Before the season began it didn’t seem likely Sebastian Vettel’s 15th full season in Formula 1 would be his last. But although the four-time world champion bade farewell to F1 with his only season without a podium, he also showed flashes of the brilliance that help him capture those titles.
As Formula 1 returned to Melbourne, Vettel reappeared in the paddock. But however eager he may have been to make up for lost time, his first weekend of the year was among the worst – arguably the worst – any driver had all season. As compromised as he was from a power unit problem robbing him of track time in practice, he did himself no favours crashing on his first timed lap in practice.
He only managed to get any lap in qualifying at all thanks to his team mate Lance Stroll causing the Aston Martin mechanics even more work to do by hitting Nicholas Latifi. Then on Sunday, Vettel threw away his team’s tireless efforts by running off track early in the race, then crashing out of it entirely laps later.
After the poorest possible start to the season, Vettel went a long way towards repaying his team in Imola. He put Aston Martin into Q3 for the first time in qualifying but sank down the order to 13th in the sprint race. But after navigating through a slightly chaotic start, Vettel drove hard to keep himself in contention for the points, eventually kicking off Aston Martin’s tally for the year with a well-deserved eighth place.
He should have scored again in Miami but after being forced to start from the pit lane due to a fuel technicality, he was on course for another top ten before an awkward clash with Mick Schumacher put paid to any hopes of that.
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Back-to-back points finishes around the street circuits of Monaco and Baku were vital in helping to keep Aston Martin’s constructors’ championship haul ticking over. The latter was an impressive sixth, scored after successfully completing a spin-turn out of an escape road while battling Esteban Ocon, then hunting the Alpine back down and finding a way past.
But then the driver who has amassed the fourth-highest collection of pole positions in history suffered a Saturday slump that saw him eliminated in F1 for three consecutive weekends – including being dead last at the Red Bull Ring after his final lap time was deleted for exceeding track limits. He still recovered to the points at Silverstone, but contact with Pierre Gasly left him fuming in Austria.
In Paul Ricard, Vettel’s biggest competition was his team mate. He qualified three places ahead but Stroll’s excellent start saw Vettel fall behind over the early laps. At the end of the race, Vettel chased down the second Aston Martin until the final lap, but Stroll parked his car on the apex of the final hairpin to deny Vettel from snatching the last available point in tenth.
If Vettel felt aggrieved by his team mate’s actions, he earned a retribution of sorts when his team allowed him to overtake Stroll in the later laps in Hungary so he could attack Ocon. But by the time they reached the chequered flag having failed to pass the Alpine, he was conveniently too far ahead to return the place to his team mate.
Despite Aston Martin’s AMR22 gradually getting faster as the season progressed, it seemed Vettel could not get out of Q1 no matter how hard he tried. He missed the cut by just two-thousandths of a second at Spa as Stroll went through, then went off the circuit at Zandvoort after hitting a patch of dirt which had been kicked onto the entry of the penultimate corner. In Monza loose bodywork hampered him further, although an ERS failure put an early end to his race.
But after that disappointing run, Aston Martin’s fortunes picked up quickly from around Singapore, the scene of Vettel’s final grand prix victory three years ago. He jumped five places at the start to run in the top ten and kept Lewis Hamilton at bay in the second half of the race, only losing seventh on the final lap to Max Verstappen.
At Suzuka, Vettel’s favourite track, he was mighty. He stormed into Q3 for the first time since Baku to start ninth, but misjudged the approach to turn one in the spray and spun, falling to the back. After the red flag ended, he immediately pitted for intermediates, which helped him gain ten places over the pack ahead. He held off his old sparring partner Fernando Alonso by just 0.011s to claim sixth place. That put Aston Martin in with a serious chance of overturning Alfa Romeo in the constructors’ championship, and of the two drivers it was Vettel who did most of the heavy lifting.
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Heading into the final races of his F1 career, Vettel was determined to bow out on a high. He put in a brilliant, fighting drive at the Circuit of the Americas, gaining five places on the opening lap but falling down to 13th after a painfully long pit stop. Despite the setback, Vettel worked his way back up the order before prevailing over Kevin Magnussen in a thrilling final lap duel to gain eighth at the flag.
Aston Martin struggled for pace in the high altitude in Mexico and were well out of the points, but fared better in Brazil. Once again, Vettel had to contend with some fairly robust defending from Stroll in the sprint race, but in the grand prix, he deserved better than he got when a late Safety Car left him vulnerable on his medium tyres, eventually being asked to let Stroll through into 10th – his debt from Hungary repaid.
Abu Dhabi was a fitting farewell deserving of one of the sport’s most successful drivers. Even on track, some of his rivals openly confessed they would be treating him kindly in the race to avoid ruining his final outing. With Aston Martin in with a modest chance of snatching sixth from Alfa Romeo, Vettel simply out-performed Stroll on all three days.
