Sebastian Vettel has denied that he has any kind of understanding with Ferrari, despite persistent rumours that a mechanism is in place which could take him to the Scuderia in 2014.
At the same time the news coming from Vettel’s home country Germany around F1 is not positive, with only 54,000 tickets sold for this weekend’s German GP at Hockenheim – at least 20% down on expectations – and news that the Nurburgring has been denied any governmental bail out to settle its debts.
Vettel took the opportunity of an interview in Bild newspaper, the leading tabloid in Germany, to make it clear that he has no arrangement not even under the table, with Ferrari, “There is no sign on my part, I’ve not signed anything nor have I agreed anything with a handshake.”
Vettel goes on to heap praise on Ferrari as an “awesome” team, which “all 24 drivers on the grid would say yes to, given the chance, and that includes me.”
Vettel says he’s honoured that “a man like Stefano Domenicali or Luca di Montezemolo see me as a Ferrari driver.”
So although he kills off the rumour that he’s on his way there in 2014, he leaves the door well and truly open for the future. But if you look closely at what he says, he makes it very clear that any move away from Red Bull would be all about a wide range of circumstances, primarily ensuring that he would be moving into a competitive package.
Vettel in a Ferrari. It was the same with Alonso back in the early 2003/4, when he broke through with Renault and started looking like the real deal. He was constantly linked to Ferrari and had even agreed a testing contract before his F1 debut, but switched to Renault which was offering a race debut after a year of testing (replacing Button) and where he would not have to drive alongside Michael Schumacher.
After Alonso pulled out of that agreement with Ferrari, Jean Todt its then boss was very angry and that is why, when it came time to replace Schumacher, he passed over Alonso and went for Raikkonen.
Eventually the Scuderia came for Alonso and he is now their captain. But Vettel is clearly the next target.
With his interview in Bild he has set himself up for a possible future at the team, but also made it clear to those who care to look, that a competitive car is the priority. He is fighting against one of the most competitive fields in F1 history and he’s not going to let his heart rule his head.
Vettel will be seeking his first win on home soil this weekend. But it’s a tough moment for F1 in Germany, with ticket sales sluggish, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport and news that the Nurburgring could soon slide into insolvency as the circuit has been denied a lifeline from the European Union to help with its debt problems, after its dramatic expansion and development programme of recent times. Nurburgring alternates with Hockenheim as host of the German Grand Prix and is an iconic circuit, one of the most important symbols of German motorsport history.