Double world champion Sebastian Vettel this week dismissed the idea that he is poised to join Ferrari, setting up a summer scramble among his rivals to claim the possible spare seat alongside Fernando Alonso.
German Vettel, 24, has been linked consistently with Ferrari for the last 18 months in the mistaken belief that he may want to leave the Milton Keynes-based outfit that has brought him two drivers’ titles.
But he banished all speculation – that has additionally heaped pressure on struggling Felipe Massa at Ferrari – and made clear that he is not interested in leaving the team that has backed him through his entire career to date.
“I’ve been wearing a Red Bull helmet for almost my entire career,” he said.
“So, for me, it is difficult to imagine another kind of life if you are so used to it!
“It would be like when you turn 18, 19 and move out of your family’s home. I am very happy where I am right now and I don’t want to move on to anywhere else.”
Vettel has a contract with Red Bull to the end of 2014, but his name is the one most frequently touted as the natural heir to fellow-German and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher as the creator of a new Teutonic dynasty with the Italian team.
This theory, however, has been built on little more than rumour and innuendo after his dominant display in 2011 when he won 11 races and finished on the podium 17 times in a single season.
This year, he is fighting to find the same kind of consistency and is currently second in the drivers’ title race, having won just once in six races to date, following Red Bull teammate Mark Webber’s triumph last Sunday in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Vettel, however, is anything but disappointed in his team and has revealed a powerful desire to show himself as a team player, and not an individual, in his reaction to the new conditions that are prevailing in Formula One.
Thanks, mostly, to the unpredictable and unforgiving nature of this year’s tyres supplied by Pirelli, there have been six different winners in six races – an unprecedented opening sequence in the history of the F1 world championship.
Vettel, mindful of how things have changed, said: “People only remember our wins, but they forget a bit how tight it often was,” he said. “Yes, (last year) we won some races in which we did not have the strongest package.
“This year, there are much more (sic) candidates to win races than before. Therefore it gets more essential to collect as many points as possible in every race.”
He added that it is more important than ever for the team to make sure it has prepared well and is perfectly set up during the weekends in order to be fighting for victory.
“From the first day of winter testing, I had confidence in our car. We have not got out the most of the potential though we make steadily progress,” he added.
“And troubles with tyres concern almost everyone, not us alone. It simply depends on who will be doing the better job.”
He also added that he feels the unpredictability of this year’s racing is translating into a good show for the fans, despite some criticism about the outcome being artificial.
“If you look back ten years, there was heavy criticism of a boring F1 because of Michael (Schumacher) winning all the time. Now we hear F1 is unpredictable and a lottery.
“You cannot satisfy all people every time, but I think we have a good show, a lot of overtaking, good action now. There is more tension – for people who watch and for us inside the cars.
“I think I like the way it goes, however, we have to be careful not to create something artificially.”
He did not say so in that context, but he might also have added that the prospect of him leaving for Ferrari was also an artificial creation with the team more likely to be talking to his teammate Webber about a glorious finale to his career.