Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2018

Vettel: Ferrari were “still too far away” in 2018

2018 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari were “still too far away” to win the Formula 1 championship in 2018.

Speaking at the FIA Gala in St Petersburg today, Vettel said he was pleased to be in contention for another world title, which he last won in 2013.

“I think first of all it’s a nice position to be in to be able to fight for the championship,” said Vettel in response to a question from RaceFans. “Obviously the years after my last championship haven’t been straightforward. I think it’s nice in the last two years to be back in a position we can fight for wins and also have a word to say for the championship.

“But I think if you look at the whole championship then we were still too far away.”

Vettel said the team suffered a “significant” setback in the second half of the year when Lewis Hamilton opened out an unassailable lead.

“It was looking quite good and close up to halfway through, and maybe the races including Spa and Monza,” he said. “After that I think we had a quite significant drop in performance which obviously made it quite difficult for us.

“Equally Lewis together with Mercedes had a very strong sequence of races, scoring a lot of points, a lot of wins. Then the gap opened up quite quickly from that point onwards.”

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Analysis: Did Hamilton beat Vettel to the title with a slower car?
However the Ferrari driver said he continued to believe the championship was possible until Hamilton clinched it in Mexico.

“I think you always tend to believe and fight until the end so it was really Mexico when I realised it would be difficult, and then impossible once we crossed the line

“But until then I didn’t really follow the points that closely. I obviously knew that it wasn’t going in my favour.”

Hamilton has overtaken Vettel’s world championship haul and become the first of the pair to reach five world titles.

“How many championships I think is anyway a luxury,” said Vettel. “But I think the motivation is obviously to win with Ferrari, that’s my ambition, my target. Obviously we’re not there yet, not quite so we try again.”

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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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46 comments on “Vettel: Ferrari were “still too far away” in 2018”

  1. I think the title should be Vettel was still too far away in 2018..

    1. @macleod Indeed, my thoughts as well.

      1. Agreed. Ferrari lost their way with the upgrades for 3 races only. As soon as te removed the upgrades, they were fast again. Merc lost their way with their upgrades in Canada. Ferrari car was equally as quick as Merc overall. Vettel’s car was more reliable. Vettel failed to optimise, too many driving errors

        1. Agree completely. I think Keith pulled out a lot of stats on the pace of both the Mercedes and Ferrari cars… and honestly there was nothing between them over this season.
          This was down to the drivers.. And Seb was just not a championship contending material this year.

          1. Keith’s stats were based on 1 lap pace only, but yes, it showed Ferrari & Merc were neck and neck. AMuS go into further depth, they also had the cars neck and neck.
            The difference this year was down to the drivers.

          2. Agree as well. Any objective person will admit that over the course of the entire season, the Mercedes & Ferrari cars were very evenly matched. The pendulum swung more in either direction depending on the circuit, but generally speaking there were only tenths between them on pace. The tires played a bigger role because neither team was able to get them switched on for every race. Comparing drivers though, Lewis whooped Seb. Vettel’s mistakes cost him & Ferrari more than any other missteps. Not at all surprised he said that though.

          3. In the end I still think Mercedes had the better engine and they definitely had the better team (concerning strategy etc.) which isn’t saying much because Merc flubs up often enough themselves.

            Although at first I concluded the multiple spinouts Vettel had were driving errors and he was making excuses when he claimed it was due to the chassis, after Alonso defended him, I changed my mind, especially since Alonso is not exactly a fan of Vettel’s.

            Not to say Vettel didn’t screw up because he did but I think too much blame is being put on his shoulders and not on Ferrari’s. I hope Red put Binotti in Arribene’s position because he is MUCH better qualified. If they lose him they are screwed.

            In any case, I think next year Vettel will redeem himself IF Merc and Ferrari engines are close. Regardless of the criticism, he’s a 4 time WDC and still relatively young. His skills didn’t evaporate – the pressure got to him. I think he will learn and grow from this season’s experience.

