Red Bull Racing announced Thursday at Hockenheim ahead of the German Grand Prix that racing prodigy Sebastian Vettel will join the team for the 2009 season. Heppenheim, Germany, native Vettel, who turned 21 on July 3, races for Red Bull's spinoff...
Red Bull Racing announced Thursday at Hockenheim ahead of the German Grand Prix that racing prodigy Sebastian Vettel will join the team for the 2009 season. Heppenheim, Germany, native Vettel, who turned 21 on July 3, races for Red Bull's spinoff team, Toro Rosso.
Vettel's initial Formula One experience was for BMW Sauber as test and reserve driver from the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix. In that role he became the youngest driver to participate in an F1 race meeting. He became the youngest driver to race and to score in F1 at the 2007 U.S. Grand Prix when he stood in for BMW Sauber race driver Robert Kubica, who was ruled out on medical precaution after a massive crash the week before in Canada. Vettel finished eighth for one point.
After replacing Scott Speed at Toro Rosso at the end of July 2007, Vettel became the youngest driver to lead an F1 race; he took the designation at the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix. He crashed out of that race from third position behind a safety car -- taking Red Bull runner Mark Webber, in second, with him -- then Vettel made up for the mistake a week later and earned five points by placing fourth in the Chinese Grand Prix for Toro Rosso's best finish to date. Before Vettel's arrival, Scuderia Toro Rosso had scored one point in a season and a half with drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi, eighth at the 2006 U.S. Grand Prix, and Speed. Vettel's best finish this season was fifth at the Monaco Grand Prix. He finished eighth in Canada so has scored five of the team's seven points this season.
"I am very proud to be joining Red Bull Racing and it's always good to have an early decision on what you are doing next year," Vettel said. "As a driver, your target is always to be with the most competitive team possible, and over the past couple of years Red Bull Racing has proved it has great potential, so this is a good move for me. I have been part of the Red Bull family for a long time and with its junior team since 2000. Throughout my career, they have offered me great support and now to drive for their senior F1 team is a dream come true and I am looking forward to having a great season next year, even if I still have a lot to learn about F1."
With drivers Webber, who this month extended his contract, and David Coulthard, who announced his retirement and endorsed Vettel's promotion, Red Bull have found a consistency to place among "the best of the rest" this season despite Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes continuing to dominate race victories. Red Bull are fifth in constructors' points, one behind Toyota.
"We are delighted that Sebastian will be joining us next year," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said. "With David Coulthard announcing his retirement as a Formula One driver a fortnight ago at the British Grand Prix, after careful consideration it seemed natural to announce his replacement here at Sabastian's home race in Hockenheim. As he was already part of the Red Bull family, choosing Sebastian as Mark Webber's teammate was not a difficult decision. However, we have always stated that our aim is to have the strongest available driver lineup, and Vettel's selection also matches these criteria. Having only turned 21 at the last race and with only 17 Grand Prix starts to his name, he is still on a learning curve, but it is clear that he has plenty of ability and speed."
Vettel has marked himself out as a congenial paddock denizen. He is good-humored and quick to smile.
"Apart from Red Bull, I must also say a big thank you to Scuderia Toro Rosso, where I feel very much at home," Vettel said. "They have been my 'family' for over a year, and I would like to thank Franz (Tost) and Gerhard (Berger) for the opportunity they gave me and thank the entire team for all their efforts. Having got this announcement out of the way, I can concentrate on racing for Toro Rosso over the second half of the season. I will try and repay them by doing my very best to get some more good results, to add to those we have achieved so far."