Formula 1

Is Sebastian Vettel right to leave Red Bull?

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On Saturday the Formula 1 world was rocked by the news that Sebastian Vettel is to leave Red Bull at the end of 2014.

The German, who has a difficult year getting to grips with the new generation cars and has been largely beaten by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, told team boss Christian Horner of his decision late on Friday evening before the news was broken on Saturday.

End of an era

The decision brings to an end a partnership between Vettel and Red Bull that dates back 15 years and has seen the German be the spearhead of the rise of the Austrian drinks giant in F1.

He scored their first victory while at junior team Toro Rosso in 2008 and also won the main Red Bull team's first race in China upon joining in 2009.

Since that point on the two parties would dominate the sport as Vettel claimed four consecutive world championships from 2010-2013 with Red Bull claiming the Constructors' titles along the way.

Tough decision

Currently there is no official confirmation as to where he will be driving in 2015 but the most likely outfit is Ferrari replacing the unsettled Fernando Alonso.

This would see the realisation of a pairing most believed was always on the cards as Vettel looks to emulate his hero Michael Schumacher who claimed five straight championships with the Italian team from 2000-2004.

The decision to leave also appears to be 100% Vettel's call and speaking to Sky Sports F1 admitted it had been one of the hardest things in his life.

“It is definitely a very tough decision. After 15 years with Red Bull I am moving out and you usually do that just once in your life so you can imagine that for sure it is a tough day and a tough decision,” he said.

“It is not that I am unhappy and obviously I enjoyed every race that I had there and we had an incredible run the last five or six years. Obviously this year was not the way we had hoped for, but that is part of racing, part of life.

New chapter

For Vettel, a man who has enjoyed so much success with Red Bull, there has been the belief among some that, despite four world championships, he could never truly cement in legacy without being successful at a second team.

While that doesn't appear to have directly influenced his decision, the 27-year-old did admit he felt it was the right time for a new challenge away from a team he made his own in recent years.

“I am leaving a very, very happy place which is why it is always difficult, but at some point in your life I think you feel that you want to do something new and something different," he explained.

"That feeling has kept growing and lead me to decide to leave Red Bull and go and start a new chapter.”

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Bailing out?

It's obvious that after four years of winning, the struggles of 2014 have brought Vettel back down to Earth with a bump. It has also been the fact he has failed to beat a team-mate in his first year at the team in Daniel Ricciardo that some believe has been a driving factor in his decision to move on.

However, continuing in his interview with Sky Sports, Vettel claimed it was not a case of leaving when things were not going his way.

“That is one way of looking at it," he admitted, "but has nothing to do with the results that we had this year.

"It is more that I felt ready and the time is right to start something new.”

Right call?

Regardless of his reasons, the question has to be is he right to leave a team that has done so much for him, likely for one that been as unflattering as Ferrari.

Yes, Red Bull have had a difficult year, with the Renault power unit being underpowered and less drivable than the dominant Mercedes, but this Winter offers the French supplier a chance to make up for its mistakes and be stronger next year.

Also he would be guaranteed a car that, aerodynamically at least, is one of the best on the grid, that has always been a key necessity for Vettel to be successful as the lesser downforce on the RB10 has proven.

Some have pointed to an unravelling of the so-called dream team that was key to backing up Seb en route to his four titles but I'm not sure.

His engineer 'Rocky' is set for promotion and his Chief mechanic has also left the team but that wouldn't be enough to drive Vettel away and while he is lessening his ties to the Red Bull team, designer Adrian Newey, the man many see as the real person behind Red Bull's success, will be designing the 2015 car and his philosophy will likely remain in place even after he hangs up his F1 pencil.

Why Ferrari?

It would be logical to assume Ferrari is Vettel's next destination and the reason is fairly simple.

The only other option away from Red Bull would have been McLaren and given the influence of Honda at the Japanese Grand Prix it would have been the perfect time to announce Vettel as a McLaren driver if that was indeed the case.

Also there is speculation of an announcement from Ferrari on October 18th as Sergio Marchionne officially takes over as chairman.

But regardless of whether it is a done deal or not, the question has to be why would Vettel consider joining Ferrari?

There is the historical aspect as I mentioned at the start with the German looking to follow in the footsteps of his hero Michael Schumacher, but that can't be the whole story can it?

If it is Alonso he replaces then he would partner good friend Kimi Raikkonen next year and there is also a sense of renewed optimism as Ferrari undergo reforms led by Team Principal Marco Mattiacci.

Difficulties ahead?

BUT, given the difficulties Ferrari have had in recent years I don't believe Vettel should expect to arrive at Maranello and be stood on the top step of the podium come Australia next March.

The key difference between Vettel and Alonso is age, Sebastian does have the leeway to be able to spend a year or two helping in the rebirth of Ferrari, at 33, Fernando doesn't have that luxury.

This is a long-term move for Vettel in my opinion and while he may ultimately reach his goal of succeeding in his new challenge, there will be a more difficulties ahead before he can bask in Ferrari glory.

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