Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019

Vettel and Ferrari puzzled by his deficit to Leclerc

2019 Belgian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team principal say they do not yet understand why he was unable to match his team mate’s pace in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc led the two Mercedes drivers home at Spa, with Vettel a distant fourth. Vettel said he was pleased for the team but disappointed with his result.

“For sure it’s a good day for the team after a long drought,” said Vettel. “I’m happy for the team, happy for Charles. But on my side I can’t be pleased with how the day went. We started second and finished fourth.”

“Obviously the car had more so I can’t be too happy with that,” he added. “I was struggling to feel the grip, to stay on top of the tyres. I was sliding too much so it was quite a tough race for me. And obviously from the point that we came in [to the pits] quite early it was clear that we won’t be there until the end.”

Asked whether he understood the reason for his problems Vettel said: “No. I guess I am sliding more but I don’t know why.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said Vettel’s tyre management is normally a strength of his, which made his Spa struggles unusual.

“Certainly Sebastian suffered more from degradation this weekend, both on Friday and then in the race,” he said. “It’s certainly down to the set-up as well.

“Normally Seb is very good in managing tyres, especially in the first laps, to use the tyres later in the stint. So it’s something on which we will take care, try to understand and analyse, and certainly something that if we may learn it, will improve ourselves in the future.

“But so far no answer.”

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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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44 comments on “Vettel and Ferrari puzzled by his deficit to Leclerc”

  1. LOL sounds like Leclerc may be better? Ferrari looking for all sorts of reasons except the driver.

    1. Yes. Leclerc’s a smoother driver, subtler inputs, same kind of level as HAM and VER. Vettel has never really worked to improve his racecraft, while Leclerc is clearly keen to learn and adapt still and will probably be the kind of driver that always tries to do so.

      1. That’s interesting, to my eye I would say Vettel is smoother. I could be wrong, but from my view Leclerc seems to carry more speed into corners and then sort the car out mid corner, whereas Vettel seems to be more conservative on corner entry which makes him look more in control of the car. It could explain why Leclerc has has struggled more with tyre management.

        1. You are right, Leclerc is not smoother, he just can manage the understeer better. He tends to throw the car into a corner while Vettel just sits and wait for the front to bite. That makes Leclerc’s style more agressive and his tyre wear is higher than Vettel’s. Personaly i think that Leclerc can live with more understeer and can have more grip on the back while Vettel has to compromise his rear grip for the more balanced car and that makes him more exposed to loosing back of the car…

  2. It has been written times and times again, but this DOES look suspiciously similar to his last year at RBR with another young gun…

    1. The flat earth movement still has places available!

      1. I think it’s a bit unreasonable and a cheap tactic to discredit a poster personally by ridiculing him, rather than engaging with the point being made or just saying nothing at all.

        Lately, this happens a lot around here and it is very antagonistic.

        @keithcollantine It’s your site, how do you feel about this?

        1. @jeffreyj – agreed. It’s often a sign that the commenter cannot debate/rebut a point, so resorts to ad hominem attacks.

        2. I thought he was making a quip about there being room for Seb and Ferrari management to join.

        3. @jeffreyi
          Omg, you trully are one of those annoying, mean spirited and whiny kids who likes to start a fight; and when it happens runs to his mom.
          Hahahaha, so sad yet so telling!

      2. You invite?

    1. Islander, Vettel only just turned 32 a few months ago – he’s about two and a half years younger than Hamilton and only a month older than Hulkenberg, and I doubt that many would say that those two drivers are past it in terms of their age.

      There are quite a few drivers who are in their early 30s on the grid, and in Kimi we have a driver who will turn 40 next month – Vettel’s really not that old by the standards of the grid, let alone by historical standards, so I wouldn’t really say that is that much of a factor.

      I am wondering if it is more of a case of the handling balance of the car having shifted more towards a rear traction limited bias, and that trend might be more pronounced in low downforce trim. Leclerc has talked about how he is more comfortable with a rear traction limited car than Vettel is, albeit at the expense of increased tyre wear, and historically Vettel’s driving style has tended to work best with cars with a more stable rear end.

