Mark Webber believes former team-mate Sebastian Vettel will take a sabbatical from Formula 1 for 2021, in the wake of his departure from Ferrari.
It was announced last month that four-time champion Vettel will split from Ferrari at the end of 2020.
Vettel’s options at a front-running team elsewhere appear limited though Mercedes has insisted that he remains a contender for 2021, a situation Valtteri Bottas says is not the case.
Webber, who was team-mate to Vettel throughout his title-winning seasons at Red Bull, reckons the German driver has “run out of puff” at a Ferrari outfit that has fallen short.
“I think that knowing how he works, which is 110 per cent, he puts a lot of time and effort into it, and expects the same clearly I think that he never quite [had that],” Webber told the official F1 Nation podcast.
“He’s not on his own, I mean Kimi [Raikkonen]’s immune to those types of nuances, he just gets in the car and cracks on which is a strength, great, but it’s not for everyone.
“Michael [Schumacher] got in there [at Ferrari] with Rory Byrne, Ross Brawn, Jean Todt at the helm, you had a very good mixture of culture when Michael was dominating.
“I’m not nailing the Italians but I’m just saying when they all are one army they still haven’t delivered. Seb, under that regime, I think they just did what they could, and he’s run out of puff, there.
“Charles comes in, clearly massively quick, full of energy, appetite, and naivety – naivety’s bliss, it’s a great thing, you come in and just go for it as you don’t know anything else, whereas Sebastian’s been toiling, getting things going. Charles will know this, in 10 years’ time he’ll know about setting up things, putting the groundwork in.
“I think they will miss him, that experience: Leclerc is world class, great for F1, good-looking rooster, [speaks] languages, great for the camera, he’s brilliant.
“But Seb, I think short-term they’ll miss someone of his experience, and vision, the good [and] motivated Seb, but he’s clearly not getting out of bed motivated to drive a red car and that’s an issue.
“I think he’ll have a year off. I hope for all of us he can rejuvenate himself and get back into the spirit of wanting to be competing at the front again in Formula 1.”
Webber also expects reigning champion Lewis Hamilton to emerge on top once more.
“I think it’s Lewis,” said Webber on his tip for 2020. “This is set up for him, no mileage, disrupted programme. He doesn’t need to hit tennis balls, he can just get on with it in very short notice.”