Formula One’s worst kept secret has finally been confirmed: Fernando Alonso is leaving Ferrari.
In his place, four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel will partner Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari’s 2015 campaign. The team announced in a statement that a three year deal has been agreed with Vettel.
“Scuderia Ferrari has decided to put its faith in the youngest multiple champion in the history of Formula 1,” Ferrari’s Team Principal Marco Mattiacci said. “In Formula One terms, Sebastian Vettel is a unique combination of youthfulness and experience and he brings with him that sense of team spirit which will provide invaluable when, together with Kimi [Raikkonen], 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”.
With the news of Vettel’s signing came the confirmation of Alonso’s departure, following a five year stint with the team. While finishing runner up in the championship on three occasions with the team, Alonso has been frustrated with the lack of wins and podium finishes, particularly this year. “Even last year, I had some doubts about 2014 and I decided to check how the new turbo era would go for Ferrari,” Alonso revealed in today’s press conference ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “I was very close to Luca di Montezemolo and we agreed that if we were not competitive I could think of other options.” Alonso has been closely linked with a return to McLaren, the team with whom he spent a tumultuous year in 2007 alongside Lewis Hamilton. “This is a new chapter in my career [and] it is time to find new projects and new motivations, but it was not an easy decision to make. In the summer break, I told the President I wanted to go.”
“I have to thank Ferrari so much, because they could have said ‘no’ as there were two years left on my contract,” Alonso continued. “It is a true sign of the respect and love I have for this team. I stop now as a Ferrari driver, but from Monday I become a Ferrari supporter! Time will tell if my decision is good or bad.” For Vettel, like many drivers, the move to Ferrari is a “the dream of a lifetime”. “When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol,” he explained. “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. The Scuderia has a great tradition in this sport and I am extremely motivated to help the team get back to the top. I will put my heart and soul into making it happen.”
Vettel will partner Raikkonen for the 2015 season while Alonso’s plans are yet to be announced with McLaren revealing that no driver announcement would come from them prior to December 1. Elsewhere at Red Bull, Daniil Kvyat will make the step up to partner Daniel Ricciardo.