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.

Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”