Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Vettel hints at “other things” affecting title fight

2018 United States Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has hinted that his difficulties in the 2018 title fight with Lewis Hamilton go beyond those visible on track, saying that “there are other things” affecting his and Ferrari’s performance.

Despite remaining in the title fight in Austin, Vettel was not able to claw back any points and Hamilton increased to a 70-point advantage. A win for Vettel’s Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen prevented him outright losing the title but otherwise it was another difficult weekend for Vettel, with errors and a grid place penalty seeing him starting the race from fifth, then sent almost to the back of the grid following an incident with Daniel Ricciardo on lap one.

Asked what happened when the two collided, Vettel said “I don’t know. I think I must have been in his lines but I’m not sure he saw me, so obviously we’re then side by side and the corner keeps tightening and I couldn’t really get out it anymore so we made contact.

“Obviously a shame that we can’t make contact and both continue. He had the next corner then anyway but that was obviously a big loss for me to come back from.”

The contact appeared to only be wheels clashing, compared to heavier incidents between Stroll and Alonso and Leclerc and Grosjean that saw cars exit the race but still saw Vettel spin off the track and forced to rejoin out of position.

Asked if he thought a Ferrari one-two was possible here, Vettel said “I think if you have two cars at the front and I don’t know, if Mercedes pits into that window as well… I don’t know but for sure we could’ve done better than first and fourth.”

Mercedes seemed to make strategy error, as after Hamilton lost the lead to Raikkonen at the start of the race they took advantage of a Virtual Safety Car to put him on a disadvantageous two-stop strategy. By the end of the race, Hamilton had lost two starting positions to finish third and Vettel gained one to finish fourth.

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Vettel said reversing recent updates on the Ferrari car had been key to their renewed pace – “I think it was an important race for us, it’s good to see that we have good pace but we went a couple of steps back in terms of car spec, which seemed to work better – I think both Kimi and myself felt better yesterday and today.”

He described his emotions after the race as “mixed”.

“I’m happy for [Rakkonen], I think a tough week for the team – for me it’s not really over, the tough time. It should’ve been a better day.”

Vettel admitted his difficulties in recent races went beyond the race track. “For many reasons, results and racing is part of the game but there are other things that have maybe been a bit different to the past but nothing that I think we can’t overcome.”

Vettel finished fourth, one place behind Hamilton, after his recovery drive. “I still thought we could get back, I knew it would be difficult but you know safety car happening at the right time, something happening.

“I think we hung onto the tyres well in the first stint, which was key to come back and get that extra position in the second stint.”

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2018 F1 season

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Author information

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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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37 comments on “Vettel hints at “other things” affecting title fight”

  1. I would be interested to see the number of mistakes Vettel has made since the announcement of Leclerc joining the team (vs beforehand). I wonder whether that has affected the trust between the driver and team, and will be very interesting to see how that develops if Leclerc can match him next year

    1. The death of Marchionne, too

      1. Mainly the death of Marchionne. I seriously doubt Leclerc’s new position had nearly as much of an affect on the entire Ferrari business.

  2. Spins are that “other thing” affecting the title!

    1. Rumours are he lost a close family member, according to Sky Italia.

      1. If that is true, that is very sad, and I’m embarrassed to have been so harsh on his recent performances.

        1. I have to disagree with this, he is taking a salary to drive and he is not doing some charity work. Also its not like he is being paid in peanuts, he is one of the highest paid sportsman in the world and is paid the ammount of money/month us mere mortals might make in lifetime working 12hrs a day. There is performance clause under which if we dont perform to certain standard at work place we will be kicked out of job and left in cold. I feel sad for all the engineers who built him the best car on grid two years running and he has left the team in embarassing situation so many times that he deserved to be kicked out middle of last year itself. Vettel deserves all the criticism and jokes as he is a paid professional who is not performing to the standards of his peers on grid and the team of few hundred engineers who worked hard to build that car.

  3. Couldn’t be just his own fault. Must be mysterious other things causing him to crash into other cars, crash out of races by himself, spin, make mistakes and generally underperform. No, definitely must be other things, not his fault.

    1. it’s clearly the pressure, knowing you have to win, and for Ferrari no less

    2. Those spins reflect the angle of contact.

      The other driver in this case was on a straighter line possibly accelerating and therefore carrying more momentum than Vettel who should have been looking to steer away at the point they collided.

