Sebastian Vettel leaving Red Bull at end of season, Ferrari-bound; Daniil Kvyat to replace him

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Four-time and defending Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel will be leaving Red Bull for Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the 2014 Formula 1 season.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing has announced this evening that Vettel will be replaced by current Scuderia Toro Rosso pilot Daniil Kvyat.

Here is the full statement from the Bulls…

Sebastian Vettel has advised us that he will be leaving Infiniti Red Bull Racing at the end of the 2014 season.

We want to warmly thank Sebastian for the incredible role he has played at Infiniti Red Bull Racing for the last six years.

Since joining the team in 2009, Sebastian, together with Infiniti Red Bull Racing, has scored 38 wins, 44 poles and eight World Championships, including four Drivers’ titles and four Constructors’. If you include Sebastian’s success at Red Bull’s second team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Red Bull total increases to 39 wins and 45 poles.

As we wish Sebastian well in the next stage of his career, we also look to the future with excitement, as the vacancy makes way for the next generation of Red Bull racers.

The Red Bull Junior Programme has developed some proven talents in recent times, including Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, who has excelled in the RB10 and become a three-time Formula One race winner in his first season with the team.

We’re pleased to announce that Daniel will be joined in the team for 2015 by another rising star from the Junior Programme, Daniil Kvyat.

Following the onset of Formula One’s new technical regulations this season, Vettel has struggled mightily to recapture his championship form and has not yet won in 2014.

Meanwhile, his new teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, has managed to capture three Grand Prix wins despite Red Bull being at a power disadvantage with its Renault engines.

Vettel has been the subject of 2015 rumors linking him to other big teams in the sport such as McLaren and Ferrari.

As for Kvyat, the Red Bull promotion is a major accomplishment for him in just his rookie season. The young Russian has been solid for STR, banking points in five Grand Prix.

This news has come completely out of the blue in a week that the driver market for the 2015 F1 season has turned completely on its head, with Vettel leaving the team in search of a new challenge with Ferrari as a replacement for Fernando Alonso.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky, Red Bull team principal confirmed Christian Horner confirmed that he is set to join Ferrari.

“He informed us last night and had his reasoning behind that,” Horner revealed. “I don’t think he’d taken the decision lightly and was obviously very emotional about it. If it’s his desire to be somewhere else, it’s not right for us to stand in his path.”

When asked if Vettel would be a Ferrari driver, Horner replied: “He’ll be a Ferrari driver, absolutely.

“A window has opened there with whatever is going on, and he’s decided the time is right for him.”

However, neither Vettel nor Ferrari has confirmed the news, although it appears to be a formality.

Vettel’s departure will mark the end of an era for both himself and Red Bull. The German driver first enjoyed ties with the brand back in 1999, joining its junior driver programme. He quickly rose through the ranks, starting his first grand prix back in 2007 at the age of 19 before going on to secure a full-time seat with Toro Rosso at the end of that season.

With Red Bull’s F1 B-team, he claimed a remarkable victory in torrential rain at Monza in 2008, announcing his arrival in the F1 spotlight. He was soon promoted to Red Bull for the 2009 season, where he finished second in the championship.

What followed was one of the most dominant and sustained periods of success for any driver and team in the history of F1. With Red Bull, Vettel won four straight world titles between 2010 and 2013, appearing to establish himself as an all-time great of the sport. However, his critics claimed that he would have to fly the nest and leave the team if he were to do so – and now he has the perfect opportunity.

2014 has been a troublesome year for Vettel as he has failed to put up any kind of defence to his world title, while new teammate Daniel Ricciardo has flourished.

Following the announcement that technical guru Adrian Newey would be taking a backward step at Red Bull for 2015, some questioned whether the ‘dream team’ that had been so successful was falling apart. This thought escalated when Vettel’s engineer, Guillaume Rocquelin, confirmed he would be moving upstairs at the team into a more senior position.

Finally, the surprise news came through yesterday that the team’s long-serving chief mechanic, Kenny Handkammer, had left the team with immediate effect, suggesting that something was up at Milton Keynes. Vettel’s shock departure has only confirmed this.

The wider impact of this decision cannot be underestimated. Carlos Sainz Jr. is likely to benefit, as there is now a seat at Toro Rosso once again, while both Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button will know that they have to fight for their careers at McLaren as Alonso seems bound for one of their seats.

To the same end, Jules Bianchi will know that his chance to replace Alonso has been and gone, meaning that he’ll have to wait on Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement – likely at the end of 2015 – before he can step up to a full-time seat at Ferrari.

