Vettel’s 12 months of mistakes is just one of his problems

2019 F1 season

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When the Formula 1 championship moved on from Silverstone 12 months ago, Sebastian Vettel held an eight-point lead in the drivers’ championship over Lewis Hamilton.

There had been an element of good fortune about his victory in the British Grand Prix – team mate Kimi Raikkonen had turfed Hamilton off on the first lap – but with his fourth win from the opening 10 races there was no cause to doubt Vettel was a genuine championship contender.

Since then things have changed beyond recognition. Vettel has won just one race in the last 12 months.

It all started to go wrong in Hockenheim. A hydraulic failure in qualifying left Hamilton 14th on the grid, and pole position for Vettel offered him the chance to draw further ahead in the points standings. But on race day it rained, and while Hamilton came through the field Vettel skated off at the Sachskurve and nosed into a barrier.

There had already been mumblings about the number of mistakes Ferrari’s four-times would champion had made up to this point: a braking misjudgement in Baku which cost him a podium, a penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz Jnr in Austria and another for tangling with Valtteri Bottas at Paul Ricard. But these were trivial by comparison to Vettel’s latest error – and those to follow.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2018
A tangle with Ricciardo caused this spin in America
A win from second on the grid at Spa, passing Hamilton, offered hope that Hockenheim was a blip. But it wasn’t; the weekend in the Ardennes was. At Monza he screwed up again, beaten to pole position by his team mate and out-muscled by Hamilton at the start.

The pair went wheel-to-wheel and Vettel, on this inside, clipped Hamilton and spun, falling to the tail of the field. Remarkably, he performed a similar gyration when scrapping with Daniel Ricciardo at the Circuit of the Americas and Max Verstappen – admittedly at somewhat higher speed – at Suzuka. What was going on?

It didn’t help matters that Ferrari’s early-season supremacy had gone by the second half of 2018. But world class drivers like Vettel are supposed to be points-gathering machines: If the car’s only good enough for third, they snick second by beating the number one team’s number two driver. There was little sign of that as his title hopes fell apart.

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The 2019 season has brought a familiar pattern of mistakes – his spin while racing Hamilton in Bahrain was an action replay of those we saw last year – and a major new challenge in the shape of Charles Leclerc, who displaced Raikkonen from the second Ferrari seat over the winter.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Leclerc showed Vettel the way in Bahrain
Leclerc’s near-successes have served partly as a benchmark for what Vettel might have achieved with the SF90 so far. He would have won in Bahrain had the engine lasted; he could have won in Azerbaijan if he hadn’t binned the car in qualifying; he should have won in Austria, but was outfoxed by Verstappen in the final laps.

Nonetheless, after 10 races together Leclerc sits just three points behind Vettel in the points standings. Think back to Australia, where he was told to follow Vettel home, or China where he had to let his team mate by, and it’s fair to argue Leclerc has been the better driver on merit so far this year.

Worse for Vettel, Leclerc has raised his game in recent races. Having qualified six-tenths of a second slower than Vettel in Canada, Leclerc gave himself a bit of a talking-to, reviewed his approach to qualifying, and has started ahead of Vettel for the last three races in a row.

For Vettel’s sake, we can only hope Silverstone was the nadir. Having gone six-tenths down to Leclerc in qualifying he was handed a crack at the podium by the Safety Car. But he was caught and passed by Verstappen, who he then rammed off the track. To his credit, Vettel apologised.

Asked on Sunday evening about what his latest error says about his difficult season so far, Vettel stressed the potential for results was there. “I think you need to be fair, you’re not judging one particular lap and obviously I didn’t have a great lap whatever did happen,” he said. “But the laps before up to that point I think were quite strong.

“We started sixth and not by chance found ourselves third at some point. The Safety Car you can argue helped but I think we managed quite well the first stint doing something different to other people and making it work.

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“That was for today and I think other races could have been different as well so I’m not too worried. But I know that I obviously can also have better results on Sunday. So I’m looking forward to Germany now.”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2014
Vettel left Red Bull after a tough 2014 alongside Ricciardo
But since F1 last visited Germany these mistakes have become far too common. Would a rookie driver who committed as many errors as Vettel has over the past 12 months get a second chances.

Of course we should not dismiss Vettel’s potential to turn it around. Hamilton is absolutely convinced he can. You only have to look at what Verstappen went through last year to see how quickly a more experienced driver can turn things around. After an error-strewn start to last year’s campaign, Verstappen rebounded and since then has been a very convincing blend of speed and aggression.

However, it’s not just the mistakes which are a problem for Vettel. It’s the threat from the other side of the garage, from a driver with everything to prove who, as he gains confidence in his environment, is already starting to deliver better results.

