Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Vettel: Ferrari removed four months of upgrades from car

2018 United States Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari were more competitive in the United States Grand Prix because they undid up to four months of development work on their SF71H.

Kimi Raikkonen won yesterday’s race at the Circuit of the Americas while Vettel, who spun on the first lap of the race, finished fourth. Vettel admitted he had mixed feeling about the weekend, saying the team “took too long” to regain its lost form.

“You can see it as good news but you can also see it’s bad news,” he said. “If we have to go back to a car that’s been competitive three or four months ago then surely it can’t be good news if you think about it.”

Ferrari took a long time to realise the updates they brought to the car weren’t improving it, said Vettel.

“It’s a bit hard to explain. If you don’t see that there’s a problem you don’t think that there’s a problem.

“Certainly we felt that the car was not as strong as it was before but if you don’t see that there’s anything wrong then you don’t know that there’s something wrong.

“I think all the steps that we did they seemed to make sense but obviously now looking back they didn’t. Clearly there was something we missed and we haven’t understood yet why and where the error exactly took off, or started.

“So as I said a lot of stuff we have to do and understand but I’m pretty sure we will do what is necessary and get on top of it.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Vettel: Ferrari removed four months of upgrades from car”

  1. If they remove 4 more months of upgrades then they will be world champion again ;)

  2. Mixed feelings – good they realized it and acted on it later than never, bad that they were barking up the wrong tree for this long in McLarenesque fashion.

    The fact that Vettel’s poor showing also roughly extends for this period makes one wonder if he was over-driving to compensate for a poorer-handling car?

    1. @phylyp, the thing is, Vettel’s quotes don’t seem to quite match up with the photographs from that race which showed that Ferrari were trialling new parts in Austin (tweaks to the floor, barge boards and front brake ducts), seeming to go against the narrative that they were reverting back to an older specification.

      1. Ah, so is it likely he was just covering his failures with that narrative? As alluded to by others in the comments here? If so, he should have saved it for a day he had a good race!

        Although if he were lying to cover for himself, I’m sure that’ll be taken very poorly within Ferrari.

  3. Also if they remove 4 months of racing mistakes…

    But man what a bombshell. That explains why they were so poor? Their pace just dropped off. And what if they even improved certainly Mercedes would be in trouble?

    1. @jureo

      Had they really dropped off that much? They were the quicker car up until Q3 at Singapore. It was just the last two races where Mercedes really pulled out a gap.

      It seems like an exaggeration to point out 4 month of development effort. Seemas to me that he’s trying to mask his own poor performances in the explanation.

      1. That’s exactly what he is doing.
        Even if the developments have been lacking, he still should have finished much higher in every race, or at least in front of Kimi, and he even failed to do that.
        He doesn’t have a hearth of a real fighter who can pull himself to perform to the top of his abilities, even when the best he can hope is 5th. All he ever knew was how to put the fastest car on the pole, and drive off unchallenged. And even when he’d mess up that, or had some mechanical failure, he still wouldn’t have to feel like he is fighting against all odds, because his car would still be miles ahead in the next race and all he had to do was drive off in the distance.
        When Alonso was fighting for the titles in that Ferrari, he had to give it all he had, weekend after weekend, knowing that often, most he could hope for is 3rd, or perhaps just 5th.
        Vettel can’t perform with the pressure of knowing that if he misses one opportunity, the other one might not come soon. Because that’s the only way he ever know how to drive. Even back in those days of dominant Red Bulls, he would often tangle with random people when things get heated.

        He never was any better than this, he just wasn’t tested this hard. He is full of excuses now, but last year he was no better. Unforced mistakes, miscalculated risks, sub-par driving…

        Only reason he is still mathematically in the hunt is despite his driving, not because of it. The reason is that the top 3 teams are miles ahead and not only they are faster, but they are completely unchallenged when coming through the field. It’s just pathetic to watch. Nobody putting up any fight. This is the pinnacle of motorsport?

        1. As I’ve mentioned in another forum, I would say that I have come to like Vettel again (and a lot more) since he moved to Ferrari in 2015. I really think (apart from 2016) his time in Maranello has really helped him mature as an individual, but at the same time it also further underlined his deficiencies as a racing driver.

          Seb’s failure to consistently capitalize on his car’s competitiveness (if not dominance) this year gives further credit to criticism of him not being able to fight for/win a championship in machinery that is not dominant. Quite frankly, as much as I have come to like him (and am inclined to root for him), from what I am seeing his overall skill set is a step below that of Lewis Hamilton’s — and was/is probably never a match for Fernando Alonso’s as well. He just really had a very very quick car from 2009-2013, which amplified his skill set and allowed him to compete against (and beat) those two drivers. No shame in that: a win is a win, as they say; and part of being successful in F1 is being at the right place at the right time (refer to Alonso).

