Formula One's Sebastian Vettel to replace Fernando Alonso at Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel signs 3-year deal and will join Kimi Raikkonen, another champion, at Ferrari in 2015

Confirming longstanding speculation, Ferrari's Formula One team said Thursday that two-time champion Fernando Alonso would leave the team after this season and be replaced by four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel, the 27-year-old German currently with Red Bull Racing, signed a three-year deal and will join Kimi Raikkonen, another former champion, at Ferrari in 2015.

Alonso, who won his titles in 2005 and 2006 with the Renault team, is about to finish his fifth season with Ferrari. The Spaniard hasn't said where he'll go next, but there is widespread speculation he could be headed to the McLaren team.

Formula One is holding its season finale Sunday in Abu Dhabi. At a press conference there Thursday, Alonso said he was embarking on "a new chapter in my career."

"It was not an easy decision to make," said Alonso, 33, who won 11 races with Ferrari but repeatedly fell short of matching Vettel's success. "This year I felt around summertime, September, it was time to move."

Vettel, in turn, has struggled all season after a spectacular run with Red Bull, where he won four consecutive world titles from 2010 through 2013.

Vettel has not won a race this year and is a distant fourth in the championship standings behind Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who have dominated with a combined 15 wins out of the 18 races so far this year.

The other three races were won by Vettel's Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

At the same Abu Dhabi press conference, Vettel called his years at Red Bull "an incredible journey."

"But I think at some stage you feel that you want to take on a new challenge and do something different," Vettel said. "I don’t have to mention the history of Ferrari in the sport and it’s probably the greatest team to drive for."

Vettel also said in a statement that joining Ferrari "means the dream of a lifetime has come true" because he idolized fellow German Michael Schumacher, who won a record seven world titles, five of them with Ferrari.

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