suzuka
Sebastian Vettel
The Japanese Grand Prix is live on the BBC Sport website and radio 5 live sports extra

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel will have to "earn" his place at Ferrari beyond next season, team boss Maurizio Arrivabene has said.

A decision to extend the deal, among the most lucrative in Formula 1, would be made during 2017, he added.

"Sebastian has a contract. We work together this year and next year. Then during next year we'll see," he said.

"Each of us has goals. So it is only right that anyone, no matter who it is, earns their place and their salary."

Arrivabene's comments, made to Italian television, came at the end of a week in which Vettel has been heavily criticised in the Italian media following his involvement in a first-corner crash at the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend.

Vettel was given a three-place grid penalty for this weekend's race in Japan after colliding with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg while trying to overtake Red Bull's Max Verstappen. The incident put Vettel out of the race with broken suspension.

The German dominated team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in his first year with Ferrari in 2015 after joining from Red Bull, and continued to do the same in the first half of this year.

But since Raikkonen's contract was extended until the end of next season, the Finn has matched Vettel, who trails him by seven points in the championship.

Vettel would likely be ahead had he not suffered a series of technical problems in early-season races, but the two drivers have undoubtedly been more closely matched since the summer.

At the same time, Ferrari have slipped back in competitiveness, have failed to win a race with five grands prix remaining and are likely to finish the season third in the constructors' championship behind Mercedes and Red Bull.

Sebastian Vettel
Vettel's Malaysian Grand Prix ended early after a crash with Nico Rosberg on the first corner

Questioning the team

And Vettel has on a number of occasions this year found himself disagreeing with Ferrari's sometimes questionable strategy calls and running races from the cockpit.

Arrivabene was asked by Sky Sports Italia whether Ferrari would seek to boost Vettel's confidence with a new contract, a tactic the team have used with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso in the past.

He replied: "I do not think people can be conquered with renewals.

"Sebastian just needs to focus on the car. He is a person who gives so much, and sometimes this means he is interested in a bit of everything - so sometimes you have to re-focus him, remind him to be focused on the main job.

"He does not do it in a polemical spirit, but because he is totally immersed in the family that is the Ferrari team."

Ahead of the race in Japan, Vettel was asked whether he was pushing too hard in an attempt to compensate for weaknesses in the car.

"No," he said. "I see where you might come from. I explained already what happened last week, I don't think there's so much to analyse.

"You try to squeeze out everything from the car you can. Sometimes you find yourself overdriving. You always try to achieve the best and sometimes you push too hard - it's normal, it's human. Sometimes you don't push enough, so it's about finding the sweet spot in the middle."

Vettel said after qualifying on Saturday: "I haven't seen the comments. There have been a number of races where I haven't been happy with my own performance. The main focus is to progress and carry everything we can learn on to next year's car.

"I have a good relationship with him. If there is something I don't like, I tell him and the same the other way around. But we have nothing to sort out."

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