Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

‘I should have done a better job. There’s things that I know I can do better’

Sebastian Vettel driver performance analysis

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Sebastian Vettel’s fifth season with Ferrari was undoubtedly a disappointment. But was it really as bad as some have made out?

Vettel’s failure to out-score new team mate Charles Leclerc prompted many to wonder whether his days at Ferrari are now numbered. But it’s true that the pair were often quite closely matched on performance, and Leclerc benefited from hitting his stride in the second part of the season, when Ferrari’s car was at its best.

There’s no disguising the fact Vettel’s campaign was marred by a series of costly errors. A spin in Bahrain, collision with Max Verstappen at Silverstone and another spin at Monza were just a few of the opportunities missed.

Vettel seemed to be alluding to these moments at the end of the season when he reflected on his performance.

“I feel like I’ve always done all I can do,” he said. “I have been around for long enough and I’m honest enough to admit that I should have done a better job.

“I know that there’s more from my side. Clearly I look at myself first, address all the points that I feel need to addressed in myself. There’s things I can do better that I know I can do better. That’s the first thing I look at and obviously try to improve that next year.”

Qualifying: Lap time

The lower the lines, the better the driver performed

Ferrari’s season got off to a disappointing start. They looked in good shape after pre-season testing, but started the year behind Mercedes. Vettel was the team’s benchmark driver at first – Leclerc’s pole in Bahrain was the only time Vettel started behind his team mate over the first seven races.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2019
Vettel was denied a likely win in Canada
The pendulum swung after the Canadian Grand Prix – a race which was a body-blow for Vettel, as a late error incurred a penalty which handed victory to Lewis Hamilton. After that Leclerc raised his game in qualifying, and Vettel started behind him at the next nine rounds.

It was to be expected that Leclerc would find more lap time as he grew more familiar not just with the car but with the complexities of working at a far bigger team than the one he was used to. But it also seemed that as Ferrari developed the car it suited Vettel less well.

Vettel would only speak about his performance in broad terms, and insisted that he had the potential to turn it around. That appeared to have been borne out by the end of the season, when he and Leclerc were more closely matched over the final five races.

“I don’t think there’s rocket science to be changed,” said Vettel. “It’s always in the details, small adjustments, nothing big or major. I don’t need to drive differently, I know how to drive.

“Obviously we all work together, trying to improve the car to make it faster for both of us. As I mentioned before you always look at yourself. For sure I’m not doing the same stuff that I was 10 years ago. And I think that certainly here and there, there’s things you always feel you can improve in.”

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Race: Start versus finish

The Mercedes drivers built up a strong lead over the first part of the season while Ferrari tried to understand why they were not as competitive as they expected to be.

“As a whole, as a team we didn’t find ourselves as competitive as we want,” said Vettel. “I think we spent the first half of the year trying to really understand where we were lacking performance together, trying to really be precise, finding answers what the car is missing and so on, trying a lot of things here and there.”

That paid off after the summer break, but it took Vettel until Singapore to score what proved his only win of the year, and in somewhat controversial circumstances. Leclerc took two wins in Belgium and Italy, but the pair could also consider Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Canada, Austria, Germany, Russia, Japan and Mexico all examples of realistic opportunities to win which passed them by.

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Race: Share of points

Race: Results versus other drivers

It’s five years since Vettel embarked on his first season for Ferrari having left Red Bull. He remains by far the most successful product of Red Bull’s junior team.

Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019
Leclerc is a threat to Vettel’s status at Ferrari
Helmut Marko, who enthusiastically promoted Vettel’s rise, offered an interesting perspective on why he hasn’t yet replicated at Ferrari the kind of success he enjoyed at Red Bull in a recent interview for Motorsport-Magazin.

“In the car he has a certain driving style,” said Marko, “one that is his optimal performance, but he needs a certain [car] characteristic and I also believe that he needs a certain amount of support in the team.

“Sebastian is a very straightforward athlete who doesn’t care much about politics, and who doesn’t want to fight for it. Of course, Leclerc also has an advantage with his manager [Nicolas] Todt, who is certainly very good in all these areas.

“Thus he has to counter this situation with [good] performances. The question, though, is: Will he react accordingly?”

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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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  • 25 comments on “‘I should have done a better job. There’s things that I know I can do better’”

    1. Get out there and give ‘er, Seb. Have a stellar season and get yourself back on track, pun intended.

    2. I love how Seb thinks.

      But when the hammer drops, he is alongside Leclerc in to turn 7, or better yet Verstappen or somebody else in a fast car with nothing to loose, we will see what happens.

      I still really like this introspection, constant improvement, honesty with oneself. There is no coincidence he won those many championships.

      Whatever he is doing for the last 4 years is not good enough, to be the best in the world. That is what it will take.

      1. I still really like this introspection, constant improvement, honesty with oneself. There is no coincidence he won those many championships.

        Trouble is it takes him a long time to get to that point. In the immediate aftermath of his litany of errors over the last few years he has been sullen and in denial.

