Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2018

2018 F1 driver rankings #6: Vettel

2018 F1 season review

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Over the opening seven rounds, Sebastian Vettel looked at least as strong a title contender as he had been the year before, perhaps even stronger.

Although his victory in the opening race came thanks to a stroke of luck with a Virtual Safety Car, Vettel followed it up with a gritty pole-to-win drive in Bahrain, nursing the softest possible tyre selection to the end of the race. He might have won in China too but for Ferrari’s tactical oversight with Valtteri Bottas, after which he was hit by Max Verstappen. But he continued to gather points usefully and took another commanding win in Canada.

Then came France, and the first occasion where Vettel made a significant error at the wheel. Pinned in by the Mercedes at the start, he skidded dully into Bottas and spent the rest of the afternoon recovering to fifth.

Was this a blip? Remarkably not: it turned out to be a pattern which added up to the complete collapse of his championship chances.

When the rain fell in Hockenheim it wasn’t an inexperienced driver in a car lacking downforce which crashed, it was Vettel in his Ferrari. Throwing away a likely victory in front of his home crowd was a blow his season never recovered from.

He did take further wins, sometimes with great verve: He passed Bottas for victory at Silverstone and outgunned Hamilton for his fifth win of the year at Spa. That proved his last, however, for then his season truly went off the rails.

Vettel acquired the strange ability to lose control of his car while holding the inside line in battle with his rivals. He did it with Hamilton at Monza, with Verstappen at Suzuka and Daniel Ricciardo in Austin. Normally the driver on the outside is more vulnerable; this looked as if Vettel’s eagerness to avoid contact at close quarters was leading him to spin.

Sebastian Vettel

Beat team mate in qualifying17/21
Beat team mate in race8/16
Races finished20/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate688/1100
Qualifying margin-0.225s (adjusted)

Whatever the cause, the consequences were huge, as these incidents all happened early in races and wrecked his chance of scoring the big points his title campaign needed. He finished all of the last 10 races, but Hamilton out-scored him 220 to 149.

Vettel and Ferrari were at pains to argue that the team’s slump in performance when it went the wrong way on car development was what wrecked his title hopes. But it’s abundantly clear Vettel’s own hand cost him much more.

In Russia the team capitalised on a poorly-timed pit stop by Mercedes to jump Vettel ahead of Hamilton. The two championship rivals fought it out on the run to turn two, Vettel resisting Hamilton’s attempt to get through in uncompromising fashion. Then they reached turn four and Vettel mystifyingly surrendered the inside line, handing his rival the place and another win.

It was just one of many moments this year which left you wondering quite what Vettel was thinking.

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Over to you

Started the season on great form, but it seems that one mistake in Germany led to the entire season unravelling. Was overdriving the car from there on in, leading to mistake after mistake. Poor strategy from Ferrari only worsened the situation. In the end, a distant second best in both championships.

What’s your verdict on Sebastian Vettel’s 2018 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

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Author information

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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68 comments on “2018 F1 driver rankings #6: Vettel”

  1. Now I’m waiting for the 2019 German GP.

    1. Me too hope to see Vittel in sand trap again :)

  2. “ Then they reached turn four and Vettel mystifyingly surrendered the inside line, handing his rival the place and another win.”

    Come on, really? Sorry, but this analysis in general was poorly written

    1. János Henkelmann
      16th December 2018, 12:56

      Exactly what I thought! Hamilton had far better pace and fresher tires at that point. There was no way he could have defended that first place for much longer anyway…

      1. ^ Vettel had pitted one lap earlier so the tires were the same.

        1. Yes, but this comment from keith still seems too critical, mercedes was by far superior to ferrari in that race, and there was no realistic way he could keep him behind.

          Vettel made many mistakes, that’s not one.

  3. I really want him to succeed as a Ferrari driver but it’s undeniable that he’s been poor this year.

    He will probably drive better next season, he usually drives better in odd-numbered years (a strange pattern that is remarkably true).

    1. Yet last year, odd year, his season was riddled with mistakes. Not as many as this year, but still many (including Marchionne) argued Ferrari didn’t have a real shot at the title also because of his mistakes

      1. He made some horrific mistakes in 2017. Baku, where he was lucky to escape being black flagged. He was overly aggressive at the start in Singapore. Crashed into Hamilton in Mexico. Destroyed his car in Malaysia ( clashed with Stroll).

        Marchionne felt Ferrari had the best car in 2017, but Vettel’s errors help throw their title chances away.

