Vettel linked with Ferrari move
'Italian insiders' claim World Champ has signed pre-contract deal
Last Updated: 15/10/12 11:20am
F1's 'silly season' has started in earnest with a fresh wave of speculation in the Monaco paddock claiming that Sebastian Vettel has signed a pre-contract agreement with Ferrari.
Hot on the heels of the fevered talk on Thursday night that McLaren were poised to offer Lewis Hamilton a deal which, with bonuses included, would make him the highest-paid driver in the sport, speculation is rife that reigning World Champion Vettel has committed to leaving Red Bull for Ferrari if the Italian team can maintain competiveness.
'Insiders are adamant that the German has signed an option with Ferrari for 2014, subject to competitive form from the Prancing Horse stable for the rest of 2012,' reports The Independent on Sunday.
The claims are also repeated in The Sunday Times, with the newspaper proceeding to suggest that any such agreement would likely result in Vettel's current team-mate, Mark Webber, also leaving Red Bull for Ferrari, albeit a year in advance and for just a single season.
'With Fernando Alonso's Ferrari contract running until 2016, there would appear to be a Ferrari vacancy for only one year, should it choose to replace Felipe Massa. It is not known whether the Vettel option is binding on either side, but if there is a one-year Ferrari vacancy for 2013, it strengthens the case for Webber being the man to fill it,' declares the broadsheet. 'Thirty-six years old in August, the Australian realises the end of his F1 career is approaching - and a final year at the most iconic team alongside his friend Alonso would conclude an illustrious career'.
The speculation - and indeed any truth the reports may contain - could also have a dramatic bearing on the future of Hamilton, whose current contract with McLaren expires at the end of this season.
Although it is still expected that Hamilton will stay with the team that he has driven for throughout his motor-racing career, The Independent notes that, were Webber to join Alonso at Ferrari, it would 'open the way for Hamilton to jump into the Adrian Newey-designed car that he is said to crave.'