Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2018

Vettel: Hockenheim 2018 error wasn’t only turning point in relationship with Ferrari

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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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.

Vettel joined the team in 2015 having won four titles with Red Bull. The new partnership began promisingly, as he finished on the podium in his first race for Ferrari and won his second.

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.

Maurizio Arrivabene, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Arrivabene was replaced by Binotto after 2018
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.

Allison was still at Ferrari when Vettel arrived
“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.

“We obviously, in 2016, parted ways with James because of personal conflicts at the time,” said Vettel. “I think, looking back, there were a lot of things that we should have and could have done better.”

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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2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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33 comments on “Vettel: Hockenheim 2018 error wasn’t only turning point in relationship with Ferrari”

  1. Vettel is niw a real hermit, poping Wisdom everywhere.

    Ferrari in the end were not fast enough as a team, starting and ending with the driver.

    Some say Ferrari had the fastest car, but Mercedes had a more consistent driver, better strategy, more reliable pit crew, and a chassis, that derived laptime.

    Ferrari had fake speed that came from a loopholed engine. Good luck with that.

    1. @jureo Well they took 1-2 finishes at Monaco and Hungary and could have done the same in Singapore in 2017. Pretty sure you need more than just a loopholed engine to be quicker than Mercedes on ultra-high downforce tracks like those.

    2. Ferrari would have won 2018 with other drivers on the grid, period.

      1. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
        12th December 2020, 10:37

        I love how you pretend your opinion is some kind of fact.

        1. It’s a fact that Vettel wins 2018 if he made no errors in the races.

          1. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
            12th December 2020, 13:04

            That is not really how facts work…

        2. He’s right though. Hamilton and Alonso win 2018 easily in the Ferrari.

          Don’t cry about it.

          1. Hamilton, alonso and peak schumacher ofc, and from what verstappen showed lately he should win it as well, 2018 was the beginning of the end for vettel, he drove pretty well till hockenheim around 2\3 of the race, then disaster.

        3. Some say its an homage to Clarkson

        4. Some say it’s an homage to Clarkson

    3. (@jureo)
      “Ferrari had fake speed that came from a loopholed engine. Good luck with that” – 2019 yes. Till 2018 not indeed (or did they switch speed trick some races yes and others no?)

      1. Indeed they had it from mid 2018 onwards and i wouldn’t call it loophole, i call it cheating. The whole private agreement and the “imposing of change” were quite telling

  2. As others have said in the past, one must wonder when did Ferrari start its use of the power unit that had to be regulated after 2019. I think that started by mid 2017 at least, or in my view, I started to notice Ferrari’s qualifying pace by Canada that year. However, if that was the case, one could also argue that they should have had the pace to challenge Mercedes at Monza. As such, 2018 appears to be clear evidence of Ferrari’s increase in engine power, with 2019 taken to another level, but perhaps enhanced by the car’s low drag design.

  3. His narrative points to two things, stability and pressure. Ferrari had opportunities but didn’t capitalise on them, crashing out both cars on the opening lap in Singapore didn’t help, deliberately crashing into Hamilton under safety car conditions didn’t help.

    However, Hamilton and Mercedes were never going to make it easy.

    1. @icarby

      However, Hamilton and Mercedes were never going to make it easy.

      – IMHO, ‘17 and ‘18 were the most difficult seasons for Mercedes and Lewis was the differentiator between them and Ferrari. The consistency and relentless nature of some of his drives sometimes were nothing short of magical, e.g. when he dragged that Mercedes onto pole in Singapore and left the entire paddock speechless. That was when he earned his 50m.

      1. I would say this only holds in 2018, when you factor into hamilton’s slow races in 2017 such as russia or china and vettel’s mistakes you will find they performed similarly, however in 2018 not only hamilton corrected these issues and performed well even when he couldn’t win due to a slightly inferior car, but vettel got worse and made faaaaaaaaar more mistakes.

  4. Of course, a 6 year failure is never down to one race one point one person. It is always multiple things going wrong.

    However, if one is forced to pin point just one and only one reason for the failure, the fingers have to be pointed to Vettel.

    He had the faster car (even if illegal), choice of strategy in almost all races, the team behind him but he just spun and spun and spun and kept getting involved in clashes.

    Honestly, I don’t expect anything better at Aston Martin. All it takes is one spin and you know this is the same old Seb is back.

