FERRARI HAVE ABANDONED SEBASTIAN VETTEL
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Ferrari has a future world champion in Leclerc, but they need to remember they already have a four-time world champion, too.
In a post-race stream after the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, Lando Norris continuously referred to the red forklifts being used by teams to pack as ”Ferraris”. A cheap shot, perhaps, but a revealing one nevertheless.
The 20-year-old McLaren driver has repeatedly defended the Italian team this year, stating that they’re not as slow as people think. After this weekend, though, not even Norris could deny that the team are seriously struggling. The SF1000 displayed a clear lack of pace from the start of the reset, and although Charles Leclerc has reached the podium a few times this year, they’ve consistently been off the pace of multiple midfield teams across weekends. They also had an embarrassing collision at the start of the Styrian Grand Prix, which really raised eyebrows.
It’s clear, though, that Vettel seems to be struggling more with the car, and it’s not like he’s slow or inexperienced. The four-time world champion also struggled in 2019, but this season, he’s scored only 10 points over 5 races (only 4 more than Nico Hülkenberg’s score over one race) meaning he’s averaged 9th place.
Something’s not right.
An interview circulated on social media this week of the German driver gushing about his new team Ferrari: it’s frankly devastating, and a stark contrast to the deafening silence of his radio after Sunday’s race, or his blunt comments to his engineer after they pitted him on the 10th lap.
Ferrari’s strategic errors have been the subject of many jokes so far this year, but last week’s were less entertaining, more heart-breaking. He pitted off of the hard tyre on just lap 10, whilst his teammate was one of three drivers who managed a one-stop.
Mattia Binotto insisted that Vettel’s poor performance was due to a spin on the first lap, but as Vettel himself defended, he might well have been able to make up positions if he hadn’t pitted on the 11th lap. Indeed, some teams were struggling with tyres after a short period of time, although Leclerc’s ability to use a one-stop strategy seems to prove that the SF1000 could’ve handled the hard tyres for longer. His pit-stop onto mediums dropped him further down the order, and because of the less durable nature of the medium compound, he had to pit again on lap 33 anyway. Even a casual fan could probably devise a better strategy than that.
There’s clear a problem in the relationship between Vettel and Ferrari, and people seem to be accepting that his disappointing results aren’t entirely his fault. Before the British GP, Nico Rosberg defended Ferrari, saying cars weren’t made for a specific driver, but just a week later, he suggested there was a real problem:
“Sebastian is one of the best drivers of all time and he is not half a second slower than Charles. There must be something fundamentally wrong with the car. Sebastian just has to assert himself now.”
It’s reasonable for teams to prioritise a driver with a contract over one who’s leaving; we saw Red Bull all but abandon Daniel Ricciardo after his move to Renault was announced. This dynamic, though, is entirely different, and it threatens Ferrari’s results as well. It’s important to note that Vettel’s move was because the team decided not to renew his contract, not the other way around.
Recently, I’ve seen speculation that Vettel could leave Ferrari before the season ends. Although unlikely, it would be a massive wake up call to the Italian team, especially if he did it before Monza, the team’s first home race. This would be a shock, though.
Ferrari’s problems are due to management and relationships between staff; so much tension will only exacerbate problems.
For Ferrari, it’s going to be a long season ahead. For Sebastian Vettel, who’s only allies are the least popular team on the grid right now, this season will seem even longer.
What do you think? Who’s to blame? Let me know?