Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel has to prove himself at Ferrari

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F1 fans got a first glimpse of Sebastian Vettel as a Ferrari driver this past weekend as the German completed a day's running in a 2012 car at the team's Fiorano test track.

In one of the highest profile driver changes in recent memory, the four-time world champion left Red Bull, a company he has been associated with since he was a young teen and made what he has described as a "fairytale" move to Maranello.

While his former team blocked him from making a public début with the Italian team at last week's post-season test in Abu Dhabi, we didn't have to wait too long to see Vettel don the red overalls for the first time.

On his first trip to the Ferrari headquarters as a member of the team on Saturday, he stepped behind the wheel of the F2012 at Fiorano and the next day Italian media reported that the German had been faster than the man he replaces, the seemingly McLaren-bound Fernando Alonso.

Crossing the Fiorano fence

Speaking after his first test behind the wheel of a Prancing Horse, Vettel reminisced over the time he went to Fiorano as a young boy to watch his hero Michael Schumacher drive in the cold of winter and how special the feeling was to be the man this generation of Ferrari fans went and perched over the fence to watch.

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“Obviously it's been a fantastic day to come here,” he told the official Ferrari website. “I remember I've been here a long time ago as a little child, driving through Maranello and trying to look over the fence, so to be here officially as part of the team felt fantastic.

“Obviously, it's already winter time so it was quite cold doing some laps but it was a great feeling, it is always enjoyable to be in the car and, again, looking back to the years when I was 11 or 12, trying to look over the fence and trying to see a glimpse of Michael running on the track, well, today I was the one running and saw the tifosi around."

Adapting to his new surroundings

For Vettel, however, the day was about much more than nostalgia as he prepares for one of the biggest challenges in his racing career, the 27-year-old said how the day had given him more motivation to try and haul a limping Ferrari team back to the top in F1.

“The possibility to drive the car and get to know the team was a unique experience," he added.

"Obviously it's a very different colour for me, everybody is dressed in red, everything is red, but it's really something special and I'm very much looking forward to the challenge that we took on for the next years.”

Ferrari move dividing opinion

There is a wide spectrum of opinion about Vettel's decision to leave the team he achieved so much success with and move to a team that has struggled to match expectation ever since the rule changes in 2009 and failed to take advantage of the new engine formula this year.

The much publicised falling out between Fernando Alonso and those in charge at Ferrari have also altered people's views as to whether it is a wise move for a man still in the peak of his career.

The thing is, however, the timing was really right for all sides involved, Alonso had clearly lost patience and lost favour at Ferrari while Vettel was ready for a fresh challenge after four years of domination - and the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo - at Red Bull.

Fresh face, fresh impetus?

The arrival of a new face at Maranello could have the effect a new star player has at a football team and lift the entire group of people at Ferrari.

My biggest concern now, however, was the decision to fire Marco Mattiacci, a man who was beginning to implement a more modern approach as to how the team operated and replace him with Maurizio Arrivabene someone, who has a lot of experience in F1, but may not have the same hunger to change things that Mattiacci had.

Ferrari were inferior in all areas to Mercedes this year and that is something that will not change overnight.

Vettel's chance to answer critics

It does give Vettel the chance, however, to answer those questions as to just how good he is when he isn't in a perfectly suited car.

This was only highlighted by his struggles against Ricciardo at Red Bull this year and while he may be at a new team, I'm sure that won't alter Sebastian's negative view on the current V6 turbo hybrid power units.

Just to add to what expected of him at Ferrari, he's replacing a man who was a master of getting the most and even a little more out of whatever car he was given and decimated Kimi Raikkonen in 2014.

Therefore if Vettel wants to answer those critics he needs to match Alonso at least in terms of performances, the Spaniard became known as the man who always finished fifth and the man who will take the number five next year, should be aiming for that given Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams are all expected to be at a similar if not higher level.

Can the honeymoon last?

While he may be enjoying his dream move for now, when the hard work really begins in February with pre-season testing only then will Vettel get a sense of the task that awaits him, think of it like a newly married couple, the honeymoon is always great but its maintaining that seem feeling for the months and years to come that will be crucial as to how it works out. 

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