      Some of Leclerc’s most notable performances relative to Vettel this season have come at the circuits which are more rear traction limited as well. His first notable performance was in Bahrain, which is generally regarded as one of the most, if not the most, rear traction limited circuit on the calendar, whilst Baku and Austria are also quite heavily rear limited as well – again, those were races where Leclerc was also very competitive, even if we didn’t get the full picture in Baku.

      It’s not to say it is the sole answer, as Canada was a notable exception – that is a more rear traction limited circuit, but Vettel was generally quicker – but that does seem to me to be a more logical contributing factor. It’s why I would not be surprised if Leclerc is again stronger in Monza, as that is again another circuit that is very rear traction limited – which I would expect to suit Leclerc’s driving style more than Vettel’s style.

      1. @Anon
        a very plausible assessment anon, and I’m it is part of the equation.
        I would like to argue that a team like Ferrari should have to fully equipped teams to cater for both drivers, design build, everything. That makes sure neither driver is compromised. But if I utter that, three juggernauts of “costs” opponents will run me over immediately.

        other thing is some people age more quickly than others, it’s mysterious…..

        1. -sure

  3. Ferrari will find a fault with the car. This will let Vettel off the hook until he gets thrashed again @ Monza. Go Charles!

  4. What does this say about Kimi if he’s worse than Vettel?

    1. Kimi was the speediest on the planet when he was young, no one could touch him.
      Age takes that away from you, and that goes for EVERYONE.

      1. Kimi has been in decline since 2008 whether his fans admit it or not (i’m looking at you HUHII)

        Great character, good for the sport, entertaining, great guy but NOT one of the best drivers anymore.

        1. And even then could still drive great races, just look at monza and austin last year, it’s a damn shame to lose that win for raikkonen, which doesn’t come at ferrari home since 2010 with alonso I think, just because vettel can’t keep the car straight!

      2. What you mean is that Kimi never had a teammate when he was young :)

  5. If this becomes the trend for the rest of the season I can see the rumours of retirement becoming more likely to be true.

    Vettel has had a great career, but the post-2013 cars never really suited him. If he sees that the upcoming generation of drivers have already got him pegged I can quite easily see him closing this chapter on his life and walking away with his exceptional record to be remembered by. I mean, if he can’t get a title with Ferrari either as a result of the team never quite putting a solid title campaign together or because he’s now been surpassed as a driver then what else has he got left to do in F1?

    1. Could maybe win a title as a german with a german car, wolf said he wouldn’t mind vettel at mercedes, but I’m not sure he has what it takes any more, even with a very strong car.

  6. Well, in his 2nd stint he started quite fast, maybe a bit too fast, trying to make sure he undercut Leclerc but in doing so taking too much out of the tyres; while at the start of the race, he struggled through the 1st corner, had to overtake Hamilton, and then defend from him for most of the 1st stint, which might have hampered his efforts to properly take care of the tyres (though I note Hamilton usually is able to do so; Bottas maybe not so much, while Verstappen tends to do that well – could be car/setup too of course).

  7. Cracked chassis? He was a bit too far especially in qualifying. So could be something wrong with the car.

    1. Vettel said he encountered too much traffic in qualifying. In the race he just didn’t have Leclerc’s race-pace but he wasn’t too far off to think that it must have been his car. He was just forced to pit too early and couldn’t keep his tires till the end.

      I don’t really see anything to suggest that something was wrong with his car and judging from the article, neither do Vettel or Ferrari.

      1. Nothing was wrong with the car. As you stated, too much traffic in qually, but LEC was going to get pole anyway. In the race he locked up several times and just didn’t manage his tires well enough forcing him to pit early and onto a 2 stop. I don’t know why he couldn’t use the 3rd set of tires more effectively and challenge BOT at least.

    2. He wasn’t actually too far off the pace in qualifying. He didnt string a lap together more like. If you combine his 3 best sectors then he would only be like 2 tenths off Leclerc.

  8. Vettel has always been overrated, he is a fraud that is being further exposed. He was quick relative to his old and hobbled teammate webber, but never had good racecraft. But even now his “quickness” is mostly gone.

    Vettel is the worst multi wdc driver in F1 history.

    1. Although this is very harshly formulated, I tend to agree with the general point. Both Hamilton and Alonso said the same thing during the 2010-2013 era and Alonso even said, when Vettel moved to Ferrari after being beaten by RIC, that the coming years were going to define Vettel’s legacy in F1.

