ABU DHABI – Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that now is the right time for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to leave the team, having announced his move to Ferrari for 2015 on Thursday.
Vettel confirmed at the Japanese Grand Prix back in October that he would be activating a performance-related clause in his Red Bull contract to leave at the end of the 2014 season.
At the time, Horner tipped him to move to Ferrari for 2015, with a three-year deal being announced on Thursday along with Fernando Alonso’s exit.
Vettel has been the man behind much of Red Bull’s success over the past four years, winning over 30 races and claiming four world titles to establish himself as one of F1’s all-time greats. However, Horner believes that now is the right time for him to move on to a new project.
“Obviously we’ve had a wonderful relationship with Sebastian,” Horner said. “He’s been with the Red Bull family since he was 12 years of age. He’s grown through the junior programme, through the junior categories, into his opportunity in Formula 1 with Toro Rosso, winning a grand prix in Toro Rosso and then coming to Red Bull Racing.
“Four world championships and 38 grand prix victories later I think we can look back with a huge amount of pride. We’ve grown together. He came to the team, which was still a young team at the time, and together we’ve grown into a race-winning and championship-winning combination. But as in life all things move on and evolve.
“Obviously this opportunity has come up for Seb, he’s felt it’s the right time for him and I think probably in reality it’s the right time for the team too.
“Whilst we’ll be very sorry to him go and close his career with Red Bull on Sunday evening, we’ll wish him the very best of luck and he’ll be a good friend of the team for life and as of the first of January he’s a competitor.
“Obviously more than that, I think it’s not just the experiences you share on track, we’ve got some wonderful memories from this circuit, it’s outside the cockpit and as not much more than a boy when he arrived, he now leaves us a young man, as a father and he can be incredibly proud of what he’s achieved and I think he’s been a tremendous ambassador for the sport and we’ll certainly miss him.”
Vettel’s exit marks the end of an era for Red Bull as its championship-winning team breaks up, but it is a process that many teams are currently going through. With Ferrari, the German will be at the forefront of a new regime at Maranello, and the prospect of following in Michael Schumacher’s footsteps by taking the Italian marque to the top of the sport is one that he will not want to mis out on.