Vettel reached Q3 at the final attempt but his race was heavily compromised by a one-stop strategy which cost him several places by the time he emerged from the pit lane. He fought his way back to tenth place and was pressuring Daniel Ricciardo for ninth over the final laps, needed to only find a way past the McLaren to secure sixth for his team. Try as he might, he could not find a way by the McLaren, but still secured a point as he reached the chequered flag in his 299th and final grand prix of his career.
Although Vettel’s final year in Formula 1 was one of his weakest in terms of results, it was far from his worst from a driving standpoint. While his final two seasons at Aston Martin may not have offered as many opportunities to score big results than he would have wished for, he departs from the grid with his head held high, knowing that his remarkable record of achievements will always speak for themselves.
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23 comments on “2022 F1 driver rankings #7: Sebastian Vettel”
19th December 2022, 7:31
I know objectively there’s an argument that he’s far too high here but the Vettel fanboy in me is willing to overlook that and just be buzzing that he’s so high up in his final year :)
Besides, while inconsistent, his top moments were among the best performances of the season, I would argue – Imola was class, he was excellent in the race in the US, great start in Spa and Singapore to put himself in the points, fantastic qualifying laps in Monaco, Japan and Abu Dhabi. And then also his unrewarded drives – Miami he was admittedly behind Stroll most of the race but he made up 3 or 4 places on the safety car restart??!! (Still haven’t seen a single replay of that) then a double overtake on Mick and Ocon before the crash. Brazil as mentioned, he was on course for at least a point until they left him out on old tyres. The fact he was fighting Ocon early on in Abu Dhabi suggests P7 or 8 was on the cards before they left him out too late. Then the likes of Zandvoort were his fault for fluffing up (Q1 in that case) but it was clear his pace there was easily good enough for Q3.
I can’t pretend I’m impartial here (because I’m not) but he was outstanding at times and you can argue whether he should be behind the likes of Sainz and Perez, I’d say most would agree he bowed out on a high.
19th December 2022, 8:01
I think that by the end of the season, he got the hang of the car. Vettel probably now regrets that earlier in the season, when he kind of struggled, he decided to hang the racing boots.
19th December 2022, 9:14
I think it was the opposite, announcing his retirement lifted a burden that he had been feeling for a few years, and he could just enjoy driving again. And if you enjoy it, you do better.
19th December 2022, 8:09
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
19th December 2022, 8:24
Far too high in my opinion. On the Planet f1 forum, I ranked him 11th, and that is the position he was averaged out at with all 60 of the forums votes. If you compare him to Stroll, while he got a lot more points, he only finished in the points on two more occasions than Stroll. Stroll was nearly as consistent as Vettel and while he didn’t have as many stand out performances like vettel, I don’t think anything can justify Vettel being ranked 8 places ahead of him. I don’t think Vettel was a top 10 driver this season.
I voted Stroll 14th as despite some stupid mistakes, he did show some great pace at times as well. I mostly agree with Stroll’s ranking on this site of 15th, but Vettel’s is way too high.
19th December 2022, 10:20
Vettels quali gap was like 5 tenths faster when he was actually trying, in the 1st half and the last 3 qualis the gap was huge, it only looked closer because after he announced retirment he was slow in quali for 7 weekends straight.
19th December 2022, 12:33
I agree this is a few places too high. Seb’s overall performance was that of an okay midfielder this year.
19th December 2022, 15:04
@thegianthogweed Agreed, there seem to be various factors in play here to boost Vettel up. On average, both Aston Martin drivers finished 11th. There’s literally no difference.
In a team like Aston Martin hovering at the edge of the points, the points can be distorting. In their point scoring races, Vettel and Stroll were classified as, respectively: Imola 8th and 10th, Miami 17th and 10th, Monaco 10th and 14th, Azerbaijan 6th and 16th, Canada 12th and 10th, England 9th and 11th, France 11th and 10th, Hungary 10th and 11th, Belgium 8th and 11th, Netherlands 14th and 10th, Singapore 8th and 6th, Japan 6th and 12th, Texas 8th and DNF, Brazil 11th and 10th, Abu Dabi 10th and 8th.
If you take the Indycar point system (ignoring the laps Vettel led), they’d end up as 367 for Vettel and 377 for Stroll (or 342 in only the races where Vettel competed).
Azerbaijan and Japan were Vettel’s big ‘wins’ where he finished 10 and 6 places ahead of Stroll. I don’t think that’s quite enough to be ranked this high – especially since Stroll is considered to be all the way down in 15th.
20th December 2022, 6:45
Yes, agree vettel looks overrated in these rankings and stroll fair.
19th December 2022, 8:53
A polite high ranking given his retirement? It seems a lot of people started to like him towards the end and he therefore ends his career on a high in terms of likeability. I was not impressed by him during his career, skill wise and behavior wise. He seems to have evolved into a more likeable character through the years though.