      Well, those years showed us that he can win a car that isn’t the best and that he can be very quick on his day, but it also showed us that he isn’t capable to win (2017 and especially 2018) in a car that’s there or thereabout, rather than a class above the field like in his RBR days. It also confirmed the critique that he isn’t exceptional in wheel-to-wheel racing and it showed us that Seb tends to crack under pressure. And that was with Kimi in his second career as his teammate… Now he does have a driver from that special tier as a teammate and it’s starting to show.

      1. When did he ever show that he can win in a “not best” car? That is not true at all, furthermore he has thrown away many wins with the best car.

        1. @megatron

          When did he ever show that he can win in a “not best” car?

          The Toro Rosso was nowhere near been the best car & he grabbed pole & won a race with it in 2008 & in wet conditions which tends to highlight driver skill above car performance. And it’s not as if the Ferrari was ‘the best’ car in 2015 either.

          And even in the best car you don’t win 4 world championships unless your one of the best drivers on the grid because you still need to be able to extract the maximum performance out of the car in various conditions & circumstances.

          1. @stefmeister There were 3 of those Red Bull cars in the top 4 after qualifying. He clearly DID have the best car for those circumstances too (Ferrari motor best for Monza and Red Bull chassis best for rain).

          2. Monza 2008 was basically a reverse grid F2 sprint race. Because of crazy conditions all the fast drivers were forced to start from the back. It’s been over 10 years and vettel has never repeated the feat, because it was luck. The stars aligned, he did nothing special. Hamilton has repeated his 2007 Fuji performance several times over, and even bettered it, not vettel.

            The 2008 STR was a RBR clone with a better engine. It was no slouch. It was not the best car on the grid, but the reality was that it was a lucky win born out of a myriad of special circumstances, similar to Button’s and Rosberg’s (both father and son) wdcs.

            Learn to recognize luck when you see it.

          3. F1oSaurus (@)
            4th September 2019, 6:39

            @megatron It wasn’t a reverse grid really. Only Hamilton and Raikkonen were unlucky in quali. That car (back then they had only one chassis for both teams) was just the best in those wet conditions and the version with the Ferrari engine was most suited for Monza.

            Hamilton almost won that race all the way from the back though.

        2. @megatron @stefmeister @f1osaurus

          I failed to say ‘able to win races when on his day, in a car that isn’t the absolute best’ However, he’s ‘not able to win a championship in a car that’s there or there about (i.e. with Mercedes in the 2017 and 18 seasons)’

  9. When did he ever show that he can win in a “not best” car? That is not true at all, furthermore he has thrown away many wins with the best car.

    1. His first win (for Toro Rosso in Monza) comes close.
      Then, the 2010 season; McLaren and Ferrari were as least as strong as Red Bull. Lewis had 4 retirements and was just 16 points short (Vettel had 3 retirements).

  10. It’s interesting that Vettel has never really looked comfortable since the start of the hybrid era. He’s had good seasons and not so good ones but he’s never really looked like winning the championship again.

    I think last year was his best opportunity and his poor racecraft and wheel-to-wheel racing seemed to let him down. He’s not really adjusted to this year’s car either so now he seems a bit off the pace.

    I fully expect he will be racing in 2020 but I think given another average season and he may just decide to walk away.

  11. Something I heard earlier this year was that a big part of Vettel’s problem this year is that the changes to the front wings as well as the specifics of the Ferrari design philosophy have taken away some of the feel for the front end of the car which is something Sebastian doesn’t like.

    Those who do sim racing will know what it can be like if your using a Force Feedback wheel when you have the effect settings too low & end up getting a rather vague & floaty feeling through the wheel. It can take a while to play around with those settings & dial it in to something that you like the feeling of & those settings are of course different for each person depending on how they like it to feel. And even if you come up with the perfect settings for one car you can then switch to a different one & find that they don’t feel right with that.

    It’s easy for fans to see things like a driver not liking a handling trait of a certain car or the way tires work & see it as a poor driver making excuses. But just like setting up your FFB settings each driver likes a different feel & if they are not getting the feel they want it can have a big impact & this can happen to the best drivers in the world just as it can the worst & can be a frustrating thing to deal with & figure out how to fix. It’s even harder with the lack of testing we have.

  12. What will you all say when Vettel win in Monza ?

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