Ahead of his final race as a Ferrari driver tomorrow, Sebastian Vettel gave insight into why they were unable to win the world championship over their six years together.
But as he prepares to the leave the team after six seasons without a world title, Vettel admits they have “failed” in their objective, and sees no reason to sugar-coat his words.
“It still doesn’t change anything. We’ve still failed. We had the ambition and target to win the championship and we didn’t. So I think it’s just an honest reflection, I don’t think saying it out loud changes anything.
Mercedes’ domination of the championship during the V6 hybrid turbo era has been unbroken despite the best efforts of Ferrari and Vettel.
“Probably we were up against a very strong team-driver combination, one of the strongest we’ve seen so far,” he said. “But our goal was to be stronger than that and in this regard, we have failed.”
“There are reasons for it. We’ve had good races, bad races. We’ve got close, sometimes we were far away. So there’s a lot of reasons why.”
Vettel came closest to winning the championship with Ferrari in 2017 and 2018. He led the points standings early in both years but was overhauled by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at mid-season.
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Vettel’s crash out of the lead on home ground at the Hockenheimring in 2018 was particularly damaging to his title chances that year. Hamilton was eight points behind him before the race, but left with a 17-point lead having won from 14th on the grid.
“For sure, in terms of momentum in that year it wasn’t helping,” Vettel admitted. “The mistake was a little mistake, but a huge outcome and a huge penalty.”
However he described his time at Ferrari as a “rollercoaster ride” of ups and downs such as this. “There were definitely more things happening,” he said.
One example Vettel gave was the sudden death of Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne the same year. His replacement Louis Carey Camilleri – who himself retired two days ago – instigated changes in the race team, including the replacement of team principal Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto at the beginning of 2019.
“In the ’18 season, obviously we had the passing of Mr Marchionne and the change in leadership from Maurizio to Mattia,” said Vettel. “So maybe the ’18 year was a decisive year for many things. But I don’t know if you can really break it down to only one thing.”
He also pointed to the departure of technical director James Allison, following the unexpected death of his wife, Rebecca. Allison later joined rivals Mercedes.
Ahead of his move to Racing Point next year, in time for its rebranding as Aston Martin, Vettel said he intends to take the lessons he has learned from his six years at the Scuderia.
“Everything that happened, happened for a reason,” he said. “The main thing on my side is to make sure that I learn from it. I think I have grown with it.
“Some were moments on the track, like in Hockenheim, other moments were off the track. Overall, I think I feel much more comfortable or in a better place now than those years ago.
“But certainly, at the time, it hasn’t always been been easy and straightforward.”
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