    One of the most telling (but not often reported by commentators) moments of 2019 season was the spin while battling Hamilton during the Bahrain GP. Here was a driver hoping to put behind the spin and crashes of 2018 but just in the 2nd race, he made the mistake again. You should have heard his ‘aaargh’ on the radio. You can almost make out the gut wrenching realization that nothing has changed since 2018. (https://youtu.be/Cm_U-loJWf4)

  5. Singapore 2017, Hockenheim 2018, Japan 2018, Italy 2019, Brazil 2019…all of these.

  6. There has become a tendency to frame drivers leaving teams as protracted bitter divorces, where either the employee or the employer are to blame. Concerning Ferrari, this is almost always the case. But looking back at the Scuderia’s most recent high profile failures – Alonso and Vettel – I have to wonder if it was a case of ‘someone has to lose’. Both were pitted against teams who had incredible dominance in almost all areas, earned by impressive recruitment, control and management. Ferrari, for both drivers, gave them 2 title shots in 5 years and will be remembered as the primary challengers of each era. I have to conclude that both partnerships reached their natural conclusions. How many drivers in Ferrari history have raced for 5 or more consecutive seasons without the title? It was clear to me from early 2019 that the one driver philosophy of Ferrari would evict Vettel, simply because he had missed his chances.

    Vettel was at pains to express how much he enjoyed the privilege to drive for Ferrari in his first few years. But Mexico 2016, with the Charlie radio rant, suggested to me that there was tension behind the scenes. That perhaps he’d realised how big a job this was going to be and that 3 seasons away from the title was eating at him. That anger boiled over again in Baku. It was difficult to imagine Hamilton acting in the same way. Singapore 2017 is a racing incident for me; Vettel could perhaps have been more circumspect, but it’s easy to say that after the fact. There’s no doubt that the spark plug issue in Japan halted the title charge completely. With all the off track politics, 2018 felt make or break and I think Vettel new that too. His capitulation from then on has been sad to see – on his day he’s still one of the best ever, but I fear I needs to resurrect his form at Aston to not be remembered as a Villeneuve 2.0.

    1. There has become a tendency to frame drivers leaving teams as protracted bitter divorces, where either the employee or the employer are to blame.

      Really? I think it’s fair to describe Vettel’s move as that, but what about the other moves?

      Sainz loves McLaren
      Riccardo sees opportunity at McLaren
      Magnussen and Grosjean aren’t leaving Haas under any sort of cloud
      Perez is leaving not because of a relationship breakdown.
      There was no bitterness about Hulkenberg leaving

      The list goes on. Most driver/team breakups are a result of driver availability and just reaching the end of a contract. There are few implosions in relationships implied anywhere.

      1. @mouse_nightshirt I think there is a difference between drivers capitalising on the big team openings and the jobs where second place is failure. I agree that there is no animosity between the drivers in your list but they are all moving on either to a better job or have reached the natural conclusion of the partnership where everything has been explored and fresh impetuous is required.

        My comments on the protracted nature of divorces surrounds the big team moves:
        Alonso Ferrari
        Ricciardo Red Bull
        Hamilton McLaren
        Renault Red Bull
        Kyvat and Gasly Red Bull

        I feel in previous seasons driver moves such as Alonso leaving Renault or Raikkonen McLaren were reflected on as new opportunities whereas recent break ups have felt rather bitter. Perhaps that is rose tinted spectacles, Alonso had a part shot at Renault and I doubt Schumi was delighted about his forced retirement in private. But I felt they were perceived differently by the fans.

      2. In taste test order: Magnussen & Grosjean accepted – they know the score.
        Maclaren are apparently happy to swap Sainz with Ricciardo – and the drivers are OK with it (both with reservations as the season unfolded, probably particularly Sainz. So not bitter).
        Hulkenberg dropped by Renault was quite devastating from the driver’s side – and I think Abiteboul’s comments when Ricciardo dropped the bombshell succintly attest to the team side too. Ricciardo has (quite successfully) done his utmost, by performance and persona, to smooth the waters but that water must tang taint to Cyril.
        Kyvat and Gasly are utterly unsatisfied. Danyl is gone and Pierre is surely focussed on exit strategy.
        Do you think Perez will be sending Papa Stroll a Xmas card?

    2. @rbalonso
      The difference between Alonso and Vettel is that Fernando was able to mount a championship challenge to the last race of the season in arguably the 3rd fastest car and sometimes even worse at some part of the season while Vettel couldn’t make it last to the end of the season despite having a decent car in 2017 that lacked BHP and high speed aero compared to the Mercedes but was a downforce monster that year with its novel sidepods design and in 2018 with arguably the best all around car which was equally fast with the Mercedes depending on the track with the exception of the 3 races that fallowed Monza when the new upgrade package didn’t work. A semi retired Raikkonen was able to score a win with that car.

