Why Sebastian Vettel Leaving Red Bull for a New Team in 2015 Would Make Sense

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

MONTE-CARLO, MONTE CARLO - MAY 24:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing looks on during qualifying ahead of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2014 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)
Andrew Hone/Getty Images

Since the beginning of the 2009 season, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing have grown to become one of the most formidable driver-team partnerships in the history of Formula One.

The Milton Keynes-based outfit claimed their 50th grand prix win at last month's Belgian Grand Prix, with Vettel securing 38 of those winners' trophies.

In 2010, the German became the youngest world champion in the sport's history and has since gone on to become the youngest two-, three- and four-time title winner for good measure.

Vettel, according to The Telegraph's Simon Arron, broke Nigel Mansell's record for the most pole positions in a single season in 2011.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 26:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing is seen wearing a false moustache as he celebrates breaking Nigel Mansells record after securing pole position for the fifteenth time this season following qualifying for th
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

And last year, of course, he broke the record for the most consecutive race wins with nine victories between August's Belgian Grand Prix and November's Brazilian Grand Prix.

It was, undoubtedly, the summit of Red Bull and Vettel's dominance.

The problem when someone reaches the peak of their powers, however, is that the only way from there is down.

NOIDA, INDIA - OCTOBER 27:  Race winner and 2013 Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates in front of the crowd by doing donuts on the main straight following the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at Buddh
Andrew Hone/Getty Images

You sense that Vettel both acknowledged and anticipated this as the 2013 campaign drew to its conclusion.

With his fourth world title in the bag, the still occasionally immature German became ever more reflective, contemplative, philosophical and even affectionate towards Red Bull, choosing his words with more care than perhaps ever before.

After his penultimate victory of that nine-race winning streak in the United States Grand Prix, Vettel, according to the Daily Mail, said over team radio: "We have to remember these days. There's no guarantee they will be forever. We have incredible team spirit. I'm so proud of you guys. I love you."

He went on to explain to Sky Sports' Pete Gill:

People tend to forget how much work there is behind all these things and how special it is. I remember back in 2008 how happy I was to be once in my life on pole. I think should never lose the passion and the enjoy and remember the days when you were dreaming of these things to happen.

Therefore it's important for all of us just to enjoy these moments. There is more time later in our lives to realise what it meant.

It is likely that Vettel expected a decline of some sort at Red Bull as V6 turbo power units replaced the V8 engines, but—much like the rest of us—did not envisage such a dramatic drop in form. 

A 2014 season which has included just two podium finishes, three retirements and a scattering of reliability issues—along with the three victories secured by Daniel Ricciardo, his new teammate—has raised the question whether Vettel has achieved all he can at Red Bull.

The dream team who helped the German on his way to four world championships, after all, has already shown signs of breaking up.

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN - JANUARY 28:  (L-R) Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner, drivers Sebastian Vettel of Germany, Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey attend the laun
Ker Robertson/Getty Images

On the eve of June's Canadian Grand Prix, it was announced by the outfit that Adrian Newey, Red Bull's chief technical officer who designed each of the team's title-winning cars, would effectively step away from full-time involvement in Formula One next year to devote his time to "new Red Bull Technology projects." 

Only last week, meanwhile, the team confirmed that Guillaume Rocquelin, Vettel's race engineer for the last six seasons, would be adopting a "more senior role" from 2015, bringing an end (of sorts) to one of the most recognisable driver-engineer relationships of recent times.

And with Bernie Ecclestone, F1's ringmaster, being quoted by BBC Sport as claiming that Christian Horner, the four-time world champions' team principal, would be an "ideal" replacement when the 83-year-old eventually vacates his position, Red Bull seem to be beginning the process of shedding their skin, edging towards a brand new era.

The possible fragmentation of Red Bull's setup would carry to similarities to the end of Ferrari's super-team almost a decade ago, with Ross Brawn, Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt—the core of the Italian outfit—departing in quick succession after a period of unheralded success.

DANIEL MAURER/Associated Press

The Prancing Horse, of course, has never quite been the same since.

Would Vettel, then, take the unnecessary risk of remaining with Red Bull after a substantial reshuffle on the pit wall, which could well be followed by a spell of instability or even signal the beginning of the end for the team as a major force?

And from an emotional perspective, why would he be willing to stay with the team when those familiar faces and calming voices, those with whom he has shared so much success, are either blended into the background or are no longer there?

As Red Bull prepare to relinquish their constructors' crown to Mercedes and with either Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton set to become the heir to Vettel's throne, there is a sense that the chapter is drawing to a close for team and driver as well as the sport of Formula One.  

While the triumphs between 2010 and 2013, for both Vettel and Red Bull, were about breaking as many records as possible with a smile on their faces, the regaining of the world championship in 2015 or beyond—if they were, of course, to conquer the Silver Arrows—would be done with a snarl, a desire to prove their doubters wrong, to show that 2014 was merely a blip. 

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing uses dry ice to keep cool in the garage during final practice ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 26, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Phot
Dan Istitene/Getty Images

There has been a long-held, widespread belief that Vettel needs to switch to a different team and achieve success elsewhere to cement his status as a true great.

And while that notion, as the German told ESPN F1 last year, is nonsensical, a change of scenery, new surroundings, new goals and new motivations can only enrich, and even prolong, a driver's career.

Vettel needs to time his exit from Red Bull with perfection. Otherwise, that time to reflect and fully understand his achievements will creep up on him sooner than he might think.