Out of the blue, Vettel’s Red Bull departure has an enormous knock-on effect


Formula 1 has been turned upside-down overnight following the announcement that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will be leaving Red Bull, apparently bound for Ferrari in 2015.

It’s the only team he has ever known and the brand that has defined his success in motorsport. He’s spent more of his life with Red Bull than without it. This is, quite simply, one of the biggest driver moves in the history of the sport.

And the knock-on effects cannot be underestimated.

Let us start with Vettel himself. This could turn out to be the move that defines his racing career, just as Michael Schumacher’s decision to leave Benetton for Ferrari in 1996 did. Ultimately, he has seen a need to leave the nest and spread his wings – clearly, he feels that the time is right to walk away as the ‘dream team’ that made Red Bull a tour de force falls apart.

The German driver has clearly been thinking about this decision for some time, but the final call came in the past few days. In fact, Sebastian only told Red Bull he wanted to leave last night, having even agreed to a new merchandise deal on Thursday. Clearly, the team had a contingency plan in place though, with Daniil Kvyat swiftly being announced as his replacement.

For Kvyat, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. He has always been highly rated by Red Bull, so much so that he was given the nod ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. for the seat at Toro Rosso in 2014. His debut season has been an impressive one, even if it hasn’t yielded a huge amour of points, but at the age of 20, he will become a Red Bull driver after just 19 grands prix. It’s a promotion that is even quicker than Vettel’s own from Toro Rosso after 25 races with the B-team.

At Toro Rosso, the first thought for many was that this news handed Jean-Eric Vergne a reprieve. He was due to be ousted from the team to make way for Max Verstappen in 2015, but with Kvyat on his way, does this leave room for the Frenchman?

Realistically, no, it does not. Just as Kvyat stole the seat from da Costa and Sainz, Verstappen took the place everyone had set for Sainz. The Spaniard is set to win the Formula Renault 3.5 title later this month, and should replace Kvyat at Toro Rosso. Just when his F1 career looked dead in the water, it has life again – although it is worth keeping an eye on da Costa and British driver Alex Lynn as other possible options for Toro Rosso.

In a matter of days, the speculation about Fernando Alonso’s future has become fact. He is set to leave Ferrari after five years of unfulfilled potential. It was meant to be the marriage that took both parties back to the top of F1 – instead, he’ll be leaving through the back door as Vettel arrives with all of the fanfare.

Strangely, Kimi Raikkonen’s position at Maranello has never been stronger. The Finn’s passion and ability was questioned earlier this year, but he has found his form in recent weeks. The arrival of Vettel will only help his cause, given that, to quote the German himself, he is the closest thing he has to a friend in F1.

So where does this leave Alonso? Apparently, McLaren or bust. With this announcement from Vettel, his bargaining power has significantly weakened. He has nowhere else to go. The rapid rate at which his relationship with Ferrari has soured has forced Vettel into action: he smelled a seat was going, and has grabbed it. The departure of Luca di Montezemolo as the marque’s president was the domino that set this chain of events off.

However, Honda will already be writing the check to get Alonso on board  at McLaren for 2015. This leaves both Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button fighting for their place at the team, and, quite possibly, their F1 careers.

It really depends on what McLaren wants for 2015. Would it rather keep on Button, an experienced and proven driver but with retirement on the horizon, or Magnussen, who is less experienced but hasn’t yet had a chance to prove himself? If K-Mag were to be jilted, it would be a harsh call, comparable to Sergio Perez’s departure from the team at the end of last season. Either way, both will be on red alert for a seat for 2015, although an early retirement might be more viable for Button if the team decides to stick with Magnussen.

Vettel’s decision even has implications further down the grid. On Thursday, I wrote how Alonso’s imminent departure could hand Ferrari junior driver Jules Bianchi the chance of a lifetime. However, with Seb coming in, the Frenchman will be forced to wait his turn – most probably until Kimi decides to retire, which could come at the end of next season. Other drivers with designs on the Ferrari seat – Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean, to name but two – will also be left hanging.

Where does Red Bull go from here though? Just as Ferrari will begin a new era in 2015, so will the defending world champions. The team will enter next season as ‘underdogs’ in a funny sort of way, given the inexperience of its driver line-up. Daniel Ricciardo has been in sensational form this year, but he will now have to lead the team in the post-Vettel era. Immense pressure, but an immense opportunity, also.

F1 entered a new dawn in 2014 with the new regulations, but a whole new era led by Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo – not to mention the two Mercedes drivers – will begin in 2015.

What a time to be watching Formula 1. This crazy, crazy sport can even surprise itself from time to time.

So why not consider another couple of curveballs? Final word to NBCSN’s Will Buxton on this one.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top

SuperMotocross Rankings season opener
Align Media

As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage