VETTEL CHARGING OFF: Red Bull's multi-Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel will quit the team at the end of the 2014 season. Next stop: Ferrari? Image: AP / Shuji Kajiyama
SUZUKA, Japan – Four-times Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel decided to leave Red Bull because he needed new motivation after a frustrating season, team consultant Helmut Marko said on Saturday.
The Austrian told Reuters ahead of the 2014 Japanese F1 GP that the split between the reigning champion team and the 27-year-old German, who has won all his titles with them, was “amicable”.
Red Bull announced on Saturday that Vettel, overshadowed by young Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo in 2014, would leave at the end of the year and his seat would be taken by Toro Rosso's Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat.
OFF TO FERRARI
Marko, a former race driver and the head of Red Bull's driver development programme and close to energy drink company's billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz, said: "Last couple of days the whole thing happened but we split amicably. There's no bad feeling on either our or his side."
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told reporters at Suzuka on October 4 that Vettel would go to Ferrari, although there was no immediate confirmation from the Italian team.
Vettel is expected to replace Spain's double F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who’s been heavily linked with a return to McLaren as team mate to Finland's 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen.
Marko refused to be drawn on Vettel's movements but said he understood the German's reasons for leaving. "I'm not sad because we had a fantastic time, we had some fantastic success. We discussed it - he's looking for new motivation for new challenges. Life goes on.
“It was no problem. We decided immediately to take Kvyat and hope to repeat the (Vettel's success) story with another junior from us.”
DEBUT WITH SAUBER
Kvyat, now 20, joined Red Bull’s feeder team Toro Rosso in 2014 and became the youngest-yet points scorer on his debut race in Australia in March at the age of 19. That record was taken from Vettel, who made his Formula 1 debut with BMW Sauber - for whom he was a test driver - as a substitute for Poland's Robert Kubica at the 2007 US GP.
Vettel has been at Red Bull since 2009 and became the youngest champion, setting a string of further records as the most successful German driver since Michael Schumacher who won five of his seven titles with Ferrari.
The partnership has yielded 38 race wins, 13 of them in 2013 alone, but Vettel has struggled to recapture that form in 2014 year with new technical regulations and early reliability problems with the new ‘power unit’.
NO WINS IN 2014
He hasn’t won so far in 2014 while Ricciardo has done so three times and is still the only driver, apart from the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosber,g to have triumphed this year.
Marko said of Vettel's frustrating year: "For sure, that was part of the reason, but the thing is you know we had been together very, very long. He's still young, he's 27, and it was mainly a new challenge he was looking for."