      2. I still really like this introspection, constant improvement, honesty with oneself.

        Yeah, like when he called Webber crazy after Turkey 2010, called Karthikayan a cucumber after Vettel crashed into him in Malaysia, Blamed Hamilton in Baku for brake checking him. Threatened to run over stewards in Brazil, blamed them for going too slow after he hit the cone and wouldn’t shut off the car then destroyed the scales. What about his tantrum in Canada this year? Has he apologized or even admitted guilt for crashing into LEC in Brazil?

        There is no introspection, honesty or improvement with Vettel, just more spins and crashes.

      3. But when the hammer drops, he is alongside Leclerc in to turn 7, or better yet Verstappen or somebody else in a fast car with nothing to loose, we will see what happens.

        What are you talking about? We HAVE seen, multiple times, what happens. SEB spins…..

      4. In one way being fearless and not giving an inch type of driving style in f1 is a really good thing to have. Say you were going into eau rouge side by side with bottas, verstappen or vettel. In which case you would back off? For sure you wouldn’t back off if it was bottas. He is quick but he drives too fairly for f1. He’ll give way to avoid an accident. Verstappen on the other hand you know will challenge you through the corner and not give you anything for free. If you crash you crash. But there is method to the madness. It is cold and calculated move, most of the time.

        Vettel is somewhat different. He is unpredictable. You may be ahead, in a faster car, faster tires but vettel has got it in his head that losing that position is not an acceptable outcome for him. Like with grosjean you never quite know what to expect. With drivers like verstappen, ricciardo, bottas and even magnussen you know what you are getting into. If car contact happens it happens. But with grosjean and vettel it can be that they give you the position or they go for a gap that is totally not there. You can quite never know or prepare. There is no calculated or even cold. It is just what happens to be his reaction in that moment.

        Being fearless and not giving an inch is excellent quality for f1 driver but not enough. What f1 needs even more is thought and that cold and calculated thinking. When to go all in and when not. Vettel needs to get in control and not let his emotions run over him in these moments. He needs to analyze things and not commit into doing things that are just totally the wrong thing to do. Like in brazil. That move against team mate? Never ever should that have happened. But if it was championship fight? Extreme for sure but from his point of view justifiable even if it is against the rules. This is what leclerc did in monza 2019. He knew he was on ferrari territory and he knew the stewards are little feeble minded. He knew he could push over the rules and get away with it. Cold and calculated. Vettel on the other hand in 2018 got overtaken and spinned himself out of the race. Clumsy and misjudged.

    3. Certainly no great fan of Vettel’s talents on track but I do respect the man’s character off it and have a feeling he will be resurgent this year given where the Ferrari was at towards the end of the season and the stable regs. Another regular challenger in the mix is only good news for the sport!

    4. I still think Vettel at his best is up there with Hamilton’s level. But recently, he hasn’t been there anything like as often or consistently as Hamilton. The think I notice though over the last few years, is Vettel rarely seems to lack pace, it is just his mistakes that is the problem. In the last few years with Hamilton, there have been very few, but some noticeable races where his pace was well off, Russia 2017 for example. Vettel doesn’t seem to have these, but instead, has incidents and has been having them more and more often from 2016 to now. He was overall extremely good in his championship years, but didn’t adapt well to the big change in 2014, which in a way will have been as much of a change for Vettel as it was for Ricciardo. But once he moved team the following year, he seemed to find his form. If the car suits him perfectly, I think vettel is pretty much as good as Hamilton, but if it isn’t perfectly to his liking, he does seem to struggle. But 2015 I think he was better than everyone, and I had to agree with him being 1st in the driver rankings on this site too.

      Leclerc seems more comfortable with the car than Vettel, especially over 1 lap. But in terms of race pace, I still think Vettel looks better on the long run, but if Leclerc improves and Vettel doesn’t cut down on his mistakes, leclerc will beat him again. But I can see it going either way, but when I voted, I went with Vettel. But he will have to be comfortable with the car to beat Leclerc I think.

      1. @thegianthogweed Fair comment. As I read your comments what came to my mind is that as you highlight his inconsistency vs LH, or his mistakes and not so much his pace being off relative to CL, let’s remember he still has not had a WCC car in the hybrid era. Yeah of course some argue it has been faster but that has depended on where and when one is talking about, and overall they have not had the WCC car nor the consistency within the car nor the team to perform at WDC level. Of course SV and CL have a hand in that too, but I just think there is a reality for SV that lies somewhere between the venomous rhetoric one can read here on this site that has him unworthy of anything but number two status, and having an actual season long WCC level car and being able to use that to succeed. In other words, I lay some of the issues for some of SV’s incidences on having to play catch up against an LH that has had a 6 year and counting run with the WCC car that has him too strong too often, even for the guy in the other WCC Mercedes.

