FORMULA One title favourite Lewis Hamilton’s world championship showdown preparations were overshadowed yesterday by confirmation of two big-money driver moves.
Ferrari confirmed that current champion Sebastian Vettel is to join them next season, ending Fernando Alonso’s five-year spell at the team, in a deal reported to be worth as much £50m a year to the German.
Alonso looks all but certain to return to McLaren, where he spent the turbulent 2007 season alongside then-upstart Hamilton, on a two-year deal with a salary believed to be around £25m.
Vettel, who won four consecutive titles and is joining a team whose last drivers’ championship came seven years ago, said he wanted “a new challenge”.
“Big decisions are not easy, but ultimately you need to listen to yourself, to your heart and go with that,” he added. “I’m very excited and motivated to do my best, to put my heart in it and be successful.”
McLaren have delayed confirmation of their 2015 line-up until next month, though the question is believed to be over who will partner Alonso: Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen.
Button’s fellow Englishman Hamilton is aiming to clinch his second world title in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the last of the season, at the Yas Marina circuit.
The double points on offer for the first time mean his Mercedes team-mate and closest rival Nico Rosberg will pip him if the German wins and Hamilton finishes lower than second.
English youngster Will Stevens is set to join his countrymen on the grid for the first time this week after being hnded a debut by crisis team Caterham. The 23-year-old, who has tested for them twice and spent three seasons in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, replaces Marcus Ericsson, who quit this week.
Marussia, the other F1 team forced into administration this season, have failed in a last-ditch attempt to secure funding to take part in Abu Dhabi.