F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has come out in defense of Sebastian Vettel by pointing a finger at Ferrari for not giving the four times World Champion a decent car to win with.
In an interview with Bild, Ecclestone pulled no punches, “Ferrari has fallen back to the times before Schumacher and Todt. There are too many Italians working there. This is nothing against Italy, but it is not in their DNA to lead a team successfully.”
Indeed Ferrari endured a low par season, not helped by the mid-season departure of James Allison, who was replaced by Mattia Binotto as chief technical officer. What transpired thereafter at Maranello was a “head-to-toe” restructuring of the Formula 1 operation in preparation for 2017 and beyond.
Also under fire was their star driver Vettel, who was criticised for his performances in 2016. In some races he appeared desperate and as a result made some glaring errors that were thrust in the spotlight by the potent Italian media.
He also endured criticism from his own team, including a bizarre mid-season warning by team chief Maurizio Arrivabene that he should focus on driving and not on management matters.
His well documented meltdown during the Mexican Grand Prix summed up the mounting frustration he was facing, but at the same time his demeanour under pressure became an issue.
But Ecclestone pins the blame on the team and he exonerates Vettel, “It is not his fault that he does not win, it’s the car and the team.”
In the wake of Nico Rosberg’s sudden departure from Mercedes, Vettel was immediately linked with a possible move to Mercedes, but Ecclestone scoffs at the idea, “Sebastian’s mission is with Ferrari. I know he wants to win the championship with them first.”
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne signaled a warning during the team’s end of the year media event,”With Vettel it doesn’t make sense to talk about [contract] renewal now. We must first understand if he feels comfortable with us in 2017.”
But acknowledged cryptically, “We must give him a winning car, otherwise talking about the future is useless. We know Vettel wants to win with us. Can we guarantee it? In return, he must drive with composure, be more calm, less agitated.”