          I would say that Seb’s level of talent is at best probably on-par with Jenson Button’s: excellent when driving a car substantially stronger than the opposition’s (early-mid 2009) and/or when things goes his way (Melbourne 2010), but for the most part just good and solid. Jenson would have also probably won another 4 world titles, had he been driving those Red Bulls from 2009-2013.

          Had the Kimi from 2002-2005 been driving alongside Seb today, Vettel would have been annihilated. Heck, even Nico Rosberg (2014/2016 spec) would probably have the edge on him as well.

          1. I’m curious if you’d rank schumacher above vettel given you say that part of being successful in f1 is being at the right place at the right time, and vettel had as many or more years as\than schumacher in the best car.

            And yes, probably hamilton\alonso > vettel\prime raikkonen\rosberg.

      2. If you take into account the time it takes from the idea to the part on the car, you might well have 4 months of development but only upgrades on the car for the last 2 races. That would more or less stack up. Then they have to run the actual part to realize that it is not working as intended and 2 race weekends look more likely than 4 months… Only McLaren is capable of such feat but only as sole engine user of a given brand.

  4. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    22nd October 2018, 13:47

    Quite confusing this.

    So their straightline speed is once again leagues ahead of Mercedes, suggesting the car has been running too much drag. But then their tyre wear is now also superior to Mercedes, which is symptomatic of better / cleaner downforce as well.

    How the hell could they not see this stuff on the data for 4 months?

    1. You see, by making that statement, VET managed to deflect attention to his silly mistakes, Germany being the worst and most pivotal one.

      It is all mind games. Make us talk about something other than his mistakes, like the last one yesterday, spinning once again in wheel to wheel contact.

      1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
        22nd October 2018, 14:41

        Make us talk about something other than his mistakes, like the last one yesterday, spinning once again in wheel to wheel contact.

        True. And he was only in that situation because, after completing the pass down the straight, he outbraked himself and allowed Ricciardo back into a position he should never have been in. That part seems to have gone largely overlooked.

        1. It isnt overlooked, Vettel is taking alot of flak. These “mindgames” that people loves to talk about either doesnt exists or are mostly useless.

    2. My sense is that they probably had some people like you saying, use common sense, we need to backtrack. But those people didn’t have access to the data and modeling to back it up, and the people who did were too busy trying to prove it was something else, because after all this was all carefully worked out in the computers. This is where you need a good manager to to go to the design meeting, face the PhDs who are way smarter than him or her, and just fire their work in the trash and tell them to start again. That takes guts, because if you are wrong, you are totally exposed as a manager. Safer to just go along and later say to the board, I was poorly advised, and mistakes were made.

    3. This narrative makes as much sense as a fat man in a red suit climbing up and down chimney stacks. You might have whole industries founded on such culusions but the grown ups know better. The absence of alternative narative does not make this truth.

      What would this say about the Farrari organisation if this were the truth?

      No, it seems more likely that Farrari were bending the rules when they were found out, and that now, in the name of entertainment, they are being allowed to continue their ‘design’ philosophy when it won’t make much difference to the championship.

      I just hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

      1. Thats hiw Merc win titles, Red Bull before that and Ferrari before that.

  5. Such a great shame which has deprived us of a promised titanic title battle. Taking nothing from Mercedes and Lewis, who’ve done a really great job, however since Spa it’s been far, far too easy for them. Then once Ferrari went four months back to the future and put Mercedes under some pressure once again, we get a counter result. Without question Sebastian Vettel made far too many unforced errors, but on the other hand his frustration and disappointment is perhaps better understood in the context of Ferrari making its car less competitive in the face of its rivals improvement. That’s a unique kind of frustration and pressure, which can sow seeds of doubt and effects people in different ways. Whether it means Ferrari will finish the season strongly or totally implode I have no idea, but in any case losing 4 months of upgrades to go faster, is in my opinion a total fiasco.

    1. I think the battle was somewhat titanic. The whole thing sank to the bottom of the sea 2/3rds in…

      1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
        23rd October 2018, 10:17

        COTD 🤣

  6. Adub Smallblock
    22nd October 2018, 13:56

    Man, if they remove 4 months of development and the car gets faster, how much faster could it be if they removed the development team??

  7. Ferrari just aren’t as good at development of their car as Mercedes & Red Bull are. Vettel’s certainly made mistakes this year and been unlucky, but I get the feeling he’s been overdriving the car to make up for this development wrong turn. I still think Vettel has little faith in Ferrari’s strategic and developemental choices and tries to guide as much as he can but isn’t getting anywhere, and is probably understanding why Alonso jumped ship as it’s a similar problem that he faced. Even if they improve now and become stupidly dominant it’s probably a case of too little too late championship wise.

