TESTING TIMES: Sebastian Vettel is to quit Red Bull at the end of the 2014 season - he's had a rough year - this was at Sakhir during testing! Image: AFP
• Vettel quits Bulls after 6 seasons
• Red Bull boss says Ferrari next
• Kvyat to join Ricciardo at Red Bull
SUZUKA, Japan - Four-times Formula 1champion Sebastian Vettel will quit Red Bull at the end of the 2014 season and to join Ferrari.
The team said in a statement at about 3.30am (SA time) on Saturday that Vettel's seat would be taken by 20-year-old Russian driver Daniil Kvyat and team boss Christian Horner added that Ferrari would be his next employer.
German Vettel's departure may trigger a merry-go-round of team switches, with Spaniard Fernando Alonso's future at Ferrari a hot topic of paddock discussion; the latter’s is contracted to the Italian team until the end of the 2016 but heavy speculation is that he will move to former outfit McLaren.
The Red Bull statement said: "Sebastian Vettel has advised us that he will be leaving Red Bull at the end of the 2014 season. We want to warmly thank Sebastian for the incredible role he has played at Red Bull for the last six years.
"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.”
Red Bull boss Horner told Sky Sports that Vettel had told him of his decision on Friday. "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 but 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."
Ferrari had not made any announcement on Saturday about its future line-up.
Vettel has been struggling to recapture championship form through 2014 since the implementation of new technical regulations and ‘power units’. He hasn’t won a race all season. He is fifth in the Drivers’ championship standings; young team mate Daniel Ricciardo is third behind the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Vettel's frustrating season continued here on Saturday when engine problems forced him out of final free practice.
Vettel's replacement, Russian Kvyat, became the sport's youngest-yet points-scorer at the age of 19 in Melbourne in March 2014. He’s scored eight points this season and is 15th in the Drivers standings.
"I was very honoured, very surprised," the BBC quoted the Toro Rosso driver as saying at Suzuka. "The people around me know I like to work hard and do my best."
Speculation surrounding Alonso's future has been rife right through the season, one that has seen a number of key management changes at Ferrari, with long-serving president Luca di Montezemolo the latest to announce his departure.
The Spaniard, currently in his fifth season with Ferrari, has grown increasingly disillusioned by the lack of track success for the sport's glamour team: no wins in more than a year and facing the prospect of recording its first winless season since 1993.