Sebastian Vettel was determined to look forward after a tough final outing with the Red Bull Racing team in Abu Dhabi.
The German enjoyed near-unprecedented success with the Milton Keynes outfit as he claimed four F1 world championship titles in a row, but heads for Ferrari next season after seeing RBR usurped by Mercedes in 2014. Initial hopes that his swansong in blue could be a successful one were scuppered when both Red Bulls were put to the back of the grid after failing scrutineering [ see separate story
], leaving Vettel and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to battle through the pack before even getting a sniff of points.
Again, the Australian fared better as he made his tyres go further, claiming fourth place while Vettel once more found himself battling with the man he replaces at Maranello, Fernando Alonso. He eventually got the better of the Spaniard, but still found himself only eighth overall - and fifth in the championship standings – despite believing his car had the potential for a better result.
“I felt there was more but, once I got stuck behind Kevin [Magnussen] at the beginning, it was quite tough, so I can't be completely happy with today,” Vettel sighed, “When you race, you want to finish as high up as you can and, today, I think we had the pace to finish higher.”
After six years with Red Bull, moving on is a momentous occasion for the German, and he naturally reflected nostalgically on the partnership.
“I think the last six years have been an incredible journey,” he confirmed, “Obviously, we didn't expect that when we started working together – you can never expect four drivers' titles and four constructors' championships in a row. You get to know some people in a very good way and build friendships that will last a long time; you go through happy days and sad days, you go through them together and I think I learned a lot. I'd like to thank Red Bull and the team for everything they did and I will miss them, [but] I feel ready for the next step.”
That next step, on 2014 performance, will still leave Vettel chasing silver as Mercedes shows no desire to slow down after clinching its first world championship of the modern era. While lamenting the issues that prevented countryman Nico Rosberg from continuing the German run of success in F1, Vettel admitted that he expected to see two Silver Arrows at the front of the field once again in 2015.
“Nico obviously had some issues with the car because I was racing him and he doesn't belong in that place!” he noted after passing the Mercedes for eighth place late in the race. “It's a shame the car let him down and he didn't have the chance to fight until the end, [but] they are the favourites going into next season and I think it will be very tough for [Lewis Hamilton] to keep Nico behind.
“I think they had a very tight battle [this year] and I think Nico surprised a lot of people in many ways, so it will be tight amongst them again. I think we will try our best to catch up but, for now, in terms of regs, it doesn't look like there is much progress being made, with Mercedes blocking the other teams, so we will have to see what happens in the winter...”