Sebastian Vettel winning the Indian Formula One Grand Prix with Red Bull in October 2013
Sebastian Vettel has finally been confirmed as a Ferrari driver, with the four-times Formula One world champion joining the team on a three-year contract.
The news came shortly after Ferrari revealed Fernando Alonso would be leaving the team after Sunday’s season-ending race in Abu Dhabi.
The double announcement ends weeks of speculation after Red Bull dropped a bombshell ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix that Vettel was on his way out come the conclusion to the current campaign.
The two announcements have been the worst-kept secrets in Formula One.
Whilst there has been no confirmation from Alonso as to his future plans, it is understood he has already agreed a deal to return to McLaren which will be announced in December.
The team are still mulling over whether Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen will partner Alonso from 2015.
For Vettel, he concedes joining Ferrari “means the dream of a lifetime has come true”.
Official: Sebastian Vettel is a @ScuderiaFerrari driver!
Vettel added: “When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it’s an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari.
“I already got a small taste of what the Ferrari spirit means when I took my first win at Monza in 2008 (with Toro Rosso), with an engine from the Prancing Horse built in Maranello.
“The Scuderia has a great tradition in this sport and I am extremely motivated to help the team get back to the top.
“I will put my heart and soul into making it happen.”
For Alonso, it is the end of his five-year relationship with the team which ultimately has failed to yield the third world title he long believed would be his in switching allegiance to the Maranello marque.
Alonso did finish runner-up on three occasions, missing out by four points in 2010 and just three in 2012, whilst he was a long way adrift last season, with Vettel champion on each occasion.
Instead, Alonso leaves with only 11 victories to his name, the last of which was on home soil in Spain last season, as well as another 33 podiums.
Since Red Bull’s announcement of Vettel’s departure seven weeks ago, Alonso has since played games with the media when quizzed on his future plans.
Although apparently knowing where he is heading, the 33-year-old still conceded leaving Ferrari was tough.
Alonso said: ”Today is not an easy one for me, because even if I always look to the future with great enthusiasm and determination, at the end of this season my journey as a Ferrari driver will come to an end.
”It was a difficult decision to take, but a carefully considered one, and from start to finish, my love for Ferrari was a prime consideration.
”I have always been lucky enough to make my own decisions about my future and I have that possibility now too.
”I must thank the team for that, as it understood my position.
”I leave Scuderia Ferrari after five years, during which I reached my very best level professionally, tackling major challenges that pushed me to find new limits. I also proved to be a true team-player, putting the interests of the Scuderia before my own.
”When I had to take important decisions about my future, I did so with Ferrari in my heart, driven by my love for the team.
”I am very proud of what we have achieved together.
”Thanks to the efforts of the men and women of Maranello, on three occasions we came second in the Formula One world championship, two of them fighting for the title right up to and including the final race, running in a championship winning position for many laps.
”Without a shadow of a doubt, these five years produced some of the best moments of my career.
”I also feel that, in leaving the team, it is family rather than friends I am leaving behind.
”Now I look to the future with great enthusiasm, knowing that part of my heart will always belong to the Prancing Horse.
”I want to thank each and everyone of the team for the trust they showed in me.”
For new Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci the departure of Alonso and arrival of Vettel represents one door closing and another opening.
Mattiacci said: “In the Scuderia Ferrari roll of honour of great drivers, Fernando Alonso will always occupy a special place.
“We offer him our heartfelt thanks for what has been an extraordinary adventure with the Scuderia, when in the past five years, he twice came so close to winning the world championship.
“I am sure a great driver like Fernando will always hold the Prancing Horse dear to his heart and I also expect the Ferrari fans will continue to hold him in high regard in his future endeavours.
“Now Scuderia Ferrari has decided to put its faith in the youngest multiple champion in the history of Formula One.
“In Formula One terms, Sebastian Vettel is a unique combination of youthfulness and experience and he brings with him that sense of team spirit which will prove invaluable when, together with Kimi, they tackle the challenges awaiting us as we aim to be frontrunners again as soon as possible.
“With Sebastian, we all share a thirst for victory as well as enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and tenacity; key elements for all the Scuderia members to write a new chapter in the history of Ferrari.”