By Alan Baldwin
SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) – Ferrari have told Sebastian Vettel he just has to sign on the dotted line to stay with the Formula One glamor team next season.
The championship leader is out of contract at the end of the year but Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne set out his team’s position at the Austrian Grand Prix.
“I made it very clear that if he wants to stay then we’ll just renew it. It’s up to him,” Marchionne told reporters before Sunday’s race.
Vettel has delayed contract talks to focus on the championship battle, saying there will be plenty of time over the summer, and any haggling is likely to be about money and the number of years.
The German, a four times world champion, moved 20 points clear of closest rival Lewis Hamilton after finishing runner-up to the Briton’s Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas at the Red Bull Ring.
With the 20 round season approaching the halfway point at Silverstone next weekend, Vettel has won three races and it would probably have been four had he been given one more lap on Sunday.
As it was, he missed out by a mere 0.6 of a second.
Speaking to the Italian media afterwards, Marchionne said there was plenty to be happy about however.
“It was very close. We are there and our German friends know it,” he said.
“They can feel us breathing down their necks but we will cut this little gap. I am much happier than I was in the past. The boys know we have started the job and we must carry it through to the end.”
While Vettel leads the standings, champions Mercedes stretched their lead in the constructors’ standings to 33 points and are 5-3 to Ferrari on wins.
But while Hamilton and Bottas have shared the spoils of victory, Vettel has been leading the charge for Ferrari with more than twice as many points as his Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Vettel’s only obvious alternative to the most successful team in Formula One history would be Mercedes, but the German has already laughed off rumors of that happening.
“I think the way we are set up right now, we find ourselves very happy and the focus is on this year despite the fact for next year there is nothing on paper,” he said in May.
Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has also dismissed a move.
“A Ferrari driver, his head is for Ferrari, and the money in the end is also there,” he said.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)