As the world’s media carefully contemplated Fernando Alonso’s future prospects, it seemed as though Sebastian Vettel’s future became somewhat of a b-story. However, the German sent shockwaves through the paddock this morning, as he announced that his fifteen year partnership with Red Bull would be coming to an end at the end of this season. While it has yet to be officially confirmed, it seems that he is set to join Ferrari for 2015, with Daniil Kvyat graduating from Toro Rosso to the main team after just one year in the sport. Today’s qualifying became somewhat of an anti-climax following the announcement of the biggest driver switch since Lewis Hamilton was Mercedes bound in 2012.
|“Sebastian Vettel 2011 Japan Race” by Morio – photo taken by Morio.
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The Market Is Unlocked
Unquestionably, Sebastian’s news will cause a sonic boom in the paddock, as it unlocks the door for driver movement. With it being 99% confirmed that the quadruple champion will swap his Red Bull overalls for red attire in a matter of months, Fernando Alonso is now all but confirmed to be departing Maranello. It is believed that Fernando’s contract was terminated on Thursday, allowing today’s announcement and opening up the opportunity for Alonso to leave. His interview to Rachel Brooks of Sky Sports F1 on Thursday certainly suggested that he would head for the exit door and Vettel’s declaration all but assures this. The irony is that all eyes have been on Alonso for the past few weeks, with almost everyone considering him as the man who had the key to unlock the driver market, yet Sebastian has beaten him to it. As a result, Alonso is left with very few options, with McLaren being the most feasible. Suggestions that a shock move back to Enstone have circulated, as well as the idea that he may take a sabbatical, yet both theories seem unlikely at this stage. However, Fernando’s future is a topic for another time.
Meanwhile, opportunities which surface are quickly quelled at Red Bull, as almost immediately after Vettel’s announcement, Daniil Kvyat was declared as his replacement – the revolving door that is the Red Bull young driver programme, working as efficiently as usual. Unfortunately, it seems that Jean-Eric Vergne is once again left trapped in this proverbial door, as he has once again been overlooked. While Toro Rosso now have a vacancy, it is unlikely that they would turn to Vergne after announcing his imminent departure, particularly when the likes of Carlos Sainz Jr, or even young Briton, Alex Lynn, could partner Max Verstappen. In either case, their line-up would be inexperienced, yet Dr Helmut Marko has already demonstrated that he does not value experience as a key barometer of suitability.
Following In Micheal’s Footsteps
If indeed Vettel is soon to become a Ferrari driver, then he will follow in the footsteps of his idol, Michael Schumacher. After winning titles at Benetton in 1994 and 1995, the legend made the switch to an under-performing Ferrari outfit and proved to be an integral part of the super-team that followed. Vettel will surely find himself in an almost identical situation when he arrives at Maranello in January, yet it is unknown whether Vettel, Allison and Mattiacci can emulate the success of their predecessors. Unquestionably, Ferrari is a project.
However, it was widely assumed that one-day, Sebastian Vettel would adorn Ferrari colours. Initial speculation regarding the switch began back in October 2012, yet it was denied by both parties at the time. Despite this, it was no secret that Vettel had demonstrated an interest in driving for Ferrari at some point in his career, as most drivers do. The surprise of this story is the timing of the move – few people expected Sebastian to move elsewhere for 2015, particularly considering that his contract ran up until the end of next season. While much was made of a potential performance clause in Fernando’s contract, it was in fact Sebastian’s Red Bull contract which contained a clause, allowing the German to leave the team, should he be outside of the top three in the drivers standings by the 30th September. Vettel, who currently sits P5, has used this clause to break free of the team.
The news has highlighted the imminent end of the relationship between Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. It is a bond etched over the course of fifteen years, with six of those spent at Red Bull Racing, in which the partnership has achieved 38 victories, 45 pole positions and four drivers and constructors titles. Formula 1 is unquestionably a cyclical sport and with both Newey and Vettel exiting stage right, the Red Bull stranglehold of the sport is left to Ricciardo and Kvyat to recover. As of January, Vettel is an opposition to this.