Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari later this year after talks between the two sides fail without an agreement.
The move, which is expected to be officially announced soon, casts doubt on the future of the 32-year-old quadruple world champion.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz, currently a McLaren driver, is among those linked to the Vettel headquarters.
If Sainz leaves McLaren, an option for the team is Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The Australian had serious talks with McLaren in 2018 when he planned to leave Red Bull, before finally deciding to move to Renault.
Ricciardo is known to be upset by the France team and has spoken of moving on.
Vettel could also be an option for McLaren, if he felt ready to move to a team that was going through a restructuring process.
Otherwise, the options for the 32-year-old to continue in F1 are grim.
Lewis Hamilton, who is also out of contract at the end of the season, has repeatedly signaled plans to stay with Mercedes, who shouldn’t be considering moving to Vettel.
And Red Bull, where Vettel won his four world titles, has said it will not associate its star driver Max Verstappen with another top driver – nor will Vettel be interested in associating with the Dutchman.
Ferrari’s other options are Ricciardo or Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, who race for the Alfa Romeo affiliate team.
Hamilton is not considered a serious possibility.
A remarkable fall of grace
Vettel’s departure from Ferrari marks an ignominious end to his career with the Italian team, which he joined in 2015 in order to follow in the footsteps of his childhood hero Michael Schumacher by winning the title with them
Vettel said last month that his intention was to stay with Ferrari beyond the end of his contract this season.
But talks failed after Vettel felt unable to accept Ferrari’s offer to stay with Charles Leclerc, who signed last winter until the end of 2024.
The exact nature of the disagreement that led to the talks’ failure is unclear, but Ferrari would have offered Vettel a significantly reduced salary and a shorter contract than he wanted.
Vettel had been Ferrari’s number one driver since 2015, when he replaced Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard negotiated a team exit in late 2014, having lost confidence, they could never provide the circumstances under which he would win the world title.
Vettel was closest to winning the championship with the team in 2017 and 2018, when Ferrari had a faster car than Mercedes for much of the two seasons, but their challenge failed after a series of driver errors and of the team.
This led to the start of a loss of confidence between the two sides and he definitively lost his place in the team with the arrival of Charles Leclerc last season.
The Monegasque was immediately a threat to Vettel, who started 2019 as the designated number one, and Leclerc ended the season after dominating his senior teammate on all statistics – wins, poles, points and average qualifying pace.
The tension between the two also led to a series of flash points leading to a crash in the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.
Vettel is now entering his final season with the team – assuming the 2020 championship can begin in the midst of the coronavirus crisis – knowing that he has lost status and is facing an uncomfortable season with a team whose emphasis will inevitably be on their rising young star.