    2. I don’t exactly agree. Or actually, I think that the two things are not mutually exclusive. Vettel made mistakes, a bit too many, and lost control under pressure, but also Ferrari is still a step behind Mercedes.

      The mechanical package was closely matches, but I have the impressions that Mercedes is still ahead on work environment, managing people, responding quickly to issues etc. If your cars are evenly matches, those small things can win you a championship.

      1. @nugolo, I would agree with you that one of the key differences is how both the team and driver were able to use the car that they had at their disposal, not just the car or the driver or the team on their own.

        In the case of Ferrari, it did not feel as if everything was working together seamlessly throughout the season at all times – there were times when Ferrari made operational mistakes, times when Vettel made mistakes and times when they were struggling to get the best out of the car due to set up mistakes or flawed upgrades.

        Individually, it seems that Ferrari, Vettel and the SF-71H had the potential to take victory in the WDC and WCC, but it feels as if they operated as a collection of parts throughout the season instead of an integrated whole.

        In the case of Mercedes and Hamilton, by contrast, it feels like both the team and the drivers found ways to adapt and to maximise the performance of what they had available to them. They were more effective at minimising the damage when they did not have the best package, and more effective at maximising their opportunities when they did have the fastest package, more often in the season than Ferrari were.

        1. Great analysis. Spot on!

  2. Hmmm, I’m not so sure.
    It looked to me like Seb himself was a problem this year.
    Ferrari made some stupid calls on tyres and pitting etc a few times, but even when it was going good Seb just seemed to personally screw up with some (as he said himself at Germany) very basic mistakes.

    I like him as a driver and he seems like a likeable guy so I’m fingers crossed he can get back in the groove and give us a show next season.
    Who his main competition is going to be is open to speculation ;)

    1. @nullapax – I echo all that you said.

      Who his main competition is going to be is open to speculation

      LOL at this :-)

  3. “But I think if you look at the whole championship then we were still too far away.”

    I can understand the “we” formality at the media events. But for Seb’s own sake.. I hope he realised that he’s the reason Ferrari were that far away from the championship.

    1. I’d reckon that both Hamilton and the original ‘we’ man would have brought the title home in 2018 in this Ferrari.

      Nothing wrong with making a few mistakes; but just admit to it and don’t blame the car.

    2. I think he has. Didn’t really do any mistakes after USA but the pressure was off. We can only wait and see. If he wants to beat Lewis then he has to return to the form he had in 2013.

      1. @panagiotism-papatheodorou

        If he wants to beat Lewis then he has to return to the form he had in 2013.

        He only had that form in 2013 because no car even came close to his Red bull, and Webber had pretty much thrown in the towel on his career.

        It’s much easier to just drive away from pole in to the sunset. But to really fight for pole and then go wheel to wheel with a top notch driver in equal machinery isn’t quite Seb’s cup of tea.

        I think the best he can hope for is a massive car advantage next season and a slump from Hamilton to seal the deal… And have Leclerc play 2nd fiddle.

        1. I don’t disagree with you on that.

      2. @panagiotism-papatheodorou

        in 2013 Vettel had a massive car advantage over the rest of the grid, with a teammate who admitted he was past his prime & wanted to retire. The RB9 is often cited as one of the most dominant cars in F1 e.g.https://www.whichcar.com.au/features/top-9-dominant-f1-cars

        1. Exactly. I seem to remember Webber even admitting that they were sandbagging during testing and the early races just so it didn’t seem a foregone conclusion (I’m paraphrasing)… I believe I read that in his book, or an interview or something…

        2. @buffy
          The 2013 Red Bull had nowhere near the margin as Mercedes did from 2014-2016.

          Ferrari was quicker in Australia, China and Spain.
          Mercedes was quicker in China, Monaco, Silverstone and equal in Hungary.
          Lotus was quicker in Australia, China, Spain, Germany and equal in Hungary.

