By BBC Sports/Evelyne Wareh
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.