Sebastian Vettel will be co-owner of the new German SailGP team alongside Thomas Riedel, with 49er medallist Erik Heil at the helm

Four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel and double Olympic sailing bronze medallist Erik Heil have joined forces, alongside team owner Thomas Riedel, to announce a brand new German SailGP Team. Germany will be the latest nation to contest the global racing league, which kicks off its fourth season on June 16-17 with the Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix in Chicago.

Sebastian Vettel’s involvement will be alongside entrepreneur and investor Riedel – president of the leading communications company that bears his name – with whom Vettel is a recent co-investor. That might sound like the pair are merely the money men, but in a release by SailGP on behalf of the team they state that Vettel and Riedel will both be taking an active role in the management and performance of the team.

Heil, who won Olympic bronze medals at both the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will drive the cutting-edge, hydrofoiling Germany F50. The new Germany SailGP Team was unveiled during SPOBIS 2023 in Düsseldorf, where the team introduced itself and presented its ambitions for the upcoming season.

Heil said: “Today is a really exciting step in the team’s journey and we have pulled together an amazing team. But we are under no illusions that it will be easy and other world-class teams have paid a lesson when they entered SailGP. We will have to work our way up. That’s the goal. However, SailGP comprises the best athletes in our sport and personally I can’t wait to get racing.”

In addition to Heil, female German-Brazilian double Olympic champion from Rio and Tokyo, Kahena Kunze was also announced as the team’s strategist. The full line-up will be announced next month.

Skipper Nathan Outteridge gets the Japan SailGP Team airborne in Cadiz, Spain, in October 2021. Photo: Felix Diemer/SailGP

Riedel is no stranger to SailGP, as his communications company provides the entire on-site wireless communications and TV production infrastructure for the league as a technology supplier. The wireless network connects, among other things, the participants’ F50s, support boats, referee and camera boats, as well as drones and helicopters for aerial filming.

Riedel said: “As a company, we have always been able to not only understand formats but evolve them through technology and innovation. I see great potential in all directions with the Germany SailGP Team: sports, business and media. We believe that a great movement can emerge from this. In addition, we can credibly implement our concerns in terms of sustainability and diversity. That’s one of the reasons why I approached Sebastian as a trusted partner and knowledgeable technology and sustainability expert. Sebastian also knows how to win. So, he’s not just a co-owner of the Germany SailGP Team, but an equal partner who can help us succeed in everything we do. However we are aware that success is not something you can achieve in a few races, and it may take some time, but I believe we have the team to make sure it happens.”

Vettel said: “I see a lot of potential as SailGP starts its fourth season and for the first time with a German team. Parallels between sailors and Formula 1 have long existed. The boats are fascinating and the speeds on the water are incredibly high. The races are exciting and I am happy to be close to them with a motivated group of young sailors.”

Vettel, who left Formula 1 in 2022 after a years at the sharp end of the sport, had become increasingly outspoken around sustainability issues both within the sport and without. And it appears this passion has not disappeared with the German stating it was one main reasons he was attracted to the endeavour.

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