Ferrari intended to keep Sebastian Vettel next season until the coronavirus pandemic intervened, Mattia Binotto has revealed.
With the start of the 2020 Formula One season delayed due to COVID-19, the Scuderia announced they would be looking for a new team-mate for Charles Leclerc for next year.
The news came as a shock to Vettel, who had appeared set to stay on and rival the Monegasque star.
Team principal Binotto confirmed on Friday this was set to be the case, but a variety of changes to the sport amid the pandemic meant Ferrari decided to go in a different direction.
"Certainly we have always said during the winter time, privately and publicly, that he would have been our first choice, which I confirm," Binotto told reporters.
"It's normal that, during winter time, many drivers have asked us if there were any opportunities to drive for Ferrari, so we have certainly been contacted.
"That didn't change our position, so Seb was our first choice.
"What happened since then? I think the virus and pandemic situation, which changed the entire world, not only our motorsport, our F1. Let's say that the entire situation has changed.
"And on top of that, the season has not started, so there have been no opportunities even for Seb to be back on track to prove how much he was really motivated to drive for Ferrari, which has been unfortunate for him.
"Even today, he is not fully happy with it, which is again something which is normal and obvious."
Binotto expanded further on the factors involved in the call in an interview with Sky Sports.
He explained: "[There is] a more strict budget cap, regulations which have been postponed - which, for us, were important - until 2022, and cars which at the moment are almost frozen and as well for next year."