This all sounds worryingly familiar for Vettel. Think back five years, to his win-less final season at Red Bull when his relatively inexperienced new team mate Ricciardo grabbed a trio of victories.

Vettel resists such comparisons. “I think first it’s a long time ago, second it’s very different,” he said on Sunday evening at Silverstone.

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“Talking about frustration, it’s maybe here and there the end result that probably is missing. But I think in terms of the racing we’ve had they could have gone the other way as well.”

But the fact is they haven’t. As hard-done by as Vettel felt about the circumstances of his defeat in Canada, the fact remains it was triggered by another of his errors, which allowed Hamilton to capitalise.

At the beginning of the season Ferrari said they would give Vettel preferential treatment when it came to 50-50 calls because he is their senior driver and therefore expected to lead their championship charge. At Silverstone last weekend I asked team principal Mattia Binotto whether, given the narrowing points gap between his two drivers and the widening one to Mercedes, that remains the case. It does, he confirmed, but added: “As the championship is going on, Charles is certainly proving that he is a very fast driver“.

Obviously, without Ferrari’s interference, Leclerc would already be ahead in the championship. Obviously, Vettel can work that out for himself. And just as obviously, if he can’t find it in him to redress the balance, then this year will look an awful lot like 2014 all over again.

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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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  • 65 comments on “Vettel’s 12 months of mistakes is just one of his problems”

    1. I don’t think Vettel has got worse. I think he’s always been comparatively poor at wheel-to-wheel combat.

      Don’t get me wrong, when leading from the front, I think there are few better than Sebastian Vettel, as Mark Webber will tell you. I can’t count the number of times when, in his Red Bull, he took off from pole and wasn’t seen for the rest of the race; breaking slipstream and DRS within a matter of laps. In that respect, he is nothing short of excellent.

      The moment he has to come through the field or battle wheel-to-wheel (and there are exceptions… Abu Dhabi and Brazil 2012 come to mind) he’s not as good. This isn’t a recent thing… think Kubica in Australia 2009, Button in Belgium 2010, Webber in Turkey 2010. I think Martin Whitmarsh labelled him “the Crash Kid” at some stage in that era.

      These last 12 months have been particularly bad and right now Leclerc is the better option when scrapping is required. When Hamilton or Verstappen (or Leclerc recently) approaches an opponent, there’s an air of inevitability about the upcoming overtake. When Vettel approaches, there’s an air of inevitability that something is about to go wrong.

      1. and there are exceptions… Abu Dhabi and Brazil 2012 come to mind

        Except these aren’t even exceptions. In Abu Dhabi he collided with a backmarker on the opening laps, then collided with a polystyrene block behind the safety car. In Brazil he ended up at the back because he got a bad start and caused a crash at turn 4, not only spinning but then rolling backwards at an angle down the circuit into two other cars, taking out Bruno Senna.

        Race starts have been a recurring theme, Vettel’s had more than an average proportion of accidents in those, many of which were his fault.

        When Ferrari signed him I felt really disappointed. I’m even more disappointed that I was right.

        1. You are exactly correct, even in the examples given of his “good drives” through the field, he was garbage and only went forward because of a far superior car. Vettel has never been a clean or good racer in battles, he has never given “proper racing room” and suffers from the same mental affliction that Massa did in terms of a belief of “owning the racing line” merely because their nose might be an inch ahead of their competitor’s.

          1. @megatron Exactly. I was stunned to see that Vettel had gotten DOTD for his “epic comeback” in France 2018. He got back to P5 which was essentially last of the (remaining) top cars after he destroyed Bottas’ car.

            Vettel started from P2 on faster tyres (hypersoft vs supersoft) and he got frustrated by being boxed in by the Merc drivers and unsurprisingly crashed into Bottas. He should have been fighting for the win (or at the very least P2) and instead he came “last”. Even then still people commended him for a great drive. It’s mind boggling how that works.

      2. @ben-n A good evaluation. These issues around his racing – clumsy, over-aggressive, mistimed, out of control – tend to appear when Vettel is under pressure to perform outside his comfort zone either upfront or midfield when he feels nobody is really demanding much of him. In fact the current phase didn’t start last year at Hockenheim. 2016 was also poor and began with his Baku flare-up, extending to a number of incidents, including Mexico where (in my view) he accidentally-on-purpose clipped Hamilton as he was passed by both Verstappen and HAM at the start. Last year stands out because of the sheer number and weirdness of the spins he had. This year, arguably, the pressure is actually more from Leclerc, who, Canada aside, has looked equal or better, sometimes much better, in the Ferrari. His crash into Verstappen was very much an inability to calculate and decide calmly and quickly that although VER had gone off slightly and lost momentum, the fact he, Vettel, would reach the corner more quickly wasn’t enough to make the pass on the inside. He was drawn in because Verstappen has a tendency to move out more than usual before taking the corner and Vettel seems not to have learnt this – which is precisely how he collided with VER in Japan last year, thinking he was leaving a space, when it’s just Verstappen’s typical cornering line. After realizing there was no space, he then makes a complete mess of braking and trying to take the outside. Just dire.

