Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is switching to another team, as the Italian racers announced Monday they signed the four-time Formula One world champion to drive for Aston Martin in the World Endurance Championship and in F1.
“We are extremely excited to welcome Sebastian into the team. He was the unanimous decision of the directors and the whole team,” Aston Martin Chief Executive Officer Andy Palmer said in a news release. “Sebastian has represented Italian motorsport very well throughout his career and he has demonstrated an ability to produce some stunning performances in the last two years, such as his two victories in the British Grand Prix last year.”
Vettel has finished two-thirds of the races in the last two seasons in Formula One, scoring 16 wins and 26 podiums during that time. He said he was “honored and humbled to have been chosen to partner an iconic British brand like Aston Martin in its return to Formula One.”
Vettel, who turns 31 on New Year’s Day, has raced for Ferrari since 2010. He has one F1 win at the Hungaroring on the Hungaroring circuit in 2009. In 2016, Vettel won the title with Red Bull Racing in his first season with the team. This year he started the season as a favorite for his fourth title, but dropped to fourth in the standings in mid-season, with two wins, with 22 wins and 43 podiums.
His 2015 season in F1 was a struggle, as he failed to score a single victory and crashed out of the Hungarian Grand Prix with almost 100 laps to go. This season he showed much more promise, picking up two races at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and the Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, as well as Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. He finished fifth at that race.
Palmer said he had not anticipated such a strong showing by Vettel in this season’s title-deciding race, but that he was an “outstanding” talent. “We are very optimistic he will be part of the Aston Martin team for the next three years in all forms of motorsport,” Palmer said.
There have been suggestions that Vettel might be willing to challenge Alonso as the best driver in F1 next season if Vettel does not land a new contract. Hamilton has a contract to compete in 2020, while Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel’s teammate this season, is going to Finland’s Sauber.
Palmer noted Vettel is of the opinion he needs to continue racing in all forms of motorsport. “He’s got a lot of experience from racing in Formula One, and more experience as a Formula One driver, but still has a lot of experience racing on the track,” Palmer said. “That experience and that passion will definitely rub off on the guys driving for us.”