It will take Vettel long to challenge for title with Ferrari
's move to Ferrari may be good for the Italian team, but not so good in the short term for the reigning world champion. That is the claim of F1 legend Niki Lauda
, who despite being Mercedes
' team chairman admitted that news German Vettel is leaving Red Bull caught him by surprise at Suzuka.
"Yes (it did)," he told the Austrian newspaper Osterreich. "Or at least the date of the announcement did. No one in Suzuka expected it. "Vettel apparently told his team on Friday night at half past eight that he's going. Without warning. For me there is only one question -- did he tell Didi Mateschitz beforehand? If he did, everything is fine," said Lauda.
He insists, however, that the manner of Vettel's announcement shows that he no longer has a good relationship with Red Bull's leading figures -- even Dr Helmut Marko
. "As you know now," Lauda said, "he didn't tell them (of his decision)." But, if Vettel concluded that Red Bull was "no longer working" for him, Lauda said he was right to "seek a new motivation".
That new motivation is the crisis-struck Ferrari, set to rebuild in the wake of a string of key departures including that of Fernando Alonso
. La Repubblica claims Vettel has signed a three-year contract worth EUR 60 million in total, with an option for a further two seasons through to 2019.
The report said the 27-year-old can also earn more for winning races and titles, and that he had been negotiating with the Italian team including Fiat chairman Sergio Marchionne since as long ago as August. "It is a new beginning for Ferrari after years of crisis," Lauda insisted. "It is like Schumacher -- now they have a four-time world champion that everyone can look up to."
But it will take time for the partnership to work, he warned. Asked if Vettel can now challenge for the title in red, Lauda answered: "Probably not. It will take longer than that for them to have a car good enough."
He also does not understand why Ferrari and Vettel have not still not announced their obvious new partnership officially. "I don't understand why they were too stupid not to react immediately," said Lauda. "When they were surprised by the Red Bull press release, they should have just said 'Vettel is coming to us'."
The next question is what the Ferrari-departing Alonso will do, with Lauda declaring confidently that the Spaniard's contract was terminated on both sides last Thursday. Germany's Sport Bild claims McLaren
is offering him an incredible $40 million per season, but that supremo Ron Dennis
is asking for at least a two-year commitment. The report said Alonso is warning that he is prepared to take 2015 off altogether, perhaps to contest the fabled Le Mans race next year with his friend Mark Webber