        1. 2017 is the odd one out, but it was still better than his 2016 and 2018 season.

          My comment was more regarding 2011, 2013 and 2015 where Vettel was rated as the best driver of the season by most people. In 2015 had a dominant car and Vettel was still the best performer.

          1. >In 2015 Mercedes had a dominant car and Vettel was still rated as the best driver


          2. In 2015, Vettel did have a good season, i remember him nearly beating Rosberg to 2nd place, despite Rosberg being in a vastly superior car to Seb’s. And it was Seb’s first year at Ferrari too, so he was also going through a period of adjustment. He did well. Overall though, Hamilton got the nod from the team bosses in their yearly end of season vote.

            2016 was awful for Seb, 2017 was ok, 2018 truly awful. Let’s hope he can get his head together & cut out these errors next year.

          3. Please come off it, vettel was garbage in 2009, accident after accident, kept on crashing into competitors. 2015 he crashed in Mexico and made plenty of mistakes, and was nowhere as good as Hamilton. 2017 more garbage. He’s a clown, always has been unless he has a car far superior to the field and a weak teammate.

    2. @kingshark

      Ive noticed the same thing. So far his best seasons have been 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 was not great but a heck of a lot better than 2014, 2016 and 2018

  4. Seems harsh for a multiple race winner and prolonged fighter for the WDC.
    But I agree that the other five were more consistently impressive taking the season as a whole. To me in this counting down order:
    5 Daniel Ricciardo
    4 Fernando Alonso
    3 Charles Leclerc
    2 Max Verstappen
    1 Lewis Hamilton

    1. I think Alonso will be second, as Verstappen had a poor start or the season
      5. Riccardo
      4. Lecrerc
      3. Verstappen
      2. Alonso
      1. Hamilton

      1. Yes, I honestly would be surprised if verstappen is ranked any better than 4th, I kept saying to those who ranked both on the podium that there’s no way they’d be that far ahead, and vettel 6th is proof of that, now let’s see verstappen.

    2. What are you, a fortune teller?

  5. 6th place I think is a little bit harsh. Certainly would have put him above Alonso and Verstappen had an appalling 1st half of the season

    1. But unlike Vettel, Max didnt have the best car and Max did recover brilliantly. Vettel was all over the place all season long. Baku, France, Japan, USA, Germany. I would have put Vettel 5th and Dan Although Dan had only couple of small mistakes, he was not even close to showing realg speed and skill except in Monaco and China. And in China he just got helped by Max mistakes.

    2. The first HALF of the season lasted 6 race, wich is a less than a third in fact.
      Out of those 6 races Max scores one P3 and suffered from mechanical issues in Australia and Bahrain..
      In fact that media hyped drmatic first half of the season have only been two off weekend, in wich the Monaco weekend got ruined by a fault in FP and the actually race was quite good.

  6. Right! Time for the Grosjean to step UP! Big G! Time to make my mark!
    … Yes I can hold… No, I’m not calling for sales and service… I’m pretty sure he’ll be expecting my call you know?.. It’s G. R. O..

  7. He started the season off well but then started to make a bit too many costly ‘unforced’ errors most notably in Germany, which ultimately proved decisive for his WDC chances. Next season, he really needs to avoid making these type of errors if he’s to stand any realistic chance at winning the WDC. A driver fighting for the WDC simply can’t afford to make unforced errors on crucial points of a season.

  8. I know that @keithcollantine always sticks to the facts and numbers,which i always appreciate and fully respect…

    However i find this generous for VET and harsh on RAI. In spite of the numbers, you’re comparing a 4x wdc in his prime with number 1 status in the team who scored several own goals, verses a decade-ago 1x wdc past his prime pulling out his best performance in years despite losing his job in the process.

    I also think there is something significant going on with VET on the personal side that HAM knows about, hence the generosity in the latter half in front of the press. Time will tell.

    1. @webbo82, in many ways, you get the impression that Vettel and Hamilton have more mutual respect for each other than those outside the sport looking in do. Furthermore, it feels as if both of them are perhaps a bit irritated by the fact that there are elements of the press and the fan base that want to stoke up conflict between them, such that there is an element of camaraderie that comes from pushing back against those who want to stir up trouble that neither of them is interested in.

    2. Why should current career situation have any bearing on the rating? Vettel was again much better than Kimi overall and yet many want to have them very closely rated. I love Kimi, but Vettel gets more stick for actually taking the fight to Hamilton I sometimes wonder why he bothers.