      3. Good analysis. Vettel is lucky driving for Ferrari. They like to have a more sr driver next to their ace. So expect him on the grid next year. Not sure whether that would have been the case would he drive for any of the other two top teams.

      4. @ben-n Don’t agree, what changed is his circumnstances. It’s like he always goes for all-ins but he ran out of good hands. he realises he needs 100% of any chance, no way to win the wch otherwise, however since there’s no chance he ought to settle. he once overtook cars on the grass that was because his car was an hoover, he needs to be more intelligent he needs to be more like Lewis.

    2. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      19th July 2019, 12:47

      I’m not sure Vettel ever really gelled with Ferrari the way he wanted to or even the way he had gelled with Red Bull. His performances at Ferrari have swung from perfect to terrible; sometimes brilliant and then sometimes awful. I do think that Ferrari being consistently unable to extract the best from their package, making mistakes with strategy and being clueless off track has left the drivers overdriving the cars to make up the difference and that’s where a large chunk of the mistakes are coming from. In some ways it reminds me of Alonso’s up and downs at Ferrari – so close but never quite close enough, held back by inferior cars and dumb strategies. Ferrari just seems a toxic atmosphere, regardless of who drives the car – if neither Alonso or Vettel can deliver them a title then something’s more wrong than just the driver.

      I read Marko suggested a change of scenery might help Vettel and I’m inclined to agree, but other than Mercedes or back to Red Bull I’m not sure where he can go, and surely that would be admitting defeat. On the other hand he’s a 4-times world champion – he’s got nothing left to prove. I’d hate to see him leave but maybe it would be the best for him if he’s not feeling it anymore.

      1. if neither Alonso or Vettel can deliver them a title then something’s more wrong than just the driver.

        This is why I think Lewis to Ferrari is more and more likely. Once he takes Schumacher’s win record, the only challenge left to him in the sport is equalling his championship tallies – doing it in a Ferrari, when the best competition of his generation couldn’t, would absolutely cement him as the best of all time. If he can do it in his first year with the team and “pull a Rosberg” after, he will even get that bragging right back, too :p

        1. The difference is Alonso did get close, painfully close.

          Many would argue that Seb has got no where near with better equipment than Alonso had.

          The only thing Alonso had was a better boss in SD.

      2. @rocketpanda It’s nothing like Alonso’s time at Ferrari. Alonso made few mistakes on track during his five years there, he extracted as much as possible. I don’t like Alonso but it is hard to deny during his peak with Ferrari he was one of the best on track.

      3. I suspect the politics and pressure from Italian press and a teamboss not capable of shielding its drivers from management pressure and press might have been reason for Vettel’s demeaneour. Alonso on the other hand is quite good at political chicanery and mentally strong to exert pressure on team which is why he managed to keep his head in right place when in Ferrari.

      4. @rocketpanda I may be wrong but I seem to remember Ferrari being quite good on strategy during Alonso’s years there. That was why they got so close to winning two titles there despite not having the fastest car, they didn’t leave much on the table through driver mistakes or strategy errrors.

        1. @keithedin indeed, people always talk about Ferrari’s strategy when they lost the title in Abu Dhabi, but that was very much a rare mistake at the time.

          By comparison these days they seem to be asleep during the races.

          1. Ferrari strategy gets better when they take care of 1 car. Just like now, they forget they got another car. It’s not bad strategy, it’s just that.

        2. @keithcollantine I think you are quite right. Not sure, maybe there was a run up to abu Dhabi that made the strategists the scapegoats then?

        3. @keithedin

          I made a similar comment which was posted as CoTD recently.

          Ferrari were prone to the odd gaffe in the Alonso era, nowadays, they seem to be making errors like it is going out of fashion. Vettel has been driving very poorly, and I feel that weighs on the team.

          As I said before, Alonso, like any good F1 driver, may have been a self centred prick, but that made him relentless, hence he kept up pressure on the team to constantly deliver. He did the business on track consistently, and that would have kept the team in the right frame of mind.

