Sebastian Vettel had Red Bull contract get-out clause for 2015, says Helmut Marko
Red Bull consultant denies German broke his contract; Horner says Vettel told him of his decision at 10pm on Friday
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/10/14 9:06am
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has revealed that Sebastian Vettel had a get-out clause in his contract with allowed him to leave the team at the end of the season and pave the way for his apparent switch to Ferrari.
The F1 paddock reverberated to the sudden, dramatic news on Saturday morning at Suzuka that reigning quadruple World Champion Vettel had decided to cut his ties with his long-time employers at the end of the season. And while there has been no official announcement from his apparent new employers as yet, Christian Horner and Marko have made clear that the German is leaving them to join rivals Ferrari.
Speculation that Vettel could follow in the footsteps of his childhood hero Michael Schuamcher and one day join F1’s most famous team have been long-running, but such a blockbuster switch appeared unlikely to happen until 2016 at the earliest given Vettel last year extended his Red Bull contract to the end of next season.
However, rather than simply breaking his existing deal to head to Maranello, Marko explained that a clause in Vettel’s deal meant he was free to seek pastures new for 2015. It is believed that the get-out clause related to the German’s position in the Drivers’ Championship at the end of September - Vettel is currently a lowly fifth after a difficult season in which he has been outperformed by Daniel Ricciardo.
“He didn’t break his contract. There was a clause in his contract that he could go and recently he told us,” Marko, who guided Vettel’s route to F1 in his capacity as the head of Red Bull's junior programme, told Sky Sports F1.
Asked asked when exactly Vettel had made his mind up, Marko added: “It was in the last two weeks I’d say.”
Vettel broke the news of his final decision to Marko and Horner late on Friday night with the 27-year-old making clear that after a record-breaking run at Red Bull he was ready for a fresh career challenge.
“I spoke to Seb about 10 o’clock last night. He sat down with myself and Helmut and we spoke with Dietrich and he said he felt the time had come to take on a new challenge," Horner told Sky F1
“Obviously it was an emotional moment for him and everyone really, he’s been with Red Bull for 15 years, achieved so much and obviously he’d taken quite a lot of time to consider his decision."
Interestingly, despite their established driver heading to one of their biggest rivals, Marko suggested the fact Vettel was going to Ferrari, F1's most famous team, was easier to accept.
"If he would have traded us with let’s say Mercedes [it would have been difficult], but Ferrari for each race driver it’s such a myth and fascination, I completely can understand it," the Austrian said.
Marko added that Vettel, who has spent six seasons at the senior Red Bull team after making his name in their junior Toro Rosso stable, was ready for a fresh challenge in his career.
"It was a fantastic time. We at Red Bull knew him foir a very long time, when he was 12 years old, but life goes on and he was looking for a new challenge, for a new motivation and we have a very successful junior programme so for both sides it was the right decision.
"There is no bad feeling. We need drivers who are fully motivated and for him after a lot of success he was looking for a new challenge and we have a very, very promising young driver [Kvyat] which we are looking to see next year. So we try to repeat it with another young driver."
The 2014 Japanese GP is live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Extensive coverage of every session begins with Practice from 1.45am on Friday.