      1. No, vettel wasn’t much better! Take away the mechanical problems and the crash through no fault of his own, you get that vettel has been BARELY better, that’s unacceptable for a 4 times wc in his prime, 39 is WELL BEYOND the decline phase!

        1. Come on this is ridiculous. Kimi was never in the championship fight and Vettel was. It’s because Vettel drove better than Kimi did especially during the first half of the season. I don’t care about age, fortune, etc. Vettel drove better this season than Kimi did overall, probably a few places higher in the standings as per this rating.

        2. Vettel thrashes Kimi Raikkonen every qualifying session by a big amrgin

          Kimi was nowhere this year, as usual

      2. @webbo82 @john-h

        Why should current career situation have any bearing on the rating?

        Couldn’t have put it better myself. The rankings are only down to how they performed this year, nothing else.

        1. Thanks for the reply.
          Fine and dandy to base it on stats only, but if so, why write an article at all? Why justify it or provide excuses for a driver’s performance, if not to generate opinion, debate and discussion?
          Expectations matter, a driver’s value/pay grade matters. If not, would LEC’s performance have meant anything this year? Are we more surprised by a rookie who makes a bunch of errors in a season, or a 4x WDC doing the same?
          My feeling about ranking the drivers this year is that a win, a pole, loads of podiums and very few mistakes from RAI, was better than VET’s error-ridden year. But after all, that’s just my comment/opinion.

  9. I think Leclerc should have been 6th with Vettel 5th.

    1. Nah, from what they proved all seasons, given the same car leclerc would’ve destroyed vettel.

      There’s no saying it’s gonna happen next season, depends on many factors, but from what they showed with the car they had this year…

  10. Daniel Ricciardo must be laughing his head off

  11. Anyway, Vettel had the best first half of the season. His mistakes were bad, but I’m in the school of thought which puts the blame partly on Ferrari for being disfunctional: Vettel overdrove and overcompensated because he knew that he was carrying that team. See Mark Hughes’ reports for Motorsport Magazine. Anyway, that’s down to Vettel too, but really his first part of the season should have put him at least top four, definitely ahead of Ricciardo, maybe Leclerc and Alonso too. Love how people keep pretending Vettel isn’t all that.

    1. Whilst I agree VET had a good season start and could be above some others I am also convinced he is not all that. And that’s not pretend, it’s based on all the years I’ve seen him racing (all of them). He’s good when things go well, but not at all in adversity. Poor in traffic as well. The RB dominance period made him one of F1s most lucky drivers.

    2. Love how people keep pretending Vettel isn’t all that.

      Maybe he needs to stop presenting such a convincing case against himself?

      1. You’re right, youngest ever pole sitter, youngest ever WDC, four time WDC, three serious title challenges in cars that weren’t the best of the grid, that’s definitely a convincing case against Vettel. Grow up.

        1. Calm down mate, remember to breathe. I was under the impression we were talking about 2018. Cause this season has provided us with big question mark on if he can actually handle the pressure of delivering the title in red. But if you want to hold bumping into Mercs and Red Bulls while chasing a title to a higher standard than I do then fair enough.

          And for the record, I do think 6th is harsh.

        2. Yes, saying to grow up and using those arguments to justify vettel: those records he got earlier in his career were generally given by a dominant car, or anyway the best car, when did he do something good enough at ferrari who hasn’t been generally the best car so far? Never!

    3. @hahostolze

      “Vettel had the best first half of the season”

      Vettel also had the fastest car in the first half of 2018. According to same Mark Hughes you quote, ferrari was quicker than Merc in 10 of the first 14 races

      The first half of the season includes the following for Vettel

      An off-pace weekend in Australia.
      A massive lock-up in Baku after the SC re-start, which caused him to lose several places.
      In China mistakes on his in-lap & also when pitting, contributing to allowing Bottas to undercut him
      Spain-missed the marks at the pitstop, that cost him a place.
      France, hits Bottas on lap1,earns a 5 sec penalty. In Q3, he totally messed up his final run.
      Austria, blocks Sainzs in qualifying,earns himself a penalty.Then in the race Vettel lost the rear and ran wide at turn 3 at the start, lost some places.
      Germany-crashed out of the lead of the race
      Hungary-underperformed in wet quali & made a mistake in the race

      No way was Vettel’s first half “the best”. I’d argue Alonso was perhaps the best driver first half (Hamilton best overall)

