Four-time World Champ could possibly join Ferrari; Alonso may join McLaren
Suzuka: Sebastian Vettel is set to leave Red Bull at the end of the season, the reigning World Champion team announced on Saturday, with the German all but certain to replace Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel waves to the crowd during the Hungarian GP on July 26. Pic/Getty Images
Rumours that Vettel could be off to Maranello have simmered away for some time now but the announcement made at the Suzuka circuit on Saturday morning nevertheless sent shockwaves through the paddock.
He will be replaced by Red Bull-backed Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, currently still in his rookie year in the sport.
"Sebastian Vettel has advised us that he will be leaving Infiniti Red Bull Racing at the end of the 2014 season," Red Bull said in a statement.
"As we wish Sebastian well in the next stage of his career, we also look to the future with excitement, as the vacancy makes way for the next generation of Red Bull racers," the statement added.
Ferrari have yet to confirm Vettel's arrival or Alonso's departure but the German's current team principal Christian Horner let slip that Vettel was heading to Maranello.
"He informed us last night and obviously had his reasoning behind that. I don't think he'd taken the decision lightly and was obviously very emotional about it," Horner said before adding, "If it's his desire to be somewhere else, then it's not right for us to stand in his path. As of January 1, he'll be a competitor, he'll be a Ferrari driver," he said.
The announcement of Vettel's departure comes just days after Ferrari's squad's star driver Fernando Alonso hinted that he might leave for Red Bull or McLaren as soon as next year.
The Spaniard, currently in his fifth season with Ferrari, has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of results at the sport's most successful team which hasn't won a race in over a year and is on course to record its first winless season since 1993.
But with the Red Bull vacancy filled by Kvyat, the Spaniard looks set for a return to McLaren though he isn't giving much away at this stage.
"The news as far as I know is Sebastian is leaving Red Bull," Alonso said. "The other thing is just a guess. I am still not decided completely. I have a plan in my head, I have my mindset for the last two or three months," Alonso said.
The Red Bull-Vettel split brings the curtain down on one of the most successful partnerships and long-standing partnerships in Formula One of recent years.
But Vettel and Red Bull's form has suffered this year as both have struggled to adapt to F1's sweeping new changes.
In contrast, new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo has raced to three victories and remains the only driver apart from the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to have won a race this year.
"Well it's a lot of things…," Vettel said, explaining his decision. "You could argue that this year we're not successful and that's why it's the right time, but that's simply not the case.
At some point in life at home, you grow up and decide to move out. "After fifteen years with Red Bull and it feels like leaving home, but there's still the hunger and desire to create something new at that in the end made me decide to shut one door and open another."
Even as Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull departure hogged the spotlight at Suzuka, Nico Rosberg led Mercedes' eighth front-row lockout of the season by taking pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Valtteri Bottas will line up third in his Williams ahead of teammate Felipe Massa and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso who completes the top five. Rosberg heads into today's race trailing Hamilton by 3 points after conceding the lead in the title race to the Briton following his retirement in Singapore.