Sebastian Vettel endured his second win-less season in three years in 2016 and the Ferrari driver’s frustration was clear to see.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||10/21|
|Beat team mate in race||10/13|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||580/883|
His season year at Ferrari had got off to a very promising start: Vettel led the first dozen laps of the year. But the first in a series of Ferrari tactical errors opened the door for Mercedes to capitalise.
On this occasion they passed up the chance to make a free tyre change during a red flag period. Six races later in Canada Vettel kissed goodbye to his lead when he was brought in for a pit stop during a Virtual Safety Car period which swiftly ended.
It’s therefore no surprise he began challenging the calls which came from the pit wall during the race. This happened at the very next race in Baku and again in Germany. A frustrating Monaco Grand Prix, where an early tyre change left him stuck in traffic, can only have compounded Vettel’s frustration with Ferrari’s tactics.
Technical failures were another aggravation. Three times he took a five-place penalty due to a gearbox change. His car failed on the formation lap in Bahrain, where he was due to start third behind the Mercedes again, and a tyre blow-out put him out in Austria.
Vettel’s breakdowns were hardly any more frequent than his team mate’s but they tended to occur when he was looking especially competitive. At Singapore, one of his strongest tracks, an anti-roll bar failed during qualifying.
While all this was undeniably taxing Vettel should have been able to rise above it more successfully than he did. He plainly let frustration get the better of him in Mexico and had been simmering away long before his run-in with Max Verstappen and the incorrect radio messages it prompted. Side-swiping Daniel Ricciardo while the Red Bull driver was passing him cost Vettel a podium.
The surprising detail that a one-lap specialist like Vettel was out-qualified by Kimi Raikkonen has invited various explanations. One is that Vettel was doing the bulk of the team’s 2017 development in practice during the second half of the year. This would explained how Vettel managed to win the pre-break qualifying battle 8-4 yet lost the second half 7-2.
But even giving Vettel the benefit of the doubt on that count, he was evidently the more successful of Ferrari’s two drivers this year. The car was capable of more, however, and it wasn’t just his team which came up short.
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Over to you
Might be poor by his standards but it was still a decent season.
What’s your verdict on Sebastian Vettel’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.
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The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are produced by referring to:
- Race-by-race notes on how they performed (see below)
- How well they performed compared to their team mate
- How competitive their car was
- Other data on the 2016 season
View race-by-race notes on Sebastian Vettel
Australia – Ferrari were comfortably the second-quickest team and Vettel easily out-qualified Raikkonen. A shock opening win looked to be on the cards as Vettel out-dragged the Mercedes pair and was followed by his team mate. The red flag was exactly what he didn’t need, but Ferrari’s unwillingness to take a chance on the medium tyres exacerbated the disadvantage. Vettel never looked like being able to pull far enough ahead of Rosberg to win after the restart, and lost second to Hamilton too.
Bahrain – Lost a quarter of an hour’s running in second practice due to a suspension problem. In qualifying he made a slight mistake at the last corner but he was never going to find the half-second gap to Mercedes. His race prospects ended on the formation lap when the Ferrari motor expired.
China – Desiring a fresh set of soft tyres for the race, Vettel elected to do a single run in Q3. The gamble didn’t pay off: he took fourth. Squeezed between Raikkonen and Kvyat at the start, Vettel was clearly embarrassed to knock his team mate into a race-ruining spin. From then on he got his act together, passing two cars on the way into the pits and plenty more after he came back out on super-softs. That meant he was able to use softs for the final stint, which put him at an advantage when he left the pits behind the medium-tyres Kvyat. Vettel took him for second on his out-lap.
Russia – Arrived in Sochi knowing he would take a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change. By the time it was announced he’d suffered another setback – electrical problems in second practice keeping him from doing a race stint simulation. Nonetheless he qualified second, which was clearly the best the car was capable of. Starting seventh put him in the firing line from Kvyat, however, who dumped him into the barriers after two hits in as many corners.
Spain – Said Ferrari were mystified by their loss of pace in qualifying after they’d been within a few tenths of Mercedes in practice, and seemed to be hardest hit of the team’s two drivers. He got off the line well came out of turn one with only the Mercedes and Ricciardo ahead, but let Verstappen and Sainz get the better of him on the run to turn four. He soon re-passed Sainz after the start and closed on the Red Bulls, but although switching to a three-stop strategy got him ahead of Ricciardo it meant he lost out to Verstappen and Raikkonen.
Monaco – Ferrari’s mystery loss of grip in qualifying continues to plague them. Vettel was specially unhappy having run strongly in final practice. In the race he made a bold early move off wet weather tyres but his reward was to be stuck behind Massa’s slow Williams. That ended his podium hopes, but while he blamed himself for being unable to find a way past he was trying to do the near-impossible.
Canada – Having been quickest in the disrupted Saturday morning practice session he produced a surprise with his second run in Q3, finding half a second to get within two-tenths of the Mercedes. Vettel then made a blistering start to take the lead, though he nearly lost it when he slipped up at the end of the first lap. Ferrari’s decision to pit him under the Virtual Safety Car cost him the win, and though he made a couple of further errors it had no effect on his eventual position.
Europe – Ferrari were not the force they were in Canada. Red Bull and Force India beat them in qualifying, though only very narrowly. Querying Ferrari’s pit call ultimately had no bearing on his finishing position, and its doubtful he could have finished higher than second.
Austria – Felt he would have been able to push Mercedes in a dry qualifying session, and was unhappy with his conservative final effort on the quickly drying track. A gearbox change penalty dropped him behind Raikkonen. He ran a long opening stint in the race which might have brought him into contention but his right-rear tyre exploded without warning.
Britain – A second consecutive five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change ensured he went into the race on the back foot, but a scruffy Q3 didn’t help matters.
Hungary – At last had a weekend free of major problems and did well to split the Red Bulls at a track where the Ferrari was not the second-quickest car. At the first round of pit stops he successfully undercut Verstappen, who then got stuck behind the other Ferrari. He then ran a long middle stint to give him a run at Ricciardo at the end of the race, but couldn’t find a way by.
Germany – Admitted he hadn’t got a balance he was happy with in the Ferrari after being out-qualified by Raikkonen. However a quick start meant he led the Ferrari charge, though he wasn’t able to capitalise on Rosberg’s slow getaway. Vettel’s pace slowed at the end of his first stint on softs which explains why he was reluctant to pit early to undercut Verstappen ahead of his final pit stop, extending his run to the chequered flag on softs. He also queries his team’s strategy in Baku following their slip-up in Canada, suggesting some trust has been lost.
Belgium – Not on a par with Raikkonen in qualifying but made a superb getaway. Unfortunately he then indulged in his occasional habit of turning into the first corner as if no one else was there (see also Mexico 2015). This provoked a three-car tangle which, according to team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, cost Ferrari a potential double podium finish. From then on he got his head down and produced solid pace and good passes, but the damage had already been done.
Italy – His second run in Q3 got him ahead of Raikkonen on the grid despite running wide at the exit of Parabolica. He backed out of lunging at Rosberg at the start, and from there on his race was straightforward aside from a sluggish first pit stop. Racing Hamilton for second place wasn’t an option as the Ferraris had to pit twice.
Singapore – Was off Raikkonen’s pace in practice and complained of a lack of rear grip. However a broken anti-roll bar wrecked his qualifying effort, leaving him last on the grid. Much like Hamilton in Spa, a plentiful supply of fresh tyres made his job of cutting through the field rather easier, and he recovered to fifth place. He was fortunate that the early Safety Car minimised his losses in the opening laps, but to only lose six seconds to Raikkonen from lap two while making up all those places was a fine effort.
Japan – His three-place grid penalty from Malaysia meant he started behind the Red Bulls instead of in front of them. However he jumped Ricciardo at the start and demoted Perez soon afterwards. A podium looked a strong possibility but his long middle stint – which Vettel said he was “keen to go for” – left him vulnerable to being undercut by Hamilton. That’s exactly what happened after Vettel lost a huge amount of time in traffic. An aggressive switch to softs for the final stint wasn’t enough to claim the place back and he had to nurse his tyres to the end.
Malaysia – Pipped Raikkonen to fifth on the grid and made a good start to get alongside Verstappen. He tried to pin the blame for the turn one collision on the Ferrari drivers’ favourite scapegoat, but the fact of the matter was Vettel braked too late and the stewards saw as much.
United States – Said he was unable to balance his car on Friday after losing a small wing element. Come qualifying he still wasn’t completely happy with his car and was beaten by Raikkonen. Not for the first time this year he tried to take a normal racing line through turn one at the start irrespective of what his rivals were doing and was tapped, though fortunately without lasting damage. Running long in the first stint gave him the option of using a two-stopper which might have got him ahead of Raikkonen had his team mate not retired.
Mexico – Surprisingly topped the times on Friday but was deeply unimpressed after qualifying during which he found no pace on the super-soft tyres. That was nothing compared to what followed after the race, however. Having run a long first stint and pressed on in the second half of the race he caught Verstappen but exploded in anger when the Red Bull driver went off at turn one without ceding position. Vettel then barged into the side of Ricciardo when the other Red Bull tried to take advantage. In his defence, his race engineer gave him the incorrect impression that Verstappen had been told to let him through. But that doesn’t excuse his complete loss of temper – had he kept control and not lashed out at Ricciardo he would have kept his podium finish.
Brazil – Admitted to being too conservative at Juncao on his final lap which account for his sub-one-tenth gap to Raikkonen, two places ahead. The same corner caught him out in the wet race and Vettel struggled to make an impression from then on. Verstappen crushed him aside late in the race though Vettel eventually got by Sainz for fifth.
Abu Dhabi – Was ‘best of the rest’ on Friday but a gearbox problem struck during his race simulation. He was distracted by an error from Verstappen ahead of him during his final qualifying run and ended up fifth. However he ran a long middle stint before switching to super-softs at the end of the race to take advantage of the slow pace dictated by Hamilton. This paid off, allowing him to pass the Red Bulls for third. But he couldn’t find a way past Rosberg, ironically because the Mercedes driver was occasionally getting DRS activation from his team mate.
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