      As for Vettel “carrying the team”, that’s just as weak excuse. Alonso, Schumacher etc all had to deal with the Ferrari pressure & disorganisation, yet none of them responded by crashing all the time. Also, let’s remember that it was Merc who was faltering strategically in those early races. To the point where Ferreri was saying Merc couldn’t handle the pressure. Yet Hamilton didn’t completely collapse in the way Vettel did. In fact, on a podcast in which Mark Hughes participated, it was noted Merc too got strategy wrong many times, but Hamilton’s strong leadership eased the pressure off the pitwall. I would argue that Vettel’s mistakes put pressure on his team, contributing to the pitwall mistakes, contributing to the overall disarray at Ferrari

  12. Come on – Riccadio trounced Vettel in his last year at Red Bull so why did Ferrari take someone who was past his best?

    2 years of lost opportunities for Ferrari because of their choice of driver – if Alonso had been in the car he would have won at least one championship because he’s a much better driver than the current Vettel.

    Vettel deserves his No 6 ranking – I would put him even lower and expect Leclerc to outperform him next year – if he gets a chance.

    1. Exactly, I think 2017 would’ve been a hard task for anyone, even the best alonso or schumacher, because ferrari was overall pretty inferior to the mercedes, both in speed and reliability, but that doesn’t hold true for 2018, absolutely sure prime schumacher or alonso, even with his form nowadays, would’ve won it.

  13. This has been the poorest season of Vettel so far. Post his Victory at Spa, Kimi roughly scored as many points as him (not counting Abu Dhabi where Kimi suffered mechanical DNF)
    To score as many points in the second half as a driver which is well past his prime and is just dropped by the team says a lot about Vettel’s poor season.

    My Top 5: Ham, Ver, Lec, Alo, Ric.

    1. Verstappen too high (mistakes), agree with the rest of the comment.

  14. The mistakes were extensive and basically unforgivable. Lucky to be ranked as high as 6th.

    My mind has turned to what caused them. I’ve come to a couple of conclusions:

    1. Vettel has allowed himself to get too comfortable – Raikonnen has never put him under any pressure.
    2. He didn’t seem to have confidence that the Ferrari could be a season-long contender, so pushed too hard for small gains. Almost all of his racing mistakes were because he pushed at 11/10ths when 9/10th would have been good enough.

    Contrast with Hamilton who basically raced an extremely conservative season, using the pace of the Mercedes on a Saturday and having the confidence to just roll it around in conservation mode on a Sunday.

    Bringing in Leclerc is just what Ferrari and Vettel need. The driver partnership had got stale.

  15. Aftering seeing that picture I suggest dropping him down to 10th. Ugh. Why is that so creep?

  16. Really? 6th? Nah the bloke had a rough year but that’s ridiculous. Honestly this site seems to have some personal vendetta against Vettel for some reason. Sure he wasn’t the best this year – that’s blatantly obvious but he wasn’t “that” bad!

    1. Yes he was that bad….

    2. Not ‘bad’ at all, and still better than 70% of the best drivers in the world.
      There were just a handful of drivers this year who were overall (slightly) better.

    3. Yes, he was THAT bad, seeing raikkonen 9th vettel imo should’ve been either 8th or 7th, that was the net points difference with the stuff under their control!

    4. Make a convincing case for any of the top 5 drivers being ranked lower than him then

  17. Vettel was a beast until Britain. He had done 3 mistakes in Baku, Austria and France. Other than that, he had scored 4 wins and had just won in Hamilton’s home. I don’t know what happened after. Germany played a big role but as time passed it seemed as if Vettel lost the will to keep pushing. Hopefully, he can bounce back next season. I believe that if he had in 2018 the form he had in 2017, when he did one big mistake all season (Baku), he could have been a lot closer to Lewis and perhaps won the title.

    1. Exactly, vettel 2017 wasn’t that bad, let’s look at the obvious points losses:

      Baku he hit hamilton and got a stop and go, wasted 13 points in comparison to hamilton, always consider also the ones given to hamilton by his mistakes
      Singapore he had a rough start, could’ve probably avoided it and wasted 32 points

      That’s the main ones I can remember, stroll crash didn’t change anything etc.