          To be fair, Seb seems quite disinterested, jaded…he probably needs to take a break.

          The other thing also is that the leadership at Ferrari is at its weakest since the teams inception. There are no strong leaders at the helm and the team appears to be rudderless. If Sergio M or LdM were still in charge..well for starters, I doubt Binotto would be team principal.

      5. Vettel can join Kimi 😂

    3. Vettel felt comfortable at Red Bull. The people in Milton Keynes all spoke a language he was near perfect in, understood his Monty Python jokes, had the same work culture as he did and wrapped him in a supportive blanket when things went wrong. And had a great car.

      At Ferrari everything is foreign to him, language, work culture, support systems, excessive local media pressure. That is in no way criticising the Italian team’s work style, but is is different. Oh, and a car lacking star quality.

      Vettel would, for the same reasons, be comfortable at Mercedes based just down the road from Red Bull with an Anglo German environment. But there is no chance for him there. But a return to Red Bull might do him good and bring out the best of him again. And perhaps a new championship which seems increasingly unlikely at Ferrari.

      But where would Verstappen go? Not to Ferrari to upset Leclerc. Not to Merc while Hamilton is still so spectacular.

      So, an unlikely salvation for Vettel. Is he doomed to a self perpetuating downward spiral?

      1. RBR have a new star in form of Max Verstappen and unless Vettel is ready to play 2nd fiddle to Max, I dont think RBR want Vettel back. Also Mercs have Lewis along with their own 2nd driver so even that door is closed until 2021 atleast. Vettel has mamaged to damage his F1 career more than what Alonso did to his.

        1. I’m not convince a Max/SV pairing couldn’t be as strong as the Max/DR pairing was. It would be a surprise, but it certainly wouldn’t shock me if SV replaced Gasly. However, isn’t SV signed with Ferrari through next year? If so I’m sure he’ll be there next year as per his contract.

          1. Yes, end of 2020 is when Vettel’s contract at Ferrari ends.

          2. @robbie Chaitanya, we know that contracts can be broken or changed. If Vettel really wanted to leave, he could likely find a way out.

            But Mercedes definitely don’t have space for him, and Red Bull’s future is based around Verstappen (that is partly why Ricciardo chose to leave). Nowhere to go except the midfield or leaving F1.

            Also, it’s always easy to forget that drivers in top teams earn huge salaries. Money often decides these things.

            1. But who will pay Vettel top salary when he has failed miserably to win title and is known to fail miserably when under pressure. I doubt even Ferrari would be keen to pay him $50 Million/year after 2020.

      2. Yes you are making the same point I did a week or so ago. I think Vettel might be better off and more suited to life at RBR. He won’t be a team mate to Verstappen though.

        Vers could move to Ferrari but this would not fit in with the way they usually operate by having two top drivers. Leclerc being the other. I doubt they would want to unsettle him.

        It seems very unlikely there would be an opening at Merc so Vettel seems a bit stuck. Who knows maybe Ferrari could accommodate the two young guns and allow Vettel to move back. It would be a major departure for them though.

        1. it only makes sense if Verstappen leaves RB, and only cuz they ve got no new worthy drivers left on their program. that could open a door do Vettel.
          besides that, if vettel leaves Ferrari, he leaves F1 altogether. He is no Kimi that is still there cuz he enjoys driving and doesn’t care about results or numbers, or being called old and slower.

      3. Witan, language, at the very least, does not seem to be much of an issue for Vettel – by all accounts he is pretty fluent in Italian, and that seems to be in part because he was at Toro Rosso, where a sizeable chunk of the workforce back then had come across from Minardi.

        1. Hamilton to Ferrari, Max to Merc, Vettel to RB let’s see the silly season. Or Alonso to join Max at RB.

        2. Vettel’s Italian is nowhere near his English which is native speaker level, and clever with it. TV interviews do not give him justice in that regard but his tribute to Charlie Whiting is worth a listen. Brilliant. Not just the language and good use of simple rhetoric but public speaking in an emotional situation.

          https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7d77vo

    4. A very good article

    5. I’ll always excuse SV for 2014, as put in his shoes he had his golden 4 time WDC/WCC car ripped away from him and replaced with something he didn’t recognize, alongside the new hybrid chapter, and I think it demoralized and dejected him. Along came DR who was stoked to be in the best car he had ever had, the one that SV thought of as a comparative dog. DR was in the same low pressure situation as CL is now. Do worse than SV and it’s no surprise, but do better and it’s gravy. The pressure both in 2014 and now has been much more on SV than on his teammates. The difference for SV now is that he hasn’t just sat in a car that is no longer recognizable to what he had. He should be heading CL, albeit this is a car that is lagging behind Mercedes and therefore requires riskier decisions on the track and strategy wise.

