Sebastian Vettel may have just five races to secure his Ferrari future next season as the team plan to assess his "performance and motivation" before making a May decision.
Charles Leclerc finished ahead of the four-time world champion in his first year with Ferrari, the youngster winning two races and claiming seven pole positions the 2019 Formula 1® season.
That compared to two poles and one win for Vettel, who finished fifth in the drivers' championship.
Vettel is under pressure heading into 2020, the last year of his current contract, especially with speculation swirling over whether six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will choose to join Ferrari.
Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo are other top drivers due to be out of contract in 2021, which is when F1®'s new technical regulations come into force.
And while he may not have intended to, Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto added fuel to the speculation by saying Vettel will be monitored closely with a view to making a swift decision on his 2021 driver line-up.
"By the beginning of May, roughly around the race in Spain, we want to know where the journey will go in 2021," Binotto told reporters.
"I think that with Seb we need to sit down to discuss ways we set to understand his intentions for the future.
"We need to see as well the performance and how he does fit with the car and his motivation for the future.
"So, it's not about his mistakes or not. It's really a matter of how he sees himself as far as his future and how we see our line-up. We need to see our strategy developing next year."
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) December 13, 2019
But Binotto also pointed out Vettel, 32, remains an important and respected part of Ferrari's plans.
"Seb is a key driver for us - he is central to our project," added Binotto. "He's part of the team now since many years. He knows the team very well.
"He's got a lot of experience. He has been four times world champion. So, there is no doubt that such a driver is key for our project."
Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri, meanwhile, felt it was inevitable that the form of Leclerc would cause some strain on Vettel.
The two drivers hit each other to cause a double Ferrari retirement at the Brazilian Grand Prix last month.
"Charles' performance has obviously had an impact," Camilleri said. "It's inevitable that when you're the world champion, this young kid comes on and has phenomenal season.
"You should know that behind closed doors they actually get on very well. There's great respect between them. They joke together and there's quite a great relationship.
"Clearly, they're both very competitive and Brazil was a nightmare. However, now the air has been cleared.
"You sometimes need a crisis to put the goalposts in the appropriate place.
"I actually think, going forward, it gives Mattia a much better way of managing them, but also renders them significantly more receptive because they realise how they screwed up."
Binotto confirmed earlier this month there would be no Ferrari number one next season, with the two drivers starting as "equals".