Not since the departure of Alain Prost from F1 in 1992 has a driver announcement shook the F1 world so much. Expect the shock of this earthquake to be felt for months.

Tony Kanaan’s “New Reality” in IndyCar

Photo by Stephen King, INDYCAR
Stephen King, INDYCAR
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AUSTIN, Texas – Tony Kanaan is one of the most popular drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series from the fans who love his aggressive racing style and his fearless attitude. His team owner is the most popular man in the history of Indianapolis 500 – the legendary AJ Foyt, the first driver to win the famed race four times in his career.

In 2019, this combination would rather win races than popularity contests.

Kanaan has won 17 races in his career but hasn’t been to Victory Lane since a win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California when he was driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. He left Ganassi’s team following the 2017 and joined Foyt’s operation last season.

Foyt always admired Kanaan’s attitude and racing style because it reminded him of his own attitude behind the wheel of a race car. But in 2018, the combination struggled. Kanaan led just 20 laps for the season and finished 16thin the IndyCar Series points race.

“A lot of work has been done because obviously, we struggled quite a bit last year,” Kanaan admitted. “That was the challenge when I signed with AJ was to try to make this team better. It is not an easy task, especially with the competition nowadays.

“It’s a lot slower process than I thought it would be.”

Kanaan believes the biggest keys for him is to “keep digging and be patient.” But he’s also in a results-driven business.

The driver called it a long winter, but he has helped lure some of his racing friends to the team to help improve the two-car operation that also includes young Brazilian Matheus Leist.

At 84, Foyt still has control over the operation, but has turned the day-to-day duties over to his son, Larry. Just last week, the team hired Scott Harner as the team’s vice president of operations. Harner was in charge of Kanaan’s car when both were at Chip Ganassi Racing.

“The second year, we are trying to be better,” Kanaan said. “It’s not an excuse, it’s the reality we have. There are a lot of new teams coming along so we have to step up. Otherwise, we aren’t fighting the Big 3 teams, we are fighting everybody.

“We are working on it. I like the way we are heading. AJ has been extremely open to my ideas.”

Kanaan has moved his family from Miami to Indianapolis to be near the race team’s shop. The team also has another race shop in Waller, Texas and that is where Leist’s car is prepared.

Although Kanaan doesn’t believe it’s ideal to have two different racing facilities, he believes being closer to his team will help build a more cohesive unit for this season.

At one time, Kanaan would show up at the track with a car that could win the race. No longer in that situation, he has had to readjust his goals.

“The biggest challenge is to accept that and understand your limits on equipment and on the people that you have,” Kanaan said. “Being on some of the teams that I’ve been on in the past, with four-car teams and engineers and all the resources you can get and the budget; then to come to a team with limited resources, I have to self-check all the time. With that, comes a lot of pressure as well and block out people’s opinions like, ‘Oh, he’s old or he’s washed up or the team is not good.’

“You need to shield that from your guys, because psychologically, that gets to you. You need people to work well, even if you have a car that is going to finish 15th.

“What is our reality? Racing can be lucky, but we try to make goals. We are greedy, we try to improve, but we are trying to be realistic. I have to re-set and understand this is my reality now, and I have to accept it.”

At 44, Kanaan is the oldest driver in the IndyCar. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion won the Indianapolis 500 in 2013 and if his career ended this year, it would be one of the greatest of his era.

But Kanaan isn’t ready to call it an “era.” He has more he wants to accomplish.

“The mistake I have made in my career is counting your days,” Kanaan said. “The best line I ever heard is when I signed with AJ, he told me he drove until he was 58, so why am I talking about getting old?

“In his mind, I still have 14 years to go.”

There remains one race, more than any other, that Kanaan’s boss wants to win. It’s the one that made Foyt famous.

“For my boss, winning the Indianapolis 500 is all he cares,” Kanaan said. “I could not finish a single race this year and if I win the Indy 500, that would be enough for him.

“We are not in a position to win a championship and I accept that. So, we focus on the Indianapolis 500. We had an awesome car last year and were the fastest on the second day.”

Foyt and Kanaan believe success at Indy may be in the numbers.

“AJ is all about numbers and his number was 14,” Kanaan said. “He found out Dallara was making chassis No. 14 at the end of the year. AJ bought that chassis and said that is the one we are going to race at the Indy 500. I’m not allowed to drive that car until Opening Day at the Indianapolis 500.

“That’s how big the boss is about the Indy 500.”