      1. JR Love (@dermechaniker)
        19th July 2019, 16:20

        While your points are valid, you’re giving far too much latitude to an athlete at the highest echelon within the highest echelon of this sport. You don’t get to be a 4-time WDC and paid what you do and then get to be all sad when your new car isn’t what the old one was. If that is your attitude and your level of actual performance acumen then, really, get out of the sport and make room for the dogged type who gets in there and wrings the neck out of the car he is given.

        Without dredging up the endless polemics about him, this is precisely the kind of thing we saw with ALO — he just got on with driving the car he was given and getting the maximum from it. That is the sign of a high caliber driver worthy of the paycheck and accolades.

        Frankly, your assessment only serves to make VET look like a one-trick pony, however his endless errors are doing a better job without your assistance.

        1. @dermechaniker I think you are oversimplifying the situation. I think you know how much all the ducks have to be lined in a row all season long in order to win the Championships. Answer this question. How could a driver go from winning many races and 4 Championships in a row along with the necessary WCC winning car, only to not win a race? Do you actually think he forgot how to win in 2014?

          1. JR Love (@dermechaniker)
            19th July 2019, 22:25

            I have no idea what happened to him in 2014, although it certainly seemed like he was in a snit and resigned to leaving Red Bull for Ferrari and completely sapped of any fight. Frankly, it looked pretty pathetic.

            However, the rule change for 2014 was the same for everyone — they all had to start over. It isn’t like the only car on the grid that changed was VET’s. It seems odd you’re quick to imply the only reason RIC was able to beat him was because he was excited by the prospects of a “better” car. We can assume that the 2014 Red Bull and the 2014 tires were a massively different car to his 2013 Toro Rosso and it may not have completely suited his style, either. Look at what’s gone on with GAS, this year. By your assessment of RIC vs. VET 2014, GAS should be excelling in the “better” car, but he hadn’t until Britain.

            My point isn’t that VET isn’t good enough to win multiple WDC, my point is you are making excuses for someone who should be significantly better than what you deem necessary to make excuses for. The best drivers make the best of what they have and they carry the fight to the opposition regardless. If VET isn’t/wasn’t good enough to do that, my point is he isn’t as good as his 4 WDC would make him appear. And if that is the case, his struggles at Ferrari start to make a lot more sense.

            It certainly seems like he needs a perfect storm to win a WDC and the Red Bull team and cars of 2010-2013 were that perfect storm. VET seems to need everything to be perfect, otherwise he appears to lose his edge and his fight. You see it in his body language.

            Many other drivers appear to be able to take what they have, overcome their adversity and make it happen for themselves. We’ve seen it with both RIC and VER at Red Bull driving, clearly, the 3rd best car (maybe 2nd this year). We have certainly seen this with HAM while battling ROS even taking into account that the Mercedes Benz’s performance is a massive advantage.

            1. @dermechaniker And my point is that it is easy enough for you to say from your armchair that the rule changes for 2014 were the same for everyone. In fact they weren’t to have the same effect on everyone. Everyone but Seb could look forward to a new chapter and a new opportunity to usurp RBR and particularly Seb, but for Seb, he had had the necessary ingredient to winning the WDC that virtually all WDCs have had, namely the WCC car, taken away from him, no chance whatsoever to defend his titles. Put yourself in his shoes and see how happy you’d feel. How stoked you’d be about the rule changes. How stoked you’d be that Renault was lagging with the Pu. How it must have felt the first time he drove the car and realized his racing life was about to change completely.

              As usual, if one is not a fan of SV then anything said to defend him for 2014 is going to be labelled as making excuses, while in reality, there are valid reasons why Seb particularly over all the other drivers would have felt dejected and disillusioned knowing his great run would not be defendable. All other drivers, such as DR, could look at this as an opportunity to crack the Seb domination. That actually started as F1 had started to erode Newey’s exhaust blown diffuser work, and then the complete revamp of the regs altered everything and as we know handed the opportunity that Mercedes took up the gauntlet on and has dominated since. Before you go accusing Seb of needing a perfect storm to win WDC(s) consider all the other Champions, which is virtually all of them, who overwhelmingly needed the WCC car in order to win the WDC. The rare time the WDC didn’t have the WCC car, he had a very close second place car in the WCC. No driver has been able to ‘take what they have, and overcome their adversity, and make it happen for themselves’ when it comes to defending a title with no longer the WCC car to do so.