        Your last paragraph I would just reword it a bit to read Leclerc ‘seemed’ more comfortable with the car…ie. let’s see what happens this year, as you have said. For sure SV needs to be comfortable in the car. That is normal for all drivers all the time, and nobody is more comfortable than LH in the car that is practically surgically attached to him by now. I expect more of everyone playing catch-up to LH again this year, but hope I am wrong, and hope like many that at least it is a closer season than Mercedes running away at the start of the season again. But that’s the benchmark, and that makes the behaviour the likes of what SV et al has to do different than an LH who more often does not have to scramble against his teammate while having to catch the leader, and thus having to take some risks.

      2. @thegianthogweed)

        In the last few years with Hamilton, there have been very few, but some noticeable races where his pace was well off, Russia 2017 for example. Vettel doesn’t seem to have these, but instead, has incidents and has been having them more and more often from 2016 to now

        Vettel has races when he’s been “off-pace” e.g. GB 2017, Bahrain 2019 etc There was a couple in 2018 too.

        Re 2015, Vettel was good (only year since he joined Ferrari that’s been good) but i’d go with the team bosses vote as Hamilton being the best in 2015. He was relentless in 2015. But i can understand people putting Vettel first.

    5. Always been a clown and a fraud. The progenitor of the crash kids, Grosjean and Maldonado proudly walked in his footsteps, and now Verstappen. Put a fork in him, he is done. Ferrari would be foolish to put their Hope’s or another penny in Vettel. LEC is Ferrari’s future.

      1. Could you ban this lunatic, please?

        1. Yes, they should definitely give Vettel at least a 1 race ban for constantly crashing into competitors.

          1. I thought this site got rid of such trolls..

            1. Nope, “pironi” has been trolling here a long time.

              Look at the clowns who instead of refuting my claims with a logical retort, just cry and call names.

        2. If they ban Megantron, then only fair they ban BigJoe who trolls Hamilton articles with a lot of negative rubbish

    6. Vettel could be the new Raikkonen at Ferrari, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    7. Always been a Seb fan, there is no doubt he will go down as one of the greats with 4 consecutive WDC titles and 4 consecutive WCC titles. That said, and it pains me to admit, Hamilton is the better overall driver. Vettel needs the car to be developed and set up just so. When it is (as it was at RBR) he is devastatingly quick…quicker than Hamilton even. However, when the car is not in that narrow window, he struggles…and then he gets frustrated…and then he makes mistakes. Hamilton seems to be better able to drive around set up issues and car issues and still extract the performance he needs. This is the main reason I think the return of the Vettel/Red Bull team would be beneficial for both, though it’s unlikely to happen as RBR have placed all their eggs in the Verstappen basket. The question is, can Ferrari make the Vettel car, or will they make the Leclerc car, or will they make the Winter Testing car that falls down in the regular season…again?

      1. American F1 Yeah fair comment. The way you have described LH…wouldn’t we have said that of SV when he was engrained with his 4 year straight WCC car? Having the WCC car is a necessity to WDC. So it’s interesting you ponder a return for him to RBR. Personally I could see it. I don’t think he’d beat Max, but he sure would be a strong second to him, and I don’t mean by team order, but just naturally. They’d make a hugely strong pairing unquestionably, but SV would have to consign himself to going into the lion’s den if he were to somehow end up back there.

    8. Hoping that the 2020 Ferrari has a planted rear end and Seb can get back on it. Webber used to beat him when the RB’s rear wasn’t stuck, and the low-downforce 2019 car didn’t particularly suit his style.

    9. Seb just needs to stop over-driving, then he’ll not be at such a high risk of errors and have more confidence in the car when the key moments arise.

      1. @scottie

        He’s not over-driving though. If he was .. he would be blindingly quick but error prone. He’s got average pace for a front runner and is error prone.

    10. Sebs a decent guy through and through, and a match for the likes of Verstap and Ham on his day.
      He just needs a car that’s consistently performing, like the Merc, because most of his mistakes come from the frustration of trying to overdrive and make up the difference. An issue the dominant Merc drivers don’t need to suffer with.

      1. He just needs a car that’s consistently performing, like the Merc, because most of his mistakes come from the frustration of trying to overdrive and make up the difference.

        I resent this excuse. Even drivers like Hamilton and Alonso have driven less than perfect cars without spinning and crashing like a bunch of amateurs. They needed to compensate as well for the machinery deficit, but they manage it with ease. Look at Alonso’s 2010 and 2012 championship challenge as a perfect example of how a car that isn’t anywhere close to the leading team can still be in a championship hunt. Honestly, I don’t think Vettel can maximise a car’s performance the same way Hamilton and Alonso can, and it shows in his constant spins, crashes and underperforming stats.

      2. He just needs a car that’s consistently performing, like the Merc, because most of his mistakes come from the frustration of trying to overdrive and make up the difference

        So what happened in 2017 & 2018 when his cars were on par with the Mercs? Imo, & in the opinion of many in the paddock, Vettel had the best car in 2018 yet spun like a top & made mistake after mistake.

        Getting really tired if this excuse

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