      As for the rest, I believe the Ferraris were gifted a chance to win which started with their sudden turn of pace and continued the moment Riccardo’s car sudden gave up on him.

      After that it was just a question whether Hamilton would obey the call to pit early, effectively binding him to a two-stopper, as everyone else had the good sense to only pit the once.

      Given how hard it is to over-take, Hamilton should have pitted earlier. Instead he pits later hoping his much fresher tires would somehow allow him to catch and over-take those ahead of him.

      1. Spot on bro

  4. Maybe it’s something going on at home. I don’t want to speculate but this is an unusual number of mistakes for Seb

    1. Vettel is a victim of his own on track aggression.

      1. He is, so the question is now “why he’s being so aggressive on track”

    2. Similar to 2011 for Lewis when he had girlfriend trouble he became Ramilton.

  5. I think he’s been unlucky – that when something can go wrong for him it seems to. He seems to have little trust or faith in Ferrari’s management and tries to run the strategy from the cockpit – seems distracted, unfocused and lunges for ‘all or nothing’ moves to make up for poor calls or to make up ground to undo bad luck. I think Ferrari dropping the ball strategically and developmentally hasn’t helped and pushed him to overdrive the car. He certainly has made a few errors this year but I really don’t think he’s worthy of the intense hatred he seems to get. To me he seems frustrated; as though he’s trying to lead the team but the team aren’t really listening – he looks like Alonso towards the end of his time at Ferrari, to be honest. Frustrated and irritated.

    1. Good point to ponder

  6. Is he going to write a book as well?

  7. Vettel’s early season was good. The mistakes at Baku and Hockenheim didn’t seem to affect him much and he came back with wins from both. The big shift was Monza, the question is why? There was the news of Leclerc arriving and Raikkonen leaving, and the race weekend decision to let Raikkonen have preference in qualifying and fight for the win. Since then he has seemed downbeat and resigned, and the mistakes have become more frequent. Arrivabene is presumably under big pressure along with Vettel, so maybe there is a wider disorientation in the team. Today was a good race from Ferrari, though. Forgetting about the drivers championship, they can still fight to finish 1-2 in the next 3 races and have some chance of winning the constructors. They need to focus on that for the battle next year. Vettel, I don’t know. His main issue is obviously close racing. Spinning 3 times in 5 races from badly timed moves shows there’s a real issue, it’s not bad luck. Hamilton was in two close fights today and lost both but kept position. He ceded the first corner to Raikkonen, then in the late attempt to pas Verstappen he was exceedingly careful not to make any contact. it maybe lost him the chance to pass, but didn’t risk a huge batch of points. Unless Vettel gains that kind of composure, it’s going to be difficult next year too, close racing with Hamilton, Verstappen in a powered-up Red Bull, Gasly maybe, and of course Leclerc. That’s a lot of potential mistakes waiting to happen.

    1. That slump can be also due to personal reasons as well. Lewis’ slump in 2011 was due to his own relationships and that hurt him a lot on track. Those drivers are also human beings so if something bad has occurred in his life as well then that will take a toll on him. His season until Britain has as great though, better than Hamilton.

      Hopefully the winter break will help him. Yesterday’s win definitely felt like life saving in some sense for Ferrari.

      1. @panagiotism-papatheodorou Could be a factor completely outside Formula 1, true. The report says about him hinting to something affecting his and Ferrari’s performance, which is why I didn’t mention that possibility, though a couple of comments suggest it above.

  8. Kenneth e. Jefferson
    22nd October 2018, 3:32

    Kinda agree with Adam for different reasons Vettel does remind of Alonso at end of Ferrari days but Alonso was holding together an aging car and team philosophy Vettel and company had the best car for over half the season and couldn’t come up with a decisive blow not all Vettel’s fault pit and Tyre mgmt, strategy, and Vettel’s own desperation , total team collapse

  9. Vettel’s had a bad season, but he was never going to win the title given the advantage of the Mercedes throughout most of the championship. This has been Mercedes championship to win.

    Mercedes blunders are what allowed Vettel to get a jump on Hammy to begin with.

    I think Vettel has been unlucky with these incidents.

    Look at how Verstappen smacked into the side of Ricciardo last year in Hungary with Ricciardo coming off second best.

    Even Austin 2015 Hammy has side on contact with Rosberg at the first corner with only Rosberg being affected as he’s forced to take evasive action.