      Now 2018:

      Baku he made a mistake in trying to overtake bottas and lost 20 points
      Germany he crashed alone and lost 32 points
      Monza span touching hamilton and lost 16 points (hamilton 3rd, not 1st in those circumstances)
      Japan span touching verstappen and lost at least 7 points
      Austin span touching ricciardo and lost 16 points

      That’s not including austria which I think is a bit harsh towards him, but still, no comparison between the 2 years, 2017 performance wouldn’t have been enough, but remember ferrari had 3 uncompetitive races in a row due to upgrades which got the car worse late in the season, if vettel had made less mistakes, perhaps they wouldn’t have gone that far and the car would’ve remained fine, that could’ve been enough.

  18. Some brilliant moments, some awful moments. Overall, what I’ll remember of Vettel in 2018 is that he had a car capable of winning the title and finished 82 points adrift in second after making more mistakes than a four-time champion should make.

    Think sixth is about right.

  19. Talking about Vettel’s mistakes: we can speculate that if his overtaking attempt on Bottas in Baku had been successful, it could have been him hitting the debris that punctured Bottas’s tyre.

    1. Yes, that’s true, haven’t considered that in my analysis, if that’s the case vettel was saved 1) by the first safety car and 2) by his mistake, you basically couldn’t be in front till 3 laps to go or so.

      1. Oh, but he also could’ve decided to stay 2nd and gain 3 points on hamilton with how the situation was, however I understand vettel there, since the points on offer were more than the ones he risked, then he made such a bad move that he managed to lose more ofc.

  20. “When the rain fell in Hockenheim it wasn’t an inexperienced driver in a car lacking downforce which crashed, it was Vettel in his Ferrari. Throwing away a likely victory in front of his home crowd was a blow his season never recovered from.

    He did take further wins, sometimes with great verve: He passed Bottas for victory at Silverstone…”

    And there was me thinking that Silverstone [08 Jul 2018] came before Hockenheim [22 Jul 2018].

    1. If you read again, you’ll notice it doesn’t say anything about it being ordered by time, it could be first a list of mistakes, then a list of good performances.

  21. If Seb has another season like the one just gone next year, I won’t be surprised if he walks away to take “break”.

    He was clearly miffed with his own performance towards the end of the season. What surprised me more than anything else was how he crumbled (ok thats probably a bit extreme) under pressure. I said half way through the season that I think he was getting found out a bit. During his Red Bull years, he had a car that was essentially streets ahead of the pack, coupled by an exceptionally well oiled team. Even when the championships were close, he was still in the quickest car by some margin. In that era, Seb was the heir apparent to Schumacher, unshakable under pressure, able to pull out a lap from nowhere, and it all seemed to fit…but the way he went off the rails this year, and perhaps how they tailed off last year as well, its probably worth reconsidering.

    In that series of articles by Andrew Benson on Alonso, he mentioned that people in the higher echelons of the Scuderia were quite certain that if Fernando was in the car, he would have been a lot closer to Lewis. Don’t know if its true, it certainly does fit the narrative.

    2019 is a big year for Vettel. I think his image has taken a bit of a beating, and with a young upstart in Leclerc as teammate, things could get very interesting. What would happen if Leclerc is quicker? Especially if the top brass are starting to have doubts about the number 1 driver?

    I really hope Ferrari build a decent car for next year.

  22. Poor reasoning and logic: the vice DWC behind the “nobody” Riciardo?! Really?
    Or the crashy Verstappen,standing in for Kvyat (who lost his drive), torpedoing everyone the first half of the season?
    Leclerc, with turned-up engines?
    Or even lucky Lewis, nearly smashed by Bottas – would he cashed in on his 50+ low-hanging points, destroying #44 for the season the way Rosberg managed – messing up his mind…?
    C’mon…you usually think much more independently to OhTooSport – copying their rankings..?

  23. Vettel had a bit of a shocker this year. With the car he had, in my mind, the championship was his to loose.

  24. As a Ferrari fan first, its been tough this year, however the thing no-one seems to mention is how much bad luck Vettel had? In Baku we remember his mistake but forget he was miles out front until the safety car. Likewise in Germany without the rain it was a certain win. Any qualifying session, where Ferrari were quicker in the dry, guess what…it rained.
    A lot of the mistakes he made, I think were due to trying too hard to recover the situation. Then if we look at the contacts in the latter half of the year it beggars belief that the guy on the inside spins, Hamilton was especially lucky in Monza. When Hamilton had a bad weekend, he still finished in the top 3 generally. Vettel, not so much and often not his own fault.

    I’m not making excuses for him as I think he should have been better, just we shouldn’t ignore certain things beyond his control.

    Finally, I do wish Alonso had been in the car, I’d love to have seen what he could do.

  25. 6th best driver after making so many mistakes??


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