Sebastian Vettel says he is not expecting to race a winning Ferrari in 2015. After winning four titles on the trot, the German notably struggled this year, and not just because of Red Bull’s struggles with the Renault engine.
He was also soundly beaten by new teammate Daniel Ricciardo, and the situation gave Vettel pause to begin looking around for a change of scene.
“It wasn’t a decision I made overnight,” he told the German newspaper Welt on Thursday.
“After the disappointing results of the first half of the season it became a possibility that I could leave Red Bull,” said Vettel, undoubtedly referring to performance-related exit clauses in his contract.
“So this led to more detailed discussions with Ferrari. The interest was there. I think the timing was just right with everything,” he added.
However, he is arriving at Ferrari – undoubtedly the sport’s most iconic and important name – amid a period of great turmoil for the Maranello marque.
He replaces Fernando Alonso, arguably F1’s most highly rated driver who after five title-less years in red finally lost patience with the increasingly tumultuous situation and is now set to return to McLaren.
Vettel said: “I am not fooling myself that we will be able to take on Mercedes next year.
“I am very aware that we at Ferrari have a big job coming up that will take time — especially when Mercedes has such a huge competitive advantage.”
But he said he is confident he will not emulate Alonso’s failure to add another title to his tally even after an extended period of trying with Ferrari.
“Every change is a step into the unknown,” said Vettel, “and therefore a risk. But I thought a lot about this decision before taking it.
“If I was not convinced that I can be successful there, I would not be doing it.”
He is not, however, prepared to set any deadlines, having committed to Ferrari for at least an initial three-year period.
“At first,” said the 27-year-old, “I just want to prove that it was the right decision — for Ferrari and for me. That will take some time.” (GMM)