      Instead, Vettel kept failing and spinning every time he saw Hamilton in his mirrors. He wasn’t able to give him a proper championship challenge. Alonso on the other hand was trying every trick in the book and some more using everything available and being opportunistic at every race with the strategy, tyres, rain, sometimes even mind games… Apart from Monza 2010, I can’t think of any race Alonso won with Ferrari that was down to the pure pace of the car. It was always down to extraordinary circumstances, i.e. rivals being affected with reliability/errors, strategy, rain…

      It’s true that both were up great competitions from RBR & Mercedes. However, in Vettel’s case, he could have done much better than he did especially in 2017 and 2018. In fact, if he drove like he did in 2015 which is in my opinion his best season with Ferrari, the WDC outcome might have been very different.

      How many drivers in Ferrari history have raced for 5 or more consecutive seasons without the title?

      Alesi, Massa, Raikkonen (2nd stint), Barrichelo

      1. @tifoso1989 For the most part I agree with you but I think there are a few factors which make direct comparisons harsh. Firstly, Alonso and Vettel share very few attributes – Vettel’s success can be largely defined as Pole on the Saturday and build a DRS gap in the opening laps to control the race which is difficult when you don’t have the outright best car. Alonso has always had superior racecraft and ability to manage traffic and progress through a race, which ‘improves’ poor cars. So during the 2010-2013 period I can hardly think of time when they shared the front row – Singapore 2010 where Alonso won being an exception. Secondly, the Red Bull era also had McLaren as a competitive third team which could take points away on a Ferrari off day. In 2017 for example, had Red Bull been able to fight Mercedes more regularly on their off days it might have been different.

        So whilst I think Alonso did an incredible job at Ferrari, I think Vettel had strong seasons in 2015 and 2017. After mid 2018 Vettel has been a mess there’s no doubt, but in 2017 without Singapore and Japan Vettel was right in the hunt for the title. Alonso did make crucial errors in 2010 – Melbourne start, the jump start in China, the practice crash in Monaco, the spin at Spa. Also, for all the races he won, Massa was on the podium, so the car had potential on it’s day.

        With regard to the drivers you mention that have been at Ferrari for more than 5 years – Alesi was there with no title chance and the others were de facto number 2 drivers who dutifully played the supporting role. My point is that if you expect to be the Ferrari challenger you don’t get multiple title attempts. They expect you to win within 5 years then dispense with you and from that point of view the writing was on the wall for Vettel from Bahrain 2019.

      2. Tifoso, totally agree, it’s baffling some people don’t see that, if 2 drivers fail to win a title you can’t label both as bad drivers, it’s about the circumstances, and yes, vettel drove well in 2015, it might’ve been enough indeed with the 2018 ferrari, but also any alonso season would’ve been enough!

    3. I disagree with the villeneuve 2.0! Villeneuve, and I say this as a schumacher fan (villeneuve and schumacher hated each other), kept his performance up from the start where he joined with a dominant car and was competitive with damon hill, till the end, it was just the car being horrible, mathematical models confirm that, just as alonso did.

      One thing is when the driver gets worse, say vettel or raikkonen, another is when the car does!

  7. There has become a tendency to frame drivers leaving teams as protracted bitter divorces, where either the employee or the employer are to blame.

    Really? I think it’s fair to describe Vettel’s move as that, but what about the other moves?

    Sainz loves McLaren
    Riccardo sees opportunity at McLaren
    Magnussen and Grosjean aren’t leaving Haas under any sort of cloud
    Perez is leaving not because of a relationship breakdown.
    There was no bitterness about Hulkenberg leaving

    The list goes on. Most driver/team breakups are a result of driver availability and just reaching the end of a contract. There are few implosions in relationships implied anywhere.

  8. I hope he can bow out with garce after a last stint with Aston Martin. I think he would be quite capable in a managerial role in an F1 team once he retires.

  9. The day they changed Arrivabene all went to the mud. Camilleri’s management has been awful, and he knows it, thats why he abandoned the boat like a rat

  10. People seem to be forgetting the fact that Ferrari has been declining for years and I don’t think any of that blame can be pinned on Vettel. The expectations and ptessuyhas gone up while the performance in the car has gone down.

    I bet that team is about the most toxic workplace in existence.

  11. Racefans finds it shocking that Vettel’s one driving mistake was not the reason for the breakdown between the driver and team, sigh..

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