          2. JR Love (@dermechaniker)
            22nd July 2019, 6:49

            @robbied90For some reason I can’t reply to your reply, so I’ll reply to your previous reply. (Wow, that is a statement!])

            I get what you are saying about how it wasn’t the same for VET, because he had the winningist car, but you’re seeming to overlook the fact that change within F1 IS the job, so yes it was the same for everyone — everyone got a new car, everyone had a chance to possibly be a winner come Australia. That’s the job.

            You’re asking how would I feel?

            First, let’s look at VET. Given that this is his job and he is a HUGE fan of the history of the sport, he’d know full well that the acme of the sport was frequent and major rule changes that may or may not end his reign. He’d have known that for 2014 the rules were changing and given that multiple times at the end of his 4th championship win he’d pointed out over team radio to the entire world that we all needed to remember this time for it wouldn’t last forever, he certainly should not expect to be given a pass for losing his motivation — especially given his status within the sport and his paycheck.

            I’d expect to come at it with the same attitude as I’d had, because that is expected of me as a professional athlete who must accept the terms of the sport that I am paid to perform for. I don’t accept that an “I’m sad, my car isn’t the same” should be an excuse for not making the best of it and doing my job.

            His car was certainly capable of winning races in 2014 and, while he may have not been able to repeat a WDC or WCC win anymore, he could have tried harder to win a race and fight his teammate.

      2. @robbie – I think this is an interesting perspective (Vettel 2014) that I know I hadn’t thought of before. You can see a similar occurrence in MSC in 2005 when he lost the tires he was used to. I think there is something to be said of getting used to a set of regulations and excelling and then having those regulations change. I don’t think that their declines in their respective seasons indicates that they are not great drivers or don’t deserve the accolades they’ve collected.

        MSC came back and nearly drug Ferrari to the WDC in 2006. And Vettel needs to do the same. From a distant, armchair dweller’s perspective it seems like he pushes too hard and then doesn’t (usually) own up to his part of the mistake/issue. For example, maybe there is a flaw in Ferrari aero that disturbs the car when alongside another car (doubtful but let’s give this hypothetical a pass for now), that would still mean that he needs to account for that flaw in his driving and he is not doing so.

        I say all that to say, Vettel needs to focus, and actually work harder at extracting what he can from the Ferrari, not over-doing it. And also, identify areas where he sees needs for improvement so that the team can address them. Otherwise there may come a time where he is viewed as a luckier Jenson Button. Solid, okay driver who had an ace of a car (for 4yrs instead of 1yr).

        1. @hobo Let’s recall too that even Alonso at Ferrari, who was still being touted as the best driver on the grid even when LH was winning WDCs, couldn’t quite do it. MS needed massive skewing with more advantages over his teammate and the rest of the grid than any driver in history, to achieve his WDCs. You’re right about what SV needs to do, and I’m sure nobody knows that better than Seb.

      3. @robbie So you are saying Vettel is a spoiled brat who won’t actually perform at a decent level unless he has the fastest car.

        The outcome is the same though. To be honest I think the implications of your take on Vettel’s poor performance are even worse.

    6. Vettel is clearly a driver who can get the extra little bit that from a car by driving on the edge. However, he has never learned to manage that risk. Vettel’s style brings forth spectacular results when the car is just about there, at the level of competition or only slightly behind. If it’s too far behind, Vettel will still target wins in every race instead of lowering the target to a realistic level and going for maximum points available. This results in overdriving and that’s the root cause of all of his mistakes in recent years. The correlation between his car being further off pace and costly mistakes is clearly visible. What baffles me is that it seems like he never learns.

    7. I sense a frustration in vettel, Ferrari can’t deliver him a car that suits him to win a championship. Similar to Alonso’s Ferrari endeavour. Vettel probably knew at Australia that this season was already a write off. Mercedes domination is grinding down the opposition, when the Verstappens and leclercs get to their mid 20’s and haven’t won a championship, they might begin to question the point of it all.

      1. I read “I sense a disturbance in the force”

        I need my pills

      2. @emu55 funnily enough, Merc told the Verstappen party that if they just did F2 and joined the Merc junior program, they’d be into an F1 car by ~2018/19. Instead, they leapt into Red Bull’s arms because they were promised a championship-winning car sooner.

        Whoops!

      3. @emu55 Vettel did have the car to win in 2017 and the 2018 car was best on average.

        Motor sport total calculated that Vettel dropped/gifted 142 points to Hamilton. He could have won 2018 with 54 points ahead instead of 88 behind. Just if he hadn’t made all these mistakes.

        The only reason the car looked so slow was because Vettel kept blundering. Obviously if Vettel keeps scoring P4 and P5 instead of not blundering and taking the win or finishing P2, then the car looks poor. No blunders (or a lot less) and he would have had the WDC by a huge margin.

