The worst kept secret in Formula One has been officially confirmed today, with affirmation from Ferrari that four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel will partner Kimi Raikkonen at the team next year.
Vettel rose up through the junior formulae under the guidance of the Red Bull Young Driver programme, but this year announced his departure from Red Bull. And with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner announcing that Vettel would be a Ferrari driver at the Japanese Grand Prix in October, the resulting drawn-out wait had an inevitable end: official confirmation from Ferrari.
That confirmation came today with the declaration of a three-year contract alongside Kimi Raikkonen, who currently holds a contract until the end of 2016. Reportedly, Red Bull reserve driver and reigning World Endurance Championship Champion , Sebastian Buemi, will also move to Ferrari as a reserve driver, at the request of Vettel.
“The next stage of my Formula 1 career will be spent with Scuderia Ferrari,” Vettel said in a Ferrari statement this morning. “And for me that means the dream of a lifetime has come true.
“When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it’s an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari. I already got a small taste of what the Ferrari spirit means, when I took my first win at Monza in 2008, with an engine from the Prancing Horse built in Maranello,”
Ferrari Team Principal, Mario Mattiaci, added: “In Formula 1 terms, Sebastian Vettel is a unique combination of youthfulness and experience and he brings with him that sense of team spirit which will prove invaluable when, together with Kimi, they tackle the challenges awaiting us, as we aim to be front runners again as soon as possible.
“With Sebastian, we all share a thirst for victory as well as enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and tenacity; key elements for all the Scuderia members to write together a new winning chapter in the history of Ferrari.”
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso remains tight-lipped over his future. McLaren, the team many expect him to return to, this week decided to prolong their driver announcement until after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and subsequent Young Driver Test. If not returning to McLaren, another suggestion which has gathered air is that Alonso could follow in his friend Mark Webber’s path, and leave F1 for the WEC.