Sebastian Vettel will race for Ferrari in 2015 and beyond, it has been confirmed. His place will not be taken by Fernando Alonso, but instead by Red Bull protégé Daniil Kvyat, who joins Daniel Ricciardo for the 2015 season.
While many would have thought Fernando Alonso was the centre of the Formula 1 driver market, it was actually Sebastian Vettel who held the cards. The trigger was pulled before Saturday’s final practice session, with Red Bull Racing issuing a brief press release confirming his departure.
“Sebastian has advised us that he will be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season,” the brief statement reads. “We want to warmly thank Sebastian for the incredible role he has played at Red Bull for the last six years.”
“It is a big step and hard to make such a decision,” Vettel added. “The chance to drive in F1, the first win with Scuderia Toro Rosso, the four championship wins with Infiniti Red Bull Racing and many other great memories have bound Red Bull and myself together into a kind of family. No one can take these times away from us.
“I would like to express big thanks to [Red Bull owner] Dietrich Mateschitz, [team advisor] Dr Helmut Marko, [team boss] Christian Horner, the whole Red Bull family, Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. I would like to thank everybody within Red Bull for their confidence in me, trust and great support over the last years.”
Vettel took up an early release clause in his contract – believed to kick in if he was more than 100 points adrift of the championship leader at the start of September – and opened himself onto the driver market.
While Vettel was at pains not to say who he was joining, his outgoing team boss Christian Horner made sure he showed his displeasure at the loss of his star driver and did the honours instead in a subsequent open media call.
“He informed us last night. He obviously had his reasoning behind that,” Horner said in the paddock.
“I don’t think he’s taken the decision lightly. He was very emotional. If it’s his desire to be somewhere else it’s not right to stand in his path. We’ve had some great times. He’ll always be a great part of what we’ve achieved.
“He’ll be a Ferrari driver, absolutely,” Horner let slip. “There’s the lure of Ferrari. A window has opened and he decided that the time is right. It’s his choice. He’s been around long enough to know his own mind. He’s his own man and he makes his own decisions – we respect that.”
Just not his privacy or his decision to announce his new employer, it seems.
The move to Ferrari seems to suggest – and all but confirm – the long-standing rumours that Fernando Alonso has activated his own exit clause from the Scuderia. He is almost certainly off to McLaren, although that in itself seems to be an incredibly risky move.
For Vettel, the switch makes perfect sense. Having seen an opportunity to slide into a Ferrari seat, it’s a sound move for a talented youngster with the results and ambition to prove that he’s not a one-team wonder. To truly join the all-time greats of F1, he needs to win a fifth Drivers’ Championship with more than one team. Add to that is the evidence that his reputation has been considerably damaged this year by new teammate Daniel Ricciardo, and one can see that the move to a new home makes an awful lot of sense.
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