Sebastian Vettel will leave Red Bull at the end of the season to join Ferrari, with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat his replacement.
Vettel, who has been backed by Red Bull throughout his career, is expected to replace Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, with the Spaniard believed to be on his way to McLaren.
The German, who raced for Toro Rosso before making the step up to the senior Red Bull squad in 2009, leaves the team as a four-time champion, recording 38 wins and 44 pole positions over the last six years.
“Sebastian Vettel has advised us that he will be leaving Infiniti Red Bull Racing at the end of the 2014 season,” reads a statement released by the team on Saturday.
“We want to warmly thank Sebastian for the incredible role he has played at Infiniti Red Bull Racing for the last six years.
“As we wish Sebastian well in the next stage of his career, we also look to the future with excitement, as the vacancy makes way for the next generation of Red Bull racers.
According to Vettel, the decision to leave Red Bull was not motivated by the his underwhelming 2014 season, and he insists he departs the team on amicable terms.
“This is not a decision against Red Bull it is for something else,” he said. “Red Bull did nothing wrong, we part as friends and it has nothing to do with the results even though they are not what we expected.
“I am loyal and I did not breach any contract. I am not running away from anything but there are times in life when you need something new and if there is an opportunity you have to grab it.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner confirmed on Saturday that the German will join Ferrari, even if the Scuderia is yet to confirm its capture of Vettel.
“A decision like this you don’t take lightly but it was last night he sat down with us and informed us,” explained Horner. “So all I can do is wish him the very, very best for the future. He will still be close to our hearts at Red Bull, but on 1 January he will be a competitor.
“Obviously Ferrari have made him a very attractive offer,” he added. “He has made this decision and we respect that.”
The highly rated youngster Daniil Kvyat, who has impressed in his maiden season in Formula 1, will replace Vettel at Red Bull from 2015 and will partner Ricciardo.
“Daniil is a very exciting talent and it is an exciting new dawn for Red Bull Racing,” noted Horner. “Does it leave us in the lurch? No. We have a fantastic driver in Daniel Ricciardo.
“When we took Seb he was a young driver – and we have demonstrated investing in young drivers works. I think it is the beginning of a new cycle, and things happen in cycles.”
Ricciardo, who will be the senior driver at Red Bull in 2015, admitted that the announcement had come as something of a surprise.
“A bit surprised,” Ricciardo said. “I didn’t rule anything out. So I wasn’t convinced he would stay, I wasn’t convinced he would go. But I thought if he was to go that Daniil would be the one to replace him so I got that part right I guess.”
Vettel will start Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix from ninth, while Ricciardo will line up sixth on the grid.
Image courtesy of Red Bull Media/Getty Images