For those of you who like to go to bed early, you would have woken up to the big news gripping the Formula 1 world at the moment. And, for once, it doesn’t concern the battle between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. It isn’t even relevant to the current Japanese Grand Prix or even the 2014 Championship. However, it is still highly exciting – Sebastian Vettel is to leave Red Bull Racing after 15 years.
Although not officially confirmed, it is pretty much certain that Vettel will be joining Ferrari next season. Having been linked with the team for a couple of years, they are the only viable outfit available. McLaren may match the prancing horse in terms of history, but Vettel has openly expressed his desire previously to race in the red car. What’s more, with the team really struggling to even make the podium they will undoubtedly be extremely keen to get the four-time World Champion on board. That said, they already have two former winners already on their books in Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Many will also argue these are two of the best drivers on the grid and I will go as far as saying Alonso is one of the best of all time. However, it is he who is the odds-on favourite to be leaving.
When Alonso joined the team in 2010, the dream partnership was finally formed. Although he isn’t Italian, the Tifosi have always taken a shine to the Spaniard and he made no secret of how much he wanted to drive for Ferrari. As a result, expectations were high, but the promise of a World Championship has never materialised. His greatest opportunity was in his first season, where Vitaly Petrov to famously denied Alonso the title by holding him up for well over half the race. Since then, the performance of the car has gone dramatically downhill, although he has claimed 6 wins and 28 other podium finishes, finishing second to Vettel in both the 2012 and 2013 Championships. All of this, though, was attained in cars that were distinctly average. If you compare his results to that of team-mate Felipe Massa, how he achieved what he did is beyond belief. 2014, though, has been the worst season. A combination of Mercedes dominance, Williams resurgence and an awful car has seen Ferrari really struggle to get out of the midfield, Alonso only picking up 2 podiums and new team-mate Raikkonen claiming a measly 45 points.
For a team with such history, performances like this just aren’t good enough. We have already seen the resignation of team boss Stefano Dominecali earlier this season and it was around that time rumours surfaced suggesting Alonso was on his way back to McLaren. At first this seemed a little ridiculous, bearing in mind how bitter the relationship became during his ill-fated season with the team in 2007, but as the season has gone it has still lingered, as if tempting the Spaniard. He seemed to be keeping strong though, even just two days ago (2nd October) insisting he wasn’t going to leave. He isn’t saying the same now. He was very coy in his BBC interview earlier though, confirming nothing except his surprise at Vettel’s decision. He was very uptight though and his answers were unusually short; not the behaviour of a man staying at the team.
It will be interesting to see, if Alonso does go to McLaren, what happens. As well as overcoming his own personal problems, he has to turn the team around and make them competitive again, hopefully alongside Jenson Button. Although many will disagree, I think this is exactly what is needed – two experienced race winners to develop a car that will be near the front of the grid. Neither have won a race for some considerable time but they have similar styles and it’s likely that they will agree with what direction the team needs to go in, something they wouldn’t necessarily have got from rookie Kevin Magnussen or the relatively inexperienced Sergio Perez.
It’s the same at Ferrari. Although he hasn’t won a race under the new regulations, it is no coincidence that Vettel won four titles in a row. Not only does he have some superb talent, he also knows how to set up a car to be the quickest of all. If he gets his way and the team to design a car to suit him, there is a strong chance that Ferrari will also be in the hunt for race wins next season. I also think Vettel coming in will really help Raikkonen. The two are really close, yet competitive, friends and if anything will wake the Finn up then this is it.
As for Red Bull, they have kept faith with their development programme and promoted Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat to race alongside Daniel Ricciardo. The young Russian has really impressed this season, especially over a single lap, and has maturity that goes far beyond his age. Spare a thought for his team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne though. After losing the battle with former Toro Rosso driver Ricciardo to replace Mark Webber this season, he has already been told he won’t be retained for next season and has again missed out on being moved up to the outgoing champions. I think it’s very harsh on the Frenchman – he’s outscored Kvyat this season and always gave Ricciardo a very good race, yet is just being thrown on the rubbish heap because of his age. I really hope he finds a drive for 2015 as he is very talented and much quicker than many give him credit for.
Normally I hate to look towards the next season when there is still one going on, but in this case I’ll make an exception. If all goes to plan, then it’s highly conceivable that McLaren and Ferrari will be able to challenge Red Bull and Mercedes for race wins next year. And if Williams continue their rapid rejuvenation we could well be seeing five teams battling it out for the both titles next year. My mouth is already watering at the prospect.