SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel said he had nothing to sort out with Maurizio Arrivabene, playing down comments the Ferrari team principal made that the German had to earn his place at the Italian Formula One team.
“I know that there is nothing between us, nothing that we need to sort out,” Vettel, who said he was not aware of the comments, told reporters at the Suzuka circuit on Saturday after Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.
“I enjoy a really good relationship with him and I think if there’s something that I don’t like, I tell him and equally the other way around,” the four-times world champion said.
Arrivabene, speaking to broadcaster Sky Sports Italia, made the comments in reference to Vettel’s future.
“Each of us has goals,” Arrivabene said, adding that a decision on Vettel’s contract, which is up for renewal at the end of next season, would be made during 2017.
“So it is only right that anyone, no matter who it is, earns their place and their salary,” Arrivabene added.
He suggested Vettel needed to focus on getting the most out of the car and not get distracted by other aspects of the team’s operation.
Vettel, 29, joined Ferrari at the start of last season, hoping to emulate boyhood idol Michael Schumacher by turning the sport’s most successful season into a championship-winning force again.
The partnership won three races in their first year together, becoming the only team apart from Mercedes to stand on the top step of the podium.
But an expected title challenge has failed to materialise this year with Ferrari slipping back behind Vettel’s former team Red Bull.
The German, who retired on the opening lap of the last race in Malaysia after shoving Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes into a spin, has also come in for criticism from the Italian media.
“As much as the team wants to perform, I want to perform,” said Vettel, who qualified fourth behind team mate Kimi Raikkonen in Japan but will drop three places on the grid as punishment for colliding with Rosberg at Sepang.
“I had races this year where I didn’t do so, I wasn’t happy with myself because there was more on the table," he added.
Vettel is fifth in the standings, behind Raikkonen. The Finn won the world championship with Ferrari in 2007, the team's last drivers' title.
Editing by Ed Osmond