The relationship between the professional German Formula One racing driver Sebastian Vettel and his new team, Ferrari, has gotten off to to a rocky start.
Mr. Vettel agreed to join the team six weeks ago but had to keep quiet about the move until it was official.
On Wednesday, the news got out via social media, when a tweet from a Twitter account pretending to be the genuine Ferrari account welcomed Mr. Vettel into the Ferrari family. The account was fake, but had obviously been set up with someone on the inside track, as it was soon followed by a press release explaining that the team and incumbent driver Fernando Alonso had agreed to part ways by “mutual consent,” and an official announcement of Mr. Vettel’s arrival.
Mr. Vettel has had to keep quiet about joining the team he had always wanted to drive for ever since he came to an agreement with Ferrari at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka six weeks ago, but now, he is free to speak.
“For me it is about fulfilling a long-held childhood dream,” he said ahead of this season's final race in Abu Dhabi. As a child, Mr. Vettel had a giant poster of Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari car over his bed. The picture shaped his youth and his dream of someday becoming part of the “Ferrari Myth” has never really left him.
“It is an incredible honor to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari,” he added. “The Scuderia has a great tradition in this sport, and I am extremely motivated to help get the team back to the top. I will put my heart and soul into making it happen.”
As a child, Mr. Vettel had a giant poster of Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari over his bed. This picture shaped his youth.
Mr. Vettel knows, of course, that getting results with Ferrari could take a while. But at just 27, he can afford to take one or two years to build success. His idol Mr. Schumacher needed five years before he won his first title with the Italian team.
In conjunction with Mr. Vettel's arrival, Ferrari has announced a change in structure with two new top managers, Sergio Marchionne and Marco Matiacci, arriving. Other positions are already occupied by promising staff, such as technical director James Allison. With Sebastian Vettel as the crowd puller, it could help attract other top talent to Ferrari.
It could also make for an easier life for the team. The departing Mr. Alonso was known to be political and often extremely egocentric, and had a tendecy to make internal problems public when it suited him. But Mr. Vettel is thought of in Formula One circles as far less complicated.
Building a “nest” for Mr. Vettel, in which he can truly feel comfortable, must be Ferrari’s goal. This is the successful formula they used during Mr. Schumacher's wildly successful tenure at the team in the 1990s. Ferrari wants to achieve the same sort of domination with its new recruit.
This won't be easy, however. Mr. Schumacher, from the German town of Kerpen, brought with him two absolutely top people in the form of engineers Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, who stood behind him fully. And at that time the engine situation wasn’t as complicated for the Italians as it is today, with their machines lagging far behind those of rival Mercedes.
Ferrari wants to help set up a successful new team, which can dominate a new era of Formula One.
But some important people from Mr. Vettel's circle will also be following him to Ferrari, including spokeswoman Britta Roeske, fitness trainer Antti Kontsas, and Peter Bürger from his helmet manufacturer. The last was a special request made by Mr. Vettel, although Ferrari already had an exclusive contract with another helmet company.
Race engineer Riccardo Adami from Toro Rosso will also join the team. It was under his direction in 2008 that Mr. Vettel won his first Grand Prix title in Monza. Others from Red Bull may also make the leap, such as team manager Jonathan Wheatley.
Mr. Vettel has all of the prerequisites to be well received in Italy. He speaks very good Italian, thanks to his time at Toro Rosso. If he is successful with Ferrari, then that can only raise his status above all of those before him.
And as an added bonus, he can now drive the new Ferrari sports car he gave his father Norbert earlier this year without any awkward questions being asked.
This article first appeared in the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. To contact the [email protected].