    8. When he gets the car he needs and leads the first lap, he can be almost unbeatable.
      This was the story of his championship years, but it was still there in the last couple of years.

      Spain ’17 was impressive and even Hamilton could barely keep up with his speed.

      But driving in free air is where every driver shines. With a car that often requires him to fight, he isn’t among the best of the grid

    9. Balanced article, agree with most of the posters. Except the ferrari had no “advantage” in early 2018, the cars were more or less equal. It was only that Hamilton got away with underperforming again in arguably the strongest package. We commonly refer to this as Hamilton’s early season slumps, but in actuality everyone forgets he underperforms the first 1/4 – 1/3 of the season because he turns it on later in the season. Barring Monaco only Mercedes was within a shout of winning any/all the races from Australia to Silverstone, not Ferrari. Look back and you will see Ferrari was nowhere in Australia, Spain, Austria and France. Can we stop revising history saying ferrari was “fastest”, and just admit for once, despite everyone being right about Vettels obvious flaws, that he does perform from time to time. No i dont like vettel, but i dont make things up to make Hamilton look better than he is either.

      1. @Mitch – not going to co-sign your entire post. But I would be very happy to never hear that Ferrari had the better car in X (where X is 2017, 2018, 2019) because they just didn’t. There were times where Ferrari may have had a car very close to Mercedes, or perhaps equivalent to for brief periods. And there were times that they got the car to work better on a given weekend (e.g. Bahrain 2019). But they never had the better or dominant car without these caveats or stipulations.

        1. *never again hear*

          1. Ferrrari & Merc were overall equal in 2018. Arguably Ferrari was better, but not by much.

            Ferrrari was faster than Merc at 11 tracks

            Abu Dhabi-Merc
            Brazil-RB Merc, Ferrari
            Mexico- Ferrari & RB
            USA-Merc & Ferrari equal
            Japan-Merc
            Russia- Merc
            Singapore-Merc
            Italy-Ferrari
            Belgium-Ferrari
            Hungary-Ferrari
            Germany-Ferrari
            GB-Ferrari
            Austria-Merc
            France-Merc
            Canada-Ferrari
            Monaco-RB, Ferrari,Merc
            Spain-Merc,
            Azerbaijan -Ferrari,
            China-Ferrari,
            Bahrain-Ferrari,
            Australia-Merc,

            1. this sums it all.
              The fact that Ferrari and Vettel didn’t win the races within their grasp doesn’t mean they didn’t had the best car of the occasion.

              Mercedes only got ahead at China because Ferrari took a long time to react to their pit stop. As soon as he pitted, he was faster than Bottas and an overtake was a matter of time.

              It is hard to say if Vettel could have beat Hamilton last year because Hamilton was very strong. But car-wise, it was completely possible as even Kimi’s results show.

            2. @Edvaldo
              The above list is from AMuS;
              The only ones i would question is Bahrain & GB. I thought it was too close to call/even in them 2 races. Possibly even in Brazil too.

            3. @amam @edvaldo – I appreciate the list but it is fastest single lap (presumably qualifying), correct?

              I’m sorry, but that isn’t definitive proof that it is the best car over a season or even over a weekend. A car can be set up for qualifying and be worse in the race. A car can be flattered by drivers in other cars failing to get a clean lap. In addition, take Germany as an example. Hamilton did not compete in Q2 or Q3, but Ferrari had the faster car per that list.

              Finally, back to my point. Having a faster time on a given weekend does not prove you had the better car. Ferrari was semi-dominant in Bahrain (in Leclerc’s hands anyway) this year, but is it a better car if it cannot complete the race distance? I get that it is subjective, but to me it seems clear that Merc has had the best car since the beginning of 2014. There have been times where it is close or even. But, if over a season you are even a few times and behind a few times but you are always close even when the car isn’t at its best, and win the most races, it is difficult pill to swallow for someone to argue you don’t have the best car.

              Winning doesn’t mean you have the best car, I agree. But neither does single lap speed/time.

            4. (@hobo)

              The list is done by AMuS who take both qualifying & race pace into account

            5. That list is so wrong it’s ridiculous.
              – First of all Austria for Mercedes? Neither of the Mercs made it to the finish! So that would clearly have been one for Ferrari. Thing is that Vettel landed himself a grid drop penalty and therefore wasn’t in Q2 behind Hamilton where he should have been at the start and then Verstappen took it instead.
              – USA was clearly Ferrari too. Perhaps in Q3 Merc could follow, but their race pace was much lower.
              – Singapore was clearly Ferrari to win. Ferrari was much faster on race pace and they were much fasterin FP3 as well. Mercedes was third fastest at best. It was only that Hamilton had this incredible lap in Q3 that he took pole. While Vettel performed horrible in Q3.
              – I would say in France and Japan Ferrari and Mercedes were qual. Vettel underperformed massively plus blundered and therefore made the car look bad, but still.

