Sebastian Vettel was on top of the world when Formula 1 returned from the summer hiatus, a fifth world championship looked a real possibility and his Ferrari would be going to tracks where it would in all likelihood have the upper-hand.
But the script changed dramatically, perhaps even as early as Monza. His championship charge imploded with a series of incidents and bad fortune conspiring to turn September and October into months of misery for Vettel and Ferrari.
While the Reds faltered Lewis Hamilton and his Silver Arrows found another gear, raised their game and relentlessly hammered in the results to reverse the championship balance of power firmly into their camp.
Mercedes wrapped up the constructors title in Austin, and now Hamilton is on the verge of wrapping up this year’s title at the forthcoming Mexican Grand Prix.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Vettel shed light into where it all went wrong as well his insight into other high profile issues that have characterized this championship.
On the road rage moment that led him into swerving into Hamilton’s Mercedes in Baku…
“Ultimately I’m driving the car. Whatever I decided to do impacted on the result and that’s why I felt part of me let the team down. I think the reaction afterwards, especially for the team that was probably worse, that part of why I felt I let them down because overall we had a good weekend, but probably didn’t have the pace to win but it could have been a race we could’ve won. As I think I pointed out many times, I never had the intention to hurt anyone or put anyone in danger but, if you look at it, that was the decision that was taken [by the stewards]. It was potentially dangerous.”
Leading the championship until after the summer break then what went wrong?
“Honestly, we obviously had a bad couple of races – Singapore and Japan – where we didn’t really participate and didn’t get a chance to fight and that’s bitter. But it is what it is.”
What happened in Singapore?
“To be honest all I saw in the mirror was Max. I defended a little bit, I mean I wasn’t trying to run him into the wall, the next thing bam I see Kimi in my sidepod and I thought where the hell does he come from. Then you ask yourself well you should always anticipate because there could always be someone there, but then where do you stop that fight when you always think there is another guy, another guy, another guy – then you never turn in to Turn 1 if you think like that. So the frustration was not there, it was just that I was unable to fight, I was not able to participate in the race and more than points or anything at that moment was…. I love Singapore, I love the track, it was a challenging day with the wet conditions and so on. I was really ready for the race and looking forward to it.”
Malaysia and the lift with Pascal Wherlein
“My bum got very, very hot. The radiators are there at 100 degrees and I was trying to find a cool spot but I couldn’t. You have the gills next to the cockpit so a lot of hot air came from there and yeah I wasn’t expecting it to be that hot.”
And Suzuka, the spark-plug…
“I don’t know if the situation had much to do with reliability. But we didn’t finish the race, so there was a problem. I think it was a small issue causing a big one. We didn’t have power already at the start and we tried to reset everything getting the power back, but something didn’t work. What hurts most is the fact we were not able to fight.”
United States Grand Prix…
“Disappointed, because we couldn’t win and I had wanted to. We are on the right track, but all the things that happened to us came out not because of bad luck or because of somebody else.I think it was all on our side and we need to admit that. Then there were races in which we were stronger and we just didn’t race, which is even worse. There are positive aspects, but this was not the result we were looking for and thus, of course, it was not the best day.”
And unreliability that struck Ferrari in Asia…
“If these things happen there is always a reason for it. There are areas where we need to do better, where we can improve as a team. I don’t like to point fingers and say: it was your fault and your fault and you messed all this up. I don’t see it that way. We are a team and we have to go through this together and we are obviously due some results.”
What about Lewis Hamilton’s weaknesses?
“I don’t want to say but he has weaknesses, everybody has, but he has strengths so we talk about his strengths. I like much more to talk about people’s strengths. He’s extremely quick. He’s one of the best drivers we have on the grid for many, many reasons. So there are lots of positives. But there are also some weaknesses which I believe we did use to our advantage this year and hopefully we continue doing so.”
On whether Red Bull were better than Ferrari at keeping him in line….
“I disagree. I think the freedