BMW-Sauber relinquished its hold over Sebastian Vettel when it failed to offer the German a race seat in 2008, Christian Horner has revealed - as Red Bull Racing makes clear its firm intention to retain the services of the sport's hottest property for the foreseeable future.

Vettel delivered the energy drinks-backed outfit its maiden victory in the top flight at its 74th attempt when he led home team-mate Mark Webber in a crushing one-two in the rain-lashed Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai earlier this month, and since the start of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign his stock has risen inexorably.

Already the youngest-ever grand prix winner courtesy of his sensational breakthrough Italian Grand Prix triumph for Scuderia Toro Rosso last September, of late the man from Heppenheim has elicited interest from Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, who has intimated his desire to poach his compatriot to line up alongside reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren-Mercedes 'dream team' once his Red Bull contract expires at the end of next year.

RBR team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, however, has issued a strict 'hands-off' warning [see separate story - click here], and team principal Horner has rubbished speculation that BMW retains an option on the 21-year-old from 2011 onwards. Vettel made his grand prix debut with the Bavarian outfit at Indianapolis just under two years ago in place of the convalescing Robert Kubica, joining the elite club of drivers to have got amongst the points-scorers on their maiden appearance.

"Definitely not," the Englishman shot back in an interview with German publication Sport Bild. "They could have had him; they did have an option on Sebastian, the condition being that they give him a race cockpit for the 2008 season.

"In the middle of 2007 they let him go to the Red Bull family, to Toro Rosso, and they lost their rights to him."

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