Sebastian Vettel goes to Ferrari while Fernando Alonso is in the market

It was formally announced that Fernando Alonso will leave Ferrari after Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and his replacement is Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, reports Gary Meenaghan.
Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, right, of Ferrari smiles at German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing during a news conference at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Thursady. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place on Sunday.  EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ
Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, right, of Ferrari smiles at German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing during a news conference at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Thursady. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

ABU DHABI // The Formula One world champion will not be decided for another two days, but confirmation arrived on Thursday of the futures of two previous winners.

After months of speculation, it was finally, formally announced that Fernando Alonso will leave Ferrari after Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and his replacement, as has been rumoured since October, is Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion.

Alonso has yet to reveal where he will race next season, but is widely expected to turn up back at McLaren where he endured a challenging year in 2007.

Read more: Who is going and who is staying ahead of new Formula One season

Should he fail to strike a deal with his old employers, there is the possibility the Spaniard may opt for a sabbatical with a possible seat at Mercedes in 2016.

“It is a new chapter in my career,” Alonso said. “I felt it was the time for new projects and motivation. It wasn’t an easy decision – I was in talks last year. This year, I felt around September that it was time to move and I took the decision. Only time will tell whether it is a good or bad ­decision.”

Alonso, who has finished second in the drivers standings in three of the past four seasons, claimed he had a gentlemen’s agreement with former president Luca Di Montezemolo that if performances did not improve he would be allowed to break his seven-year contract and move.

“I need to thank Ferrari because they could have said no, but they understood it was the best for the two parties,” said Alonso, who had two years left to run on his deal. “This is a true sign of respect and love. I stop as a Ferrari driver, but from Monday I continue as a Ferrari ­supporter.”

Vettel, a four-time world champion, has signed with the Italian manufacturers on a three-year deal believed to be worth up to £150 million (Dh860m). He will partner close friend Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who has been awarded a second season despite disappointing since returning to Ferrari last winter.

“It felt like the right time,” Vettel said. “It’s not an easy decision to make. Obviously, I’ve been with Red Bull for more or less my entire life – since I was 12 years old.

“At some stage you feel that you want to take on a new challenge and do something different. My wish was to leave and I think it’s not a good idea to stop people or make them stay or try to convince them because ultimately they wanted to leave.”

Vettel’s move to Ferrari will undoubtedly draw comparisons with Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion, Vettel’s childhood idol and the last German to sit in a Prancing Horse.

Vettel is a keen F1 historian and is well aware that his next step could be particularly special.

“I don’t have to mention the history of Ferrari in the sport; it’s probably the greatest team to drive for,” he said.

“It’s a childhood dream. When you think back, it’s always Michael in the red cars, so I think it will be a very special journey and I’m very much looking forward to it. It will be something that remains with you for the rest of your life.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: November 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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