Reigning and 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel is to leave Red Bull at the end of the current season for a place at Ferrari in 2015.
The move was announced on Saturday, October 4th, just before Qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. Reportedly, Vettel summoned team boss Christian Horner to his hotel room, where the pair talked about the upcoming departure, one which is said to be emotional for Horner.
The move is seismic as it marks the first time that a front-running team has announced a change in its team next year. Schumacher’s second retierement caused the cascade in 2012, and in 2013 it was Maldonado’s shift to Lotus that opened the silly season floodgates, but the first domino has now been toppled in 2014.
After just a single season at the junior team Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat is to take Vettel’s empty space at Red Bull, it is understood.
Make no mistake, silly season is here, and the domino effect will filter its way down the pack, forcing some talented drivers out, and bringing some new faces too. The move means that at least one of Ferrari’s two current drivers, Alonso and Raikkonen, will be moved out.
Here’s a quick look at some of the drivers that could be moving around.
Alonso is being linked with a move back to McLaren. With Honda engines and a squadron of talented chaps at the heart of the Woking team, there is no reason that Alonso would not choose to go back to his 2007 home. Ferrari set the absolute standard in F1, being the only ever-present team and holder of most championship wins. Alonso is regarded by many as the best driver in the sport, and when you combine the two, it seems like a certainty that Alonso should have added another World Championship to his resume; a change of scenery might do him good, and now that that pesky Hamilton chap is no longer at McLaren, it could be the best place for him.
Failing to sign for a top team, Alonso also has the possible, but unlikely option of a sabbatical, which would see him sit out of the sport for a year. His current team mate (See below) was the last driver to take a sabbatical from the sport, and it paid off quite well. When Raikkonen left the ailing Ferrari in 2009, he returned to win two races for Lotus, before re-signing. They say every cloud has a silver lining – perhaps a sabbatical would herald a silver car, be that a McLaren, or even a Mercedes.
So, where next for the Finn? Some doubt that The Iceman’s will to stay in F1 extends beyond the end of the current season. A season of lacklustre performances have alienated Raikkonen a little, squandering one of the most sought-after seats on the grid, something not lost on the Ferrari team, who have development drivers in their sights. Jules Bianchi’s name is thrown up a lot when it comes to future talent. The Frenchman has tested for Ferrari many times, most recently at the mid-season test in Silverstone, and with Marussia’s Ferrari customer engines, the link is very clear. Of course, after his horrific crash in Japan, the Frenchman taking this seat is incredibly unlikely.
Verstappen is coming in to the picture in 2015. Now that the Frenchman has been snubbed at Red Bull for the second time in as many years, he will have to drag his STR9 to unfathomable heights to even remain in the sport. Antonio Felix da Costa is one of the names touted to replace him at Toro Rosso if he is unable to impress the Red Bull bosses.
If Alonso’s only real option is McLaren (the Spaniard has stated that he does not wish to drive for Williams or Lotus) then one of the current McLaren drivers may have to face the axe. It would be a bitter pill to swallow for Magnussen who has only this year joined the McLaren team, to be booted out just a year later, as was the case with 2013 signing Sergio Perez. The young Dane has impressed with a very mature attitude this season. He had a meteoric start to his career with a majestic podium in Australia, finishing third and later inheriting second after Ricciardo was disqualified, but has lingered lower down the points ever since.
F1’s current oldest driver has endured a couple of tough seasons at McLaren. Despite his inherited third place in Australia (See above) the 2009 Champ has not stood upon the rostrum since winning the season-closing 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. The Interlagos track saw his best result of last season with fourth. It’s also the track at which he clinched his World Championship. With Brazil coming up in two races’ time, the end of the season could make or break his contract. McLaren have been typically coy about their driver signings; they have not let anything slip thus far, and have no drivers signed for 2015.