According to Red Bull boss Christian Horner, the pace of Daniel Ricciardo was “probably a factor” in Sebastian Vettel’s decision to leave the Milton Keynes outfit at the end of the season.
After a remarkable tenure at Red Bull in which he won four consecutive Drivers’ Championship titles, Vettel failed to win any races in the 2014 season while Ricciardo finished at the top of the podium on three occasions.
Speaking to the BBC, Horner revealed that Ricciardo’s pass on Vettel during the Italian GP was “quite a defining moment for Sebastian”.
“He [Vettel] was enormously frustrated after that Grand Prix,” Horner said during an interview with the BBC F1 review show.
“It was at a time where after the summer break, knowing Sebastian as well as I do, I could see he was very distracted and it was obvious something was at the back of his mind.
“And I think Ferrari were courting him quite hard and around Spa/Monza was the time he made the decision to do something different next year.”
Horner added that Vettel probably made the decision to leave somewhere between the Italian and Singapore Grands Prix in September.
“By the time he got to Singapore you could see he was a different person,” Horner said, adding that he was not really surprised by the decision.
“He was more relaxed and you could see he had made his mind up, but events had to unfold through Fernando actually leaving Ferrari. So, no, it wasn’t a great surprise in the end.
“The timing was right for Sebastian. He’d had a great run with us. He’d been with Red Bull since 12 years of age.
“He’s won four World Championships, 39 Grands Prix, 45 pole positions and I think he felt: ‘I’ve reached 27 years of age. I don’t want to end my career without having driven for Ferrari and I have a great opportunity to go there.’
“The lure of Ferrari for any driver is immensely powerful.”
Horner admitted that Vettel struggled to adapt to the changes in regulations of F1 at the start of the year, which included reductions in downforce, fuel restrictions and the introduction of V6 turbo hybrid engines.
“He didn’t like what F1 had become and was quite vocal about it – didn’t like the engines, the noise, the way the car felt,” Horner continued.
“He was pretty upset about that at the beginning but once he realised that was it – it wasn’t going to change – he started to get his head around it. He worked very hard, as he always has.
“But he got very frustrated the car wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do and of course to compound that his team-mate is winning a couple of races and performing at the level he was.
“The rule changes were significant and the two guys who seem to have been affected most are Seb and Kimi [Raikkonen, his team-mate at Ferrari] and I think taking away the rear downforce has actually been a big factor for Sebastian.
“How he generated his lap time was very much using the rear of the car on entry into the slower corners, which was much diminished this year, and that together with the brake-by-wire system had taken away some of the feeling of the braking that he is so dependent on.
“He is such a ‘feel’ driver that some of those feelings had been muted and it dumbed down some of his performance.”