Defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel may find himself locked into his Red Bull Racing contract should he replicate or even come close to repeating his 2010 success this year, it has been claimed – although he could end up costing his employer considerably more into the bargain.
According to Red Bull-owned magazine Speedweek
, should the German conclude the forthcoming campaign inside the top three in the title standings and with an unspecified number of victories to his credit, he will not be able to jump ship for 2012, with the energy drinks-backed concern's controversial motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko confirming that 'there is an option based on the results – we will not just let a top driver go'.
The new deal that Vettel struck with RBR in August, 2009 takes him through to the end of 2011 with the 'option' to which Marko refers for 2012 – but that 'option' now appears to be merely a results clause, exercisable by the team rather than the driver. Only last year, indeed, team principal Christian Horner quipped that he would like to hang on to the 23-year-old until 2028, so highly does he rate his young protégé
[see separate story – click here
] – later confessing that 'we are building the team around Sebastian'.
Vettel has been linked to an eventual high-profile switch to Ferrari – fuelled by his off-the-cuff admission that it would be a 'dream' to drive for the Scuderia
one day, and Luca di Montezemolo's conviction that he will compete for the legendary Prancing Horse 'sooner or later' – but Marko is adamant that 'Seb' is going nowhere.
“He is not going to change as long as Fernando Alonso is still there — otherwise he would be stupid,” the Austrian asserted. “It is a natural thing that a racing driver dreams of Ferrari, and Ferrari looks at a great driver like Sebastian – but just for the legend of Ferrari, Sebastian will not leave us.”
However, former ITV-F1
commentator James Allen has mused on his internet blog that should Vettel be pursued by a rival outfit – and Mercedes Grand Prix has similarly been mooted as a potential future suitor – then Red Bull would need to up his salary, with his chief adversaries at McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari currently on significantly higher retainers as the Milton Keynes-based squad tends to prioritise bonus money over basic pay.
Team-mate Mark Webber's contract with the team expires at the end of 2011, after which and in the light of his very public disagreements with senior RBR management last year, it is generally believed the Australian will either move on or – at the age of 35 – feasibly hang up his F1 helmet.