Jenson Button, Brawn, Bahrain, 2009

Vettel: Losing 2009 title was worse than 2018 defeat

2018 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says his first championship defeat in 2009 was more painful than missing out on a fifth world title to Lewis Hamilton this year.

Vettel lost the championship to Hamilton in Mexico with two races to go, just as he did last year.

“I have been three times now in a position like that with ’17, ’09 and this year,” he said. “Probably ’09 was the worst one, the lowest point.

“You never know what next year brings so you never know whether you get another chance. Obviously I worked very hard for it and I’m confident it will come but ultimately I don’t know, you can’t predict. None of those moments were nice.”

Vettel remained in the hunt for the 2009 championship until the penultimate race. He went into that race 15 points behind eventual champion Jenson Button with a maximum of 20 available. Vettel finished fourth in the race ahead of Button, who clinched the title with one race to spare.

The following year Vettel began a run of four consecutive world championship victories with Red Bull. He said he remains determined to win his next title with Ferrari.

“I still have a mission here and I still want to win,” he said. “So that hasn’t changed. Obviously last race was a tough one to swallow and probably the winter will be as well. But giving up is not an opinion.”

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15 comments on “Vettel: Losing 2009 title was worse than 2018 defeat”

  1. That’s surprising, I never really considered him in the title race for 2009.

    1. He absolutely was in the title race in 2009. Remember how the Brawn was all of a sudden really bad midway through the season? It was a bit of a nail-biter there, down to Brazil when Vettel spun right at the beginning of the race.

      1. Brawn showed up in Australia with a massively fast car with a double-diffuser that should have never been allowed, and Ferrari and McLaren showed up with a high-strung and temperamental car, and a rolling brick, respectively.

        Unfortunately, Brawn had to lay off 1/3 of his staff, so he really didn’t have the resources to develop the car past, say, Barcelona, so the Brawn GP-01 that Button raced in Abu Dhabi was pretty much the same car he won the first 6 races with.

        Meanwhile, all the other teams, especially Red Bull, was finding all kinds of downforce and engine “leveling” (Renault was allowed to make changes to their engine for “parity” and “reliability”– and won more races than any other V8 of that era).

      2. @nathanbuilder Vettel spun at the beginning of the 2012 race, not in 2009.

    2. True that.

      I even considered Barrichello a bigger challenger to Button’s campaign than I did Seb, after the Brazilian gained momentum mid-season. Vettel was just too inexperienced and (more) error prone at the time (to maximize his car).

      To an extent I can understand his point: at the time he hasn’t won a single WDC yet, so when the opportunity closed he was worried that he may never have another chance (how wrong that sentiment was, as history shows!).

      So even now, where his efforts are directly related to the title campaign, whenever he stuffs it/Hamilton destroys him, he already has 4 WDCs to fall back on regardless. Since anything after the 1st one is already a bonus.

      Anyhow, 2009 was a weird season. Just like 2005 and 2014. Something about inconsistencies in form and a new pecking order overnight; brought about by major/significant rule changes.

  2. In hindsight, I’d say 2018 seems a lot harder to swallow… but considering 2009 was the very first year he was fighting for the title (an outside chance, but still doable), I understand what he says here. He couldn’t know if he would have another chance in the future, and that’s probably a lot more painful. Specially if you still have not won a title.

    But by the numbers, he looked far closer in 2018 than in 2009. Nevermind 2017 when it wasn’t really his fault, besides Singapore.

  3. It’s probably a reflection on the fact that having four F1 titles under your belt probably takes away some of that fire. 2009 he was still on the up and up, after his incredible start, finally in a position to clinch his first championship. Vettel also delivered RBR’s first pole and race win that year, having given Toro Rosso their first the year before. There was a sense of a team and driver moving forwards together to uncharted levels of success – on that journey together. To fall so close to the end, I can see how that could have been absolutely galling for him and the team.

    As an older man now, driving for the most experienced team on the grid, neither of which having anything in particular left to prove, I can understand how 2018 wasn’t the massive blow that 2009 was.

    As I say, four world titles must take away at least a little of that hunger. And sort of drives home how incredible it is that Hamilton has managed to keep up this level of intensity for so long.

  4. Surprising he says the 2009 title loss hurt more. He seemed to handle the the 2009 post-Brazil press conference with a smile on his face and made the statements that they had a very slim chance to win the title anyways after the opening 7 races. They were a bit of an outside shot that year, and the entire team, including Vettel didn’t seem that down beat by it.

    In 2018 though, they were genuine favourites for the title for most of the season, and he fell short by a decent margin. I’m surprised he says that 2009 hurt more.. if you gauge by his body language and the entire mood within the team, I would think 2018 hurts a whole lot more.

    1. @todfod He wasn’t in the post-2009 Brazilian GP press conference, though, as he finished fourth in that race.

      1. @jerejj

        Maybe they interviewed him in Abu Dhabi then. I remember seeing him talk about the loss in a press conference. If I find the link, I’ll share it with you.

        1. @todfod I don’t think I would place too much significance on his body language or his mood post Brazil or Abu Dhabi, whichever it was. He might have spent the post-season playing the season over and over in his head, trying to figure out what he could have done better…wondering if he had just lost a chance at the WDC that might not come again soon, for all he knew at the time. It might have really bothered him through the winter. I think it is closer to what @mazdachris has said above, although I do question the hunger thing, although I do see that point as a possibility too.

  5. “I still have a mission here and I still want to win”

    I wonder if Sebastian would describe that as a “Misson [to] Winnow”. I’ll get my coat…

  6. José Lopes da Silva
    9th November 2018, 12:04

    I’m not sure if he made more mistakes in 2009 than in 2018. I remember that yes, he made some mistakes in 2009 and by that time I got some doubts about the future world champion, because the opportunity was clearly appearing throughout the season.

    However, responsibility is bigger now than it was in 2009. Although no one will take him his 4 titles (not even the frequent “lucky” comments by Alonso), he has a shot at history. And actually he is not faring good against Hamilton, after these two seasons of the Vettel x Hamilton thing we’ve long been waiting.

    Not being a Vettel fan, the facts are that he deserved the 2010 the same way many others earned their titles in the last race, especially as Alonso got stuck and did not find a way to solve the Petrov problem. Also, in 2011 he kept winning races while Webber was just 2nd place twice, and in races Vettel won anyway. Which is not the same, per instance, of 1992 when Patrese was a frequent 2nd place. And in 2012 he just kept his head down, unlike 2018.

  7. But I really don’t think so…

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