          Vettel was 40 points ahead before the summer break because of his driving, mostly. He made zero errors and had zero bad weekends all season.

          1. What has the Merc domination of 2014-2016 got to do with this?

            Domination is relative. The RB9 had a significant advantage & was dominant relative to the rest of the 2013 field.

            In fact, there is a argument that the RB9 could have been even more dominant if Webber had been able to adapt to the Pirelli tyres, and if he wasn’t past his prime.

          2. @buffy

            Domination is relative. The RB9 had a significant advantage & was dominant relative to the rest of the 2013 field.

            Only in the second half. Vettel build a 40 point lead before his car was even dominant.

  4. He did make too many mistakes, but I think part of that was trying to overdrive the car to keep up with the Mercedes.

    1. Rubbish. A lot of the mistakes he made was when he a quicker car than Merc e.g. Germany, Italy, Baku etc

      1. * when he had a quicker car than Merc

  5. Obviously.

  6. Considering Bottas finished 5th in the standings. I don’t think this argument really stands up, especially since the combined points of the Ferrari cars in terms of best finishes in each race is 388. That puts them 30 points behind Lewis and when you factor in the mistakes from both Ferrari and Seb, you have a title race that could have been much closer.

  7. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    7th December 2018, 15:49

    He was too far away. Raikkonen finished ahead of Bottas, and at tracks like Spa and Monza, normally strong tracks for Mercedes, they did really well. This car had WC potential, its driver hadn’t

    1. Indeed, that sums it up perfectly, ok bottas has been described as subpar, I don’t agree, he was decent for most races, raikkonen obviously is old by now, drove relatively well for his last years, but still he got more points than bottas.

      That vettel couldn’t get anywhere near hamilton says enough about the number of mistakes he made, I can’t stand that: he wasn’t even championship material for how he drove in 2017, admit it and don’t blame the car!

  8. I think Vettel has been making up for the Ferrari’s deficiencies. I think when he has to push harder than Hamilton to compensate for the car, there is a natural tendency to push a bit too far and make ‘mistakes’. On the other hand if he didn’t push so hard the fight wouldn’t be as close.

    1. Rubbish, he had the quicker car a lot of the season.

      He wasn’t making up for the “Ferrari deficiencies” when he stacked it in Germany was he?

      1. In Germany Vettel was under pressure of a faster Lewis, who was on newer, softer tyres, and made a stupid error by trying to stay ahead for as long as possible. He should have aimed to become second.
        In Italy, had it been a swithc between Mercedes and Ferrari, Bottas would’ve made sure Hamilton got a clear line. Ferarri chose that weekend to anounce the replacement of Raikonnen, so Vettel knew he could not count on his teammate for a favour.
        What car is faster is impossible to know, except if you have data from inside both teams, Gavin.
        The Ferrari might have been faster on certain tracks, due to having less drag, but the other side of that coin could be less downforce. Fact is, I would have liked to see what Rosberg did instead of Bottas

    2. Lmao at the Vettel apologists in here crack me up. He fully bottled it in the fastest car, no two ways about it.

  9. I feel the merc was still overall the better car this season. More front row lockouts, what usually is the best indicator.

    But Vettel had some luck in the beginning of the season that made the car look better than it was. And then of course he started to make these errors. And going to the end of the season the merc was clearly the better car, at least in the hands of Lewis it was.

    1. Ferrari also could have had more front row locks out if their drivers made fewer errors, their car was capable- plus Kimi was notorious for being quick but messing up Q3. F1 is too complex to simply look at raw stats/numbers. Their car was just as quick as Merc.

      1. It’s not only about front row lockout of course. If Bottas can get in front of Vettel it must be the car100%

        But it’s probably about way more things like how easy the lap times come from the car, power vs downforce, cooling, tyre wear,etc

        Overall I still felt like the merc was the stringer car over the season. Others had their races but I never felt Mercedes would not win it in the end.

