There is an interesting little item in Speedweek, the Red Bull owned magazine, in which certain details of the contract arrangement with world champion Sebastian Vettel are explained, most notably that if he finishes in the top three in the 2011 world championship and scores a certain amount of victories, he is tied to Red Bull Racing for the 2012 season.
This is confirmed in the article by RBR special adviser Dr Helmut Marko, “We will not let any top driver go,” he says.
Vettel signed a contract renewal in August 2009 until the end of 2011 with an option for 2012, the trigger for which is now clear. There is consistently a lot coming out of the team about what a hot property he is. Even last summer the team was talking about extending it to the end of 2015, although over the winter there was some talk of whether he might at some point join Ferrari, which Marko and even Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz joined in.
“He is not going to change as long as Fernando Alonso is still there — otherwise he would be stupid, ” Marko said earlier this month. “It is a natural thing that a racing driver dreams of Ferrari, and Ferrari looks at a great driver like Sebastian. But just for the legend of Ferrari, Sebastian will not leave us.”
This is all part of the ongoing niggle between the establishment and the newcomer; Ferrari and Red Bull, which has arisen since Red Bull became the team to beat.
But to keep him, if another top team comes after him, Red Bull will have to be prepared to pay him more than they have up to now. In the trade off between retainer and bonus money, Red Bull tends to slant driver contracts 40%-60%, more towards bonus money than its rivals teams. Top drivers at McLaren and Ferrari can earn twice as much as Vettel earned last season, including bonuses, believed to be roughly €8m.
In addition to possible interest from Ferrari, the German has long been a target for Mercedes.
Team mate Mark Webber, who turns 35 this year, extended his deal last May for one more year and might conceivably retire at the end of the 2011 season, unless he wins the title. It is certainly hard to see him moving to a team lower down the grid.
Meanwhile Marko has also been talking to Sport Bild in Germany, where he claims that all the friction between Vettel and Webber would never have happened last year if Vettel had a more reliable car,
“Without the 66 points he lost due to technical defects, the standoff with Mark Webber would never have occurred,” he said. He also took the opportunity to point out that although team orders are now legal in the FIA rules, Red Bull will stick to its policy of letting the drivers race each other and no intervening, “We don’t use them (team orders) because the sporting aspect should be the primary focus of formula one,” he said.
Red Bull is launching its new car on February 1 in Valencia.
Photo: Darren Heath