19th December 2022, 10:21
I actually have a theory that most of the dislike for him besides jealousy for his success was being part of the Red Bull environment at the start of his career. The pandering of the Red Bull leadership towards their first chosen son where they could see no wrong with him I think made people dislike him by association. I think Verstappen is suffering the same now with Horner and Marko’s blind favour.
19th December 2022, 11:32
Maybe. Could also be him getting older and wiser. But I think it is more the growing into a phase where a person is capable of self reflection, which is somewhat related to age I guess..although there are also some older drivers that cant seem to achieve such perspective yet.
19th December 2022, 12:47
It was simply because he was a German, beating a bunch of Brits (and honorary Brits).
20th December 2022, 7:55
I think during Red Bull era Vettel was the most hated driver in let’s say so former British Empire countries, mainly in the United Kingdom because of Hamilton and Button and Australia because of Webber. Then of course in Spain (Alonso) and Italy (Ferrari, also the team with the biggest support in the world). Also he was really hated in Poland, Poles generally don’t like Germans, but the hate really started from Australia 2009 when Vettel collided with their national hero Kubica. Don’t know about France, do they calmly enjoy success of German drivers? So basically if we talk about Europe (historically the main fanbase of F1) Vettel wasn’t really popular. He just crossed the way of too many participants. It’s funny because everybody liked that little Bubi-Schumi Vettel, at least until he overtook Hamilton in Brazil 2008 almost ruining Lewis championship.
19th December 2022, 12:07
He missed out on at least one WDC title when he succumbed to the “red mist” and assorted judgement errors.
We now know that Ferrari were doing engine cheats, but he had the car he had and Hamilton had the car he had and the Ferrari was faster and Vettel still lost – because of his mistakes.
Sort of sad that when he got to the calmer state of mind, he no longer had the car for the job.
20th December 2022, 6:48
Honestly, while I agree with the rest of the comment, I think vettel only did well BECAUSE the pressure was off and if you gave him another season with a title contender he’d probably crumble again, especially against drivers like hamilton or verstappen; when vettel won his titles he had a significant car advantage, at least in 2 of those seasons.
19th December 2022, 10:14
Probably 3 places too high for me but the mid rankings are always the hardest to pick as often unless you follow those drivers they get forgotten without a few big results.
19th December 2022, 11:02
Surprisingly high ranking for him.
19th December 2022, 12:23
Several places too high for me; I’m not convinced he performed above Sainz and Perez in the second half of the year and was 14th ranked at the mid point. I think this is a generous placing due to his retirement.
Stroll and Vettel retired 3 times each and Seb missed the first 2 rounds. In the races they both finished Seb was ahead 8-6. In qualifying both ended up out in q1 10 times with Seb making q3 5 times to Stroll’s 3.
In the last 8 races, both cars finished 6 times with Stroll ahead 4 and finishing 15th to Vettel’s 14th in Mexico. The other race was Japan where he made an error at the start and benefitted from the red flag. A good drive but with a caveat. When Stroll crashed in COTA he was directly behind Vettel.
Given Stroll was correctly marked so lowly in these rankings – 15th with a couple of drivers with horror shows below him, I’m not inclined to agree Vettel performed well above the car as this infers.
19th December 2022, 13:37
I understand why people think he’s ranked a little high… but I think it’s about fair. There’s no way I would place Sainz or Perez higher than him, as they both underperformed massively. They were only quicker than their teammates in 3 to 4 race weekends in the entire year. Perez couldn’t even seal P2.. which is the least that would be expected by the 2nd Red Bull driver. Sainz didn’t win a race on merit in the entire season (British GP wasnt on merit.. he was lucky) .
Ocon wouldn’t be rated higher for sure.. because he had zero highs. Bottas might be a contender.. but I though Vettel was stronger than Bottas from the mid point of the season.
It’s almost like Vettel got #7 by default as a lot of drivers ranked #12 to #8 underperformed, while he didn’t as much.
20th December 2022, 6:57
Beating verstappen or leclerc a few races a year is not the same as beating stroll as many times, as in there’s a difference of weight depending on the team mate, it’s not just about beating\destroying or losing to your team mate.
But it’s a good point, he might be 7th not cause of his merits but cause some drivers with significantly better cars were worse, I think perez and sainz 9th and 10th would be fair (and not far from these rankings) for the season they had, so someone has to be 8th and 7th, apart from the obvious top 6 that should be verstappen, leclerc, norris, hamilton, russell, alonso in some order.
19th December 2022, 14:41
Vettel’s season in a nutshell : “oh, c’mon, so close!” after being knocked out at Q1 again.
Should be at the top 10, 7 is too high.
A simpathy vote here, it seems.
19th December 2022, 15:24
Vettel splitted the two Alpines many times this year. Including the very last race.
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