    1. @rocketpanda: Vettel to McLaren for 2021.

      1. @jimmi-cynic – with a Cosworth engine no less. Believe me, it’ll be the superest-duperest engine ever to grace an F1 circuit. The car will be designed without front wheels and suspension, because the sheer torque will keep the front off the ground.

        1. @phylyp: then Vettel moans about it being a MotoGP engine and the remaining wheels fall off

  8. In this case, updating one car at a time would surely have given a few clues.

    1. It would if one car wasnt always slower for driver reasons.

      1. Come on, Vettel is trying.

  9. bwoah. That’s a lot wasted time/money on development.

  10. His driving might be poor, but there’s no sign of him slowing down with the excuses.
    Seriously, only thing removed is any doubt about his ability, or better said, his lack of ability.

  11. I’ve seen a tweet (may have been by Benson?) showing that from Singapore to Japan Merc pulled away by some 0.5s from both Ferrari and Red Bull, while the gap from Ferrari to Red Bull stayed constant. Doesn’t add up to Ferrari getting slower, unless the nature of the tracks masked their regression sufficiently.

  12. Seb’s telling porkies!

  13. @keithcollantine there’s a rumor from Sky Italia about FIA asking Mercedes to close venting holes in their rims with silicone before the race. The whole rims thing is something I haven’t heard of here or on r/Formula1 but it has been debated on the Italian TV: briefly, Mercedes now uses rims able to dissipate heat away from their tires: these rims can capture an air flow thanks to the shape of holes in them, this flow heats up with the tires heat and takes this heat away from the tire. This helped Mercedes with their blistering problem.

    I’m sorry if I’m saying something stupid or not well supported but I thought it could be interesting if confirmed.

    1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      22nd October 2018, 14:44

      Mercedes upturn was certainly linked to the introduction of the new rim design. And there were various rumours pre race that Ferrari were contesting something on the car. Coupled with Hamilton’s comment about “some things” they couldn’t talk about and you may be right here.

      Certainly they’ve had superior tyre wear than the Ferrari until yesterday.

    2. @m-bagattini, the problem with that theory is the fact that the FIA did investigate the design of those wheel rims after Ferrari requested a clarification, but the FIA ruled several days before this race that Mercedes’s design was legal and did not need to be modified.

    1. @phylyp of course it is. I regularly introduce bugs in my software to have something to fix later and justify customers’ assistance fee.

    2. Ask Microsoft and Apple. Eventually, you can’t run any apps or software if your OS is too far out of date, but in the meantime you don’t have to contend with the effects of their “upgrades.”

  14. I wonder if the 4 months of upgrade removed include “the extra sensor”. lol j/k

  15. Someone is eating humble pie at Maranello, this could boil down to a simple communication problem. Well 70 points difference now and 75 to play for. HAM keeps his nose clean and ends up on the podium and it’s good night nurse.

  16. Not buying the upgrade removal story.
    If it were the case, then where does that leave Mercedes.? Have all of their “Upgrades” been for naught over the same period.? That is the implication if they are currently slower than a 4 month old Ferrari.
    Red Bull seems to have kept pace with both. Must be the engine upgrades from Renault.
    The amazing feat of Max keeping his SS Tyres alive for so long, speaks volumes for both his driving and the state of the Red Bull chassis.
    Gonna be some great races coming up.

    1. I agree it doesnt make sense.

  17. Monza was not 4 months ago and they had the best car by a margin for 5 or 6 races leading up to that. Vettel has also not been good enough. Hamilton would of won the title even if he had swapped seats maybe by an even bigger margin.

    1. That’s not true.

      Ferrari were only fastest at Spa and Hockenheim.

  18. “Upgrades”

    I don’t think you can use the term “upgrade” if it reduces performance. The correct word would be “downgrade”. And how did Ferrari spend 4 months making the car worse? Didn’t anyway on the engineering staff notice?

    1. *anyone*, not anyway.

  19. This Ferrari is Greatest of All Time, they could maintain and use this car for next season as well. Who knows their next year’s car will be more inferior again?

  20. I think this is an overly simplification of a complex problem. It could be the latest upgrades do not play nice with the upgrades from 4 months ago, so the team figures out the best combo of old and new, and go with that. We had a saying when I was racing, the most expensive bits were in the shed out back. In that shed were all the great ideas that are no longer working due to the forward march of progress.

    1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      23rd October 2018, 10:18

      A sensible and plausible comment.

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