  10. He said ‘we’, so… does he mean that as in just Ferrari – the team, the car itself – or ‘we’ as in the package of himself + Ferrari.

    I’d agree with the second definition, but not the first.

  11. Ferrari were right there son, you weren’t.

  12. I suspect that Lewis would have won the title in Seb’s car.

    1. Yes, if you cloned hamilton and put him in a ferrari you’d have a very close challenge, too close to call; if you actually swap the 2 drivers you’d have hamilton champion in the ferrari, too many mistakes!

  13. Vettel has taken a lot of flak this year, a lot of it deserved, but some maybe less so. I think a lot of people forget to consider that a driver with even marginally inferior machinery, who more often than not has to chase a rival, inevitably has to push harder and persistently drive closer to the edge than the guy in front, making mistakes if not inevitable certainly more probable, especially that we’re talking about the two guys fighting over the championship over the course of a year. And it’s easy to see the guy in front as supremely composed vs the guy chasing as easily rattled. I seem to remember it wasn’t that long ago that Hamilton was subject to the same criticism while driving for McLaren. It’s not taking anything away from Hamilton’s commanding performance this year and Vettel had some major brain farts, that’s for sure, and not for the first time in his career, but I’m certainly not nearly ready to write him off.

    1. Rubbish. Seb had a more reliable car than Hamilton, and the SF71H was the quickest car for long periods of the season.

  14. Let me just say. F1 history has examples of drivers who won the WDC without the “best” car (ie WCC). Most recently HAM in 2008, Hakkinen in 1999 and Keke Rosberg in 82. Ferrari weren’t that far behind (if they were behind at all) for Vettel to at least take the championship down to the wire in 2017 and 2018. Vettel failed to do that in both years. Yes Ferrari made mistakes, but Vettel’s mistakes IMO were more costly. Germany being the most acute this year.

  15. I just want to echo many people’s comments on here and say how surprised I am that Vettel did not lay the blame mostly at his own feet. It leaves me with an unsettling feeling. I think a big part of the self-mprovement process is that you as an individual recognise and declare your own shortcomings. This type of attitude doesn’t bode well for the remainder of Vettel’s career.

    But perhaps he secretly does know the truth of the situation and will work on it but feels that admitting it will show him as weak? Verstappen is like this, I believe.

  16. Liar. That is the only thing to say.

  17. To be fair, the only reason Bottas finished so far back was because this season he was deployed more often than not as Hamilton’s wingman. His races this season were sacrificed to ensure he raced for a Lewis win.

    We saw this graphically in Russia where merc were miles faster.

    Front row lockouts suggest Merc was the better car as Martin Brundle says when the animals go two by two suggests the car is more suited to the track. Merc were fastest clearly in 10 races this year.

    Merc
    Aus (Badly timed safety car)(Merc Domination)
    Spain (Merc domination)
    France(Merc Domination)
    British GP (Very close Pole and contact at the start handed the win to Ferrari)
    Austria (DNFs handed RB the win)
    Singapore (Merc Domination)
    Russia(Merc domination)
    Japan(Merc domination)
    USA(close)
    Abu Dhabi ()

    RedBull

    Brazil and Mexico

    Ferrari

    Bahrain(Ferrari Domination)
    Azabj (Ferrari Domination)
    China(Ferrari Domination)
    Canada
    Ger(But this is questionable, Hamilton did not Qualify but Ill give you this one)
    Spa
    Italian(Questionable Vettel spin and it was very close but Ill give you this one)
    Hun
    Monaco(Tight again but Ill give you that one too)

    9/10 races the difference is Merc capitalized on the the circuits they were dominant on and Vettel had errors in those that he should have won.

    What we see is a car more or less equal. But Merc has the edge in terms of:
    Poles
    Front Row lock outs
    Circuits in which they were faster
    Circuits in which they were dominant

    I cannot see how anyone can justify the Ferrari was the faster car for most of the season.

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