Sebastian Vettel refuses to commit future to Formula One

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Sebastian Vettel walks into the paddock before practice for the F1 Grand Prix of China. Pic: Charles Coates/Getty

Vettel is under pressure to deliver Ferrari’s first world championship in more than a decade.But the German heads into today’s Chinese Grand Prix on a 231-day losing streak, while it is also uncertain whether he will continue to enjoy the backing of Ferrari as their No 1 driver.

Vettel’s new team-mate, Charles Leclerc, 21, has indicated he could be a contender for the title this season following a strong start to his career with the famous Italian team.

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Ecclestone, who is close to Vettel, claimed that the 31-year-old would put his wife, Hanna, and their two young girls before the sport, if he started to feel unloved at Ferrari.

Vettel’s £36m a year contract with the Prancing Horse expires at the end of next season. Does he envisage being in the sport beyond 2020?

“I don’t know at the moment,” he said. “I am not going to be in Formula One as long as Bernie was that’s for sure, but I hope I am going to be as fit and sharp as he is today when I am 88.”

Vettel, still sporting his retro moustache, has also faced criticism for the series of mistakes which have derailed his last two title challenges. In Bahrain two weeks ago he spun – for the fourth time in 10 races – while battling Lewis Hamilton.

“If you analyse all the times he has ballsed up, Lewis has always been involved,” said Ecclestone, the sport’s former supremo. “Seb is so desperate to win another world championship, and for Lewis not to win another. When they are side-by-side, Seb suffers from a mental block, which is wrong.”

Vettel will start behind both Mercedes cars in today’s 1,000th Formula One race here in Shanghai after championship leader Valtteri Bottas pipped Hamilton to pole by just 0.023 seconds. Bottas heads Hamilton in the standings by one point.