Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel 'set to join Ferrari' in 2014
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel is set to join Ferrari for the 2014 season, according to reports today.
According to the BBC, the Red Bull driver has already signed a contract with the Italian team that allows him to join them in 2014 depending upon the Italian team's performance next season.
The report suggests the German two-time world champion will replace Felipe Massa, and become team-mates with Fernando Alonso, who has sanctioned the move.
Despite the reports, Red Bull have issued a flat denial that Vettel will leave, saying: "The BBC article is factually incorrect. Sebastian will be with the team in 2014."
Ferrari have also distanced themselves from the report, as well as claims that Red Bull designer Adrian Newey could also join them.
Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo is quoted as saying: "Today the problem is not with drivers. 2013 is still to come but I don't want to have two roosters in the same henhouse, rather two drivers who race for Ferrari and not for themselves," he said.
"I don't want problems and rivalries, which we didn't have between [Michael] Schumacher and [Eddie] Irvine, between Schumacher and [Rubens] Barrichello, between [Fernando] Alonso and Massa or Massa and Schumi or Massa and [Kimi] Raikkonen. As for Newey, I can say that he is very good at his job but we also managed to win eight constructors' titles in the last 13 championships without him: I have huge faith in our own engineers."
Should the report be true, it represents another huge defection in Formula One following the recent announcement that Lewis Hamilton would be leaving McLaren to join Mercedes (a story also broken by the BBC).
Vettel has been with Red Bull since 2009 and before that was at their feeder team Toro Rosso. The German holds a number of records, including the youngest driver to score a point in Formula One, which he did at the US Grand Prix in 2007 at the age of 19 years and 349 days. He is also the youngest driver to win a Grand Prix and the youngest ever world champion.
Teaming up with Alonso would ensure the Prancing Horse have the most high-profile line-up in Formula One. Alonso, also a two-time world champion, reportedly agreed to Vettel joining, with the Spaniard contractually allowed a say in the identity of his team-mate. It is understood he vetoed a possible move for Hamilton having fallen out with the Briton when the pair drove together at McLaren.
Massa, who has struggled since returning from a serious injury, will depart. The 31-year-old Brazilian's future has been the subject of speculation ever since the accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Red Bull's Mark Webber was at one point linked with a move to replace him. That speculation ended when the Australian signed a new contract with his current team earlier this year. Force India's Nico Hulkenberg was also linked with Massa's seat.
A slight improvement in recent weeks, which saw Massa finish second at the Japanese Grand Prix - his first podium for almost two-years, as well as an impressive display in Korea yesterday, look to have ensured he remains with Ferrari until Vettel makes the switch.
When asked if Massa would remain with Ferrari in 2013, team principal Stefano Domenicali said: "You will know what will be our situation on that very soon."
He added: "I am very happy [with Felipe]. He did an excellent race and qualifying, but he has done an excellent job over the last couple of races and this is very promising for the end of the season.
"I think he is understanding the car better, understanding the tyres better.
"Felipe we believe is a very strong driver, otherwise we would already have taken a different decision [for 2013], and now Felipe has the understanding of the car and the tyres under his control, he is performing at the level he should."
The news of Vettel's possible switch to Ferrari adds another element to what is already turning into a competitive duel between himself and Alonso for this year's title. Vettel's win in Korea saw him take the lead in the drivers' standings by six points from Alonso with four races remaining this year.
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