Formula 1's newest race-winner Sebastian Vettel is emphatically 'not for sale', Red Bull has insisted, as a former grand prix ace suggests BMW-Sauber missed out on a golden opportunity to keep a driver described by Bernie Ecclestone as 'super' on its books.
Vettel's victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza just over a week ago was as popular and widely-acclaimed as it was unexpected, as the German proved peerless in treacherous conditions to lead consummately from pole position to chequered flag, in so doing becoming the youngest man ever to triumph in the uppermost echelon.
That drive – far from Vettel's first standout performance of his fledgling F1 career – prompted the sport's ringmaster Ecclestone to urge that the man from Heppenheim be given a front-running berth as soon as possible, the 77-year-old proclaiming in an interview with Autobild Motorsport
: “We will help him to achieve that. I have always said that he is good. Now I say he is super.”
However, with Vettel due to be promoted from Scuderia Toro Rosso to the parent Red Bull Racing outfit in 2009 – a squad that has slipped worryingly and increasingly off the pace in recent weeks, dropping down the grid as rapidly as STR has ascended it – the energy drinks company's magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has insisted his young charge is going nowhere.
“Sebastian has a contract with us,” the Austrian told German newspaper Bild
. “He is not for sale. With him, we want to attack the top teams and move to the top.”
One of those 'top teams', indeed, is BMW, for whom Vettel tested until he was released midway through last season to race for STR. The 21-year-old made his grand prix debut with the Munich and Hinwil-based concern in 2007, rocking the establishment by qualifying seventh and finishing inside the points in eighth on his maiden appearance in the top flight.
Though BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen is adamant the team had no other choice, 1970s F1 star Hans-Joachim Stuck believes the Bavarian marque made a crucial error in letting Vettel slip through its fingers.
“A year ago it wasn't possible to put him in our car,” stated Theissen. “He was very inexperienced, and you cannot gamble.”
“The BMW management have missed what was the right time to have the right driver,” countered Stuck, speaking to Spox
. “That he drives now for a different team makes no sense to me.
“BMW surely had their reasons, but I would have probably done things differently.”