    1. Don’t agree completely, ferrari looked to have the upper hand (slightly) for most of the championship, even after ONE race dominated by mercedes (singapore) I’d still have said ferrari had the better car till then, also cause of better reliability.

      After 2 more races, russia and japan where mercedes were by far strongest, then they’re probably the best car by now, but not by far, ferrari seemed better again in austin due to better tyre management, so it’s still open imo to say who has had the best car across the season, and reliability matters and for now it’s ferrari advantage on that regard.

  10. “It takes a lot of sacrifice to stay so focused during a whole year,” — Nico Rosberg

    1. Probably so

  11. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    22nd October 2018, 7:19

    This season by Seb has reminded me very much of Lewis in 2011. I’ve always been a Seb basher but he’s much better than what we’ve seen this year. Something about that environment doesn’t work for him, we’ve seen him incredibly hot headed during his time at Ferrari.

  12. Would it be churlish of me to even suggest that the spectre of Charles Leclerc might be haunting SV?
    SV has assumed the mantle of arrogance from Schumacher.
    However his temperament, mind set & non all dominating car, are costing him dearly this season.

  13. I’m going to go with “it’s a little bit of everything”.

    The death of Marchionne will have shaken up the entire team a bit.
    Private life problems, events could be having a personal effect on Seb according to rumour.
    The fact a very keen and capable young driver will be with him next season could be a concern.

    He definitely hasn’t been himself for the last half of this season I would say.

  14. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    22nd October 2018, 10:51

    Ferrari need an ex racing driver to oversee the emotional intelligence within the team, in the vein of Helmut Marko or Niki Lauda. Arrivabene doesn’t do enough to shield his guys and keep morale up looking from the outside in. For a team famed for it’s ‘passion’ – they appear very cold and clinical in their approach. David Coulthard mentioned that Vettel has increasingly been hanging around the Red Bull motorhome since things went t*ts up, not an indication of contract talks of course that ship has long sailed but it’s telling that he just wants to hang around his ‘happy place’ these days.

    1. I agree with you. Lewis has Lauda for that. Vettel though has no previous driver to aid him or counsel him in such situtations. Schumi would probably that person if he wasn’t injured and in an interview earlier on October, Vettel stated that he would seek his counsel if he could.

      Vettel really needs some good advice and recharge. It is quite obvious he looks forward to the ending of this season.

      1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
        22nd October 2018, 12:19

        Precisely, Arrivabene is a marketing man. He cannot provide the level of support to his driver nor the level of defence in the media that Vettel had in Dr Marko. Someone like Prost would be perfect for the role if he wasnt so deep in FE and his son’s career but something tells me Ferrari in its current state isn’t forward thinking enough to recognise that winning championships goes beyond engine and chassis anyway.

    2. @ftruth – very good point, and I hope someone at Ferrari take note.

    3. It’s really sad but that’s totally a role you could’ve envisaged Schumacher taking up, esp with Vettel

  15. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    22nd October 2018, 12:18

    Precisely, Arrivabene is a marketing man. He cannot provide the level of support to his driver nor the level of defence in the media that Vettel had in Dr Marko. Someone like Prost would be perfect for the role if he wasnt so deep in FE and his son’s career but something tells me Ferrari in its current state isn’t forward thinking enough to recognise that winning championships goes beyond engine and chassis anyway.

  16. How many of us experienced new leadership at our place we work? I’ve certainly been through a couple big ones myself and it does change the way you think about things and approach your work, for better and for worse.

    Marchionne’s death and subsequent appointment of a new CEO and Chairman would have impacted the whole Ferrari family. There have since been some big public decisions announced since his death, such as the signing of Leclerc, and no doubt some big private decisions behind the scenes too, and all of this will be in the minds of not just the drivers, but all of the engineers and race crew.

    The Ferrari we see at race weekends has been sub-par since Monza (though better at COTA), and Vettel seems to have been more affected by this than Raikkonen. Perhaps it’s simply a question of emotional investment; the latter is leaving at the end of the season after all, but I suspect he’s become uncomfortable because that the Ferrari he knew and loved is suddenly very different, and will be even more foreign to him next season.

    The last time that he went through something similar he was out-performed by his new team mate and then left the team at the end of the season, although at one point he was so disillusioned it looked like he might walk away from F1 entirely. Could that happen after 2019?

    1. @sparkyamg – I’ve experienced and have been impacted by what you’ve mentioned (leadership changes at the workplace), but never thought of it that way in the case of Ferrari until now. Very eye-opening comment.

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