We reported rumours from the German press late last week, which claimed that the current World Champion was set to re-sign with the outfit before the 2011 season even kicked off, and the 23-year-old has now agreed to terms with the team to stay there for a further three years at least.
The announcement is unusual in that it has been made so early, although from the team’s position this is perhaps understandable as it tries to not only ensure that their star driver remains off the radar of rival teams, but it also lays the groundwork for the team’s long-term future in the sport.
There had been plenty of rumours – some of which were fuelled by Vettel himself – that he was eyeing a later switch to Ferrari or Mercedes GP, and the team will no doubt be relieved to put this speculation to bed before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix at the end of the month.
“It’s good to have it done and tidied up prior to the beginning of the season – rumours had already started about other teams,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told the BBC. “We were keen to take away that distraction and concentrate on the racing.”
Horner added that the contract negotiations had been particularly straightforward, a view echoed by the team’s advisor, former Grand Prix driver Dr Helmut Marko.
“It was in mutual agreement that we extended Sebastian’s contract to 2014,” Marko is quoted by AUTOSPORT. “Both sides wanted to continue the partnership, so it was no big issue.”
Vettel has been part of Red Bull’s driver development stable of drivers since his junior racing days in the late 1990s. He made his debut with BMW Sauber in 2007 before joining Toro Rosso later that season. He took the team’s only race win to-date at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, and then moved to Red Bull Racing for the 2009 season.
The team also took the opportunity to confirm it had agreed to terms with many of its senior technical staff – including its top-line designer Adrian Newey – to ensure continuity and to prevent rival outfits from headhunting its talent.
Despite these rapid conclusions to the team’s structure, one figure with whom the outfit has not yet entered into negotiations is Mark Webber, although it is understood that the team will look to start talks with the Australian once the season is underway.
Webber, who typically extends his contracts by a year at a time, has recently expressed an interest in remaining with the team beyond the end of the 2011 season.
[Original image via Sutton Images]