ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Sebastian Vettel will have a chance to emulate his childhood hero Michael Schumacher when he drives for Ferrari next season, leaving his predecessor Fernando Alonso’s future away from the Italian team unclear.
In a widely expected shake-up, Ferrari announced Thursday that Alonso will be replaced by four-time champion Vettel on a three-year deal.
The 33-year-old Spanish driver had said earlier this season that his future lay elsewhere, reportedly at McLaren, which will not make any decision until next month.
With Alonso beside him at a news conference on Thursday, Vettel could hardly contain his excitement.
Alonso, who won the F1 title with Renault in 2005 and 2006, expressed his frustration with Ferarri last year after the Hungarian Grand Prix. That earned him a public rebuke from the team and fuelled rumours that he was on his way out.
In five seasons with Ferrari, Alonso finished runner-up to Vettel three times, including in 2012 and 2013. He pushed Vettel two years ago – finishing three points back – but in last year’s championship Vettel beat him by 155 points.
Even the prospect of a new deal until 2019 could not change Alonso’s mind. Alonso, who won 11 races for Ferrari and secured 44 podium places, thanked the team for not standing in his way.
His final race will be on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He is fifth in the overall standings and has managed only two podium places this season. His last win was at the Spanish GP last May.
Alonso entered the final race in Abu Dhabi four years ago with an eight-point lead. But Vettel won the first of his four straight titles with Red Bull that year.