              So when AMuS feels it’s 11 races fastest for Ferrari vs 8 for Mercedes, I’d say it was more like 15 for Ferrari vs 4 for Mercedes. Plus in both cases 2 equal.

              Either way, it’s clear that Ferrari had the faster car overall in 2018 and that it was Vettel throwing it all away over and over that instead of winning they lost so big.

      2. Easly season slump?
        – Hamilton came in P2 in Australia only because of a lucky pitstop for Vettel
        – Hamilton had a grid penalty for a gearbox change Bahrain and managed to work his way back up to P3.
        – China, Mercedes didn’t have the pace and they were actually slower than Red Bull even. Although indeed Hamilton was slower than Bottas and ended up behind Raikkonen at the start which basically ended his podium chances.
        – Azerbaijan and Spain Hamilton won. Can’t do much better really
        – Monaco, Mercedes had the third fasest car and Hamilton even managed to finish in P3
        – Canada, Ferrari was fastest. Indeed Hamilton had setup issues.
        – Silverstone Ferrari was clearly fastest. Hamilton got rammed on the first lap and still he managed to get back to P2 (as opposed to Vettel who rearely recovers higher than P5 in such situations)

        Out of all those races, Hamilton pretty much scored maximum for all of them but China and Canada. So how was he under performing? He lost at worst 14 points in those races.

        On the other hand Vettel threw away:
        – a podium in China
        – a win in Baku
        – a fight for P2 or the podium in Spain
        – a fight for the win or P2 in France
        – a win in Austria (yes they had the fastest car after Merc’s double DNF)

        All this cost Vettel 54 points at least in those races.

        So which is worse?

    10. Not sure who said it, possibly John Surtees,
      “When you drive for Ferrari, maybe it’s best if you don’t speak Italian.”
      Maybe he will team up with Nico R.
      He could join Kimi, but can he work on his own car.?

    11. Can anyone list Vettel mistakes in the last 12 months one by one and compare it to Lewis, Bottas, Max and LeC in the same time ?

      1. Vettel – 15 mistakes (just a guess :)
      2. Lewis – 3
      3. Max – 5
      4. Bottas – 6
      6. Lec – 5

      anybody has the data ? tnx

    12. The point I mis in this analysis is the fact LEC is not ready for a number one status.
      He makes a lot of mistakes on rookie level (like Baku or the corner in Monaco where he ripped his rear and the following onslaught on his bodywork).
      Ferrari needs a number one capable of putting all teammembers in the same direction. Vet can do that but is handicap with his errors. LEC is tou young and more importantly to immature.

      1. Problem is Leclerc is the de facto number one driver right now. And unless Ferrari can entice Max over, he’s the best proven talent available right now for the long-term future. Those mistakes are part of a learning curve and a pretty sharp upward curve apparently. He actually looks a quicker learner than MV and Red Bull were happy to back him as their number one. So I don’t see the issue being with Leclerc at all. It’s what to do with Vettel.

        1. You only can decide what to do with Vettel if there is a number one replacement available. For now that’s not lec. His errors this year alone are about the number Ver had in several years. And of course he will learn. But that’s not what a number one driver should do to perform.

      2. Baku was also induced by Ferrari sending him out on the wrong strategy. They inststead he go even faster on medium tyres than he did before, while Vettel wasn’t even able to set a laptime good enough to get out of Q2 at all.

        The thing is that Ferrari wanted to keep Leclerc available as a pawn in their attempt to hold back the Mercedes drivers to help Vettel. Ferrari “knew” leclerc wasn’t going to get pole anyway since Vettel is their #1 and he would get the tow from Leclerc.

    13. Let’s be honest though. It’s not just the last 12 months. He did the same in 2009 and 2017 to throw away those championships.

    14. at the end of it all, the problem with seb is that he’s a redbull driver in a ferarri team. underpar strategies and to top it all off subpar pitstops, it’s ridiculous to say the least and it’s quite admirable of seb to take it all on his shoulders. Ultimately verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo bottas and even rosberg looked sensational because of the team behind them. Let’s just say Mercedes is the best team, with the best driver and the best car!!!

      1. Actually, Ferrari had the best overall car last year, especially for the first 2/3rds of the season.

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