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.

Three in position to capture World Rally Championship title at Rally Australia

Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Defending champion Sebastien Ogier goes into this weekend’s Rally Australia with a chance to clinch his sixth World Rally Championship in a row. Thierry Neuville, a runner-up four times but never a champion, hopes to change the world order.

Neuville led the series for much of the season but Ogier’s win in Britain and a second place in Spain has given the Frenchman 204 points, three ahead of Neuville, heading into the final rally of the championship.

“We are not the best friends but we are rivals and respect each other for our performances,” Neuville said Wednesday. “I’ve been second many times in the championship now, we are so close to the main goal.”

“If we need to take more risks because we need to pass Sebastien we’re going to try,” the Belgian driver added, “we’ll take the maximum risks.”

Ogier says the feeling is mutual when it comes to his main rival.

“We are different, definitely, but most important we’re in a great fight together and respect each other for that,” Ogier said. “It’s about trying to beat each other and do it with respect.”

Ott Tanak of Estonia sits 23 points behind and with 30 points for a win in Australia, and other results going his way, he could also capture the world title.

Ogier will be hoping for some Friday morning rain to settle the dust and gravel before he sets off first on what will be more than 300 kilometers (180 miles) of timed racing through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast, about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports