Christian Horner said he does not blame Sebastian Vettel for leaving Red Bull for Ferrari even if it did not work out as the German had planned.
Vettel spent six full seasons at Red Bull, winning the Drivers’ Championship in all but two of them, and produced one of the most dominant runs in F1 history. Only Vettel’s childhood hero Michael Schumacher can claim to have won more titles in a row at five.
The four-time World Champion departed for pastures new in 2015 when he left to emulate his hero Schumacher by joining Ferrari but his time at the Italian team proved to be less successful.
Vettel was forced to play second-fiddle behind the dominant Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg before tensions between him and the team following the arrival of Charles Leclerc threatened to boil over.
Horner, who was Vettel’s team principal for all of his world titles, was full of praise for the former Red Bull driver, describing him as the “hardest working driver” he had ever come across.
“It was sad to see that announcement [Vettel’s retirement] on one hand,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. ” But on the other I think the timing’s right for him.
“He was a massive part of our team. He was a pleasure to work with. He was committed, he was unrelenting in his pursuit of performance, [he was] probably the hardest working driver I’ve ever come across and beyond that, just a really nice guy.
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“We had so many special moments those four World Championships. There were days that he was just in a league of his own. What he’s achieved is quite outstanding and [I] just wish him all all the best for the future.”
Horner was also quizzed as to whether he thought Vettel’s decision to leave Red Bull for Ferrari was a mistake but the 48-year-old was not willing to say that.
“Do you know what? At that time I don’t think it was,” the Red Bull boss said. “We weren’t in a competitive position at that time. Mercedes had a massive advantage, Ferrari looked like they were on the ascendancy. Renault didn’t look like they were gonna get themselves sorted out anytime soon.
“So no, we couldn’t compete with it. It was the right thing at that point in time for him. He had a desire to follow in the footsteps of Michael Schumacher. And you know, the lure of Ferrari for him at that time when we couldn’t offer a competitive car, it was understandable. It was sad but fully understandable.”