Friday 6 December 2019

All change for Vettel and Alonso

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel talks with Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso at a news conference at the Yas Marina circuit today
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel talks with Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso at a news conference at the Yas Marina circuit today

Ian Parkes

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both firmly believe they have made decisions over their futures that will enhance their careers.

Finally, Formula One's worst-kept secret emerged on Thursday in the paddock at the Yas Marina circuit.

Via two separate press releases, Ferrari first confirmed the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday would be Alonso's last after five years with the team.

Alonso is to return to McLaren, although the Woking-based marque will not now be revealing their driver line-up until December 1 at the earliest as Group CEO Ron Dennis cannot decide on whether Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen should be the Spaniard's team-mate.

Twenty-six minutes later Ferrari then announced Vettel as Alonso's replacement, a fact known since early October when Red Bull revealed the four-times champion was quitting their team.

Vettel, however, is joining a Ferrari organisation without a drivers' title since 2007 and without a win since Alonso's triumph on home soil in May last year.

Despite that, once the opportunity became available there was no turning back as he said: "It felt like the right time.

"It wasn't an easy decision to make. Obviously I've been with Red Bull more or less my entire life, since I was 12 years old.

"I've been supported by them and raced for both of their Formula One teams, with the success at Red Bull an incredible journey.

"But at some stage you feel you want to take on a new challenge and do something different.

"Obviously my wish was to leave, and it's not a good thing to stop people when they want to leave and force them to stay.

"Big decisions are not easy, but ultimately you need to listen to yourself, to your heart and go with that. And I don't have to mention the history of Ferrari, probably the greatest team to drive for.

"I'm very excited and very motivated to do my best, to put my heart in it and obviously be successful. That's the target."

At least Vettel will be driving for a known quantity in contrast to Alonso given McLaren will be powered by Honda as Sunday's race marks the last of a 20-year association with Mercedes.

With Honda a year behind in their development of this year's new 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged power units compared to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, Alonso is taking a huge gamble.

At present he is naturally refusing to confirm McLaren is his chosen destination, but he appreciates in leaving Ferrari he is walking away from an institution, not just a racing team.

Five years, though, without the third title he craved, and with only 11 victories, told him - like Vettel - the time was also right to move to pastures new.

"It's a new chapter in my career," said the 33-year-old. "I felt it was the time to find new projects, new motivation, but it was not an easy decision to make.

"I was in talks, even last year to be honest, about extending through to 2019, but we agreed to wait for this year, for the new car, the new turbo era etcetera.

"This year I felt around summertime, September, it was time to move and I took the decision.

"Only time will tell if it's a good or a bad one, but what is for sure, it has been an amazing experience.

"I'm so, so happy, so proud to have had these five years with an amazing team, amazing brand like Ferrari.

"Obviously we missed the championship, came second three times, but I am extremely proud of those second places and the work we did in those years.

"Now it is time to close one door, to open a new one, and we'll see how it goes."

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