Formula One: Four-time world champion Vettel to replace Alonso at Ferrari

Ferrari confirmed on Thursday that four times world champion Sebastian Vettel (left) would replace Fernando Alonso next season on a three-year deal. -- PHOTO: AFP
Ferrari confirmed on Thursday that four times world champion Sebastian Vettel (left) would replace Fernando Alonso next season on a three-year deal. -- PHOTO: AFP

ABU DHABI (REUTERS) - Sebastian Vettel looked forward to following in Michael Schumacher's Formula One footsteps after Ferrari confirmed on Thursday that the four times world champion would replace Fernando Alonso next season on a three-year deal.

The long-awaited news, an open secret since the German announced in October that he was leaving Red Bull, formally ended a five-year love affair with double world champion Alonso that frustrated both sides.

Vettel will partner Finland's 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who has a year remaining on his contract.

"The next stage of my Formula One career will be spent with Scuderia Ferrari and for me that means the dream of a lifetime has come true," said Vettel.

"When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it's an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari," added the 27-year-old, who took his first Formula One win in a Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso at Monza in 2008.

Compatriot Schumacher won five of his seven titles with Ferrari.

"The Scuderia has a great tradition in this sport and I am extremely motivated to help the team get back to the top. I will put my heart and soul into making it happen," said Vettel.

Alonso is expected to return to McLaren, the team he spent a torrid season with in 2007 before falling out with current overall head Ron Dennis.