Ahead of his debut for the team in Australia next weekend, Sebastian Vettel has revealed that he first discussed a possible move to Scuderia Ferrari back in 2008.
The German driver walked away from Red Bull at the end of 2014 after 15 years in association with the brand, with the relationship yielded four drivers’ championships between 2010 and 2013.
He ultimately secured a seat with Ferrari for the 2015 season, but explained to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport this week that the move has been years in the making.
“When I arrived at Toro Rosso [in 2007], I started greeting Stefano Domenicali and the Ferrari technicians who took care of my engine,” Vettel said.
“With Domenicali, I discussed once and again about a potential future for me at Ferrari. In 2010 there was another approach, but again with nothing put to paper.”
Vettel also revealed that he held secret talks with Ferrari in the 2012 off-season after defeating the team’s lead driver, Fernando Alonso, at the final race of the year for the drivers’ championship.
“In the winter between 2012 and 2013 I went in secret to Maranello to talk with Luca di Montezemolo,” he explained.
“By the middle of last year, Domenicali was gone but the contact continued with Marco Mattiacci and I spoke again with Montezemolo, but at one point Montezemolo and Mattiacci left the scene too.”
Vettel discussed the move Michael Schumacher when he was first approached by Domenicali, and asked his manager, Sabine Kehm, about it last year when more formal talks were held.
“Talks went on anyway and I asked Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm for her opinion,” Vettel said. “Unfortunately I couldn’t speak with Michael.
“A while ago I told him about the possibility offered by Domenicali, and he said that if I agreed, I would find a nice atmosphere and a great enthusiasm in Maranello.
“It was a dream for me. Now I’m happy I’m inside that dream.”
Like Vettel, Schumacher left a championship-winning team (Benetton) to try and rebuild the Ferrari into world-beaters. Ten years and five world titles later, Schumacher left the team and retired from F1 in 2006 having done exactly that. The challenge now lies with Vettel to emulate his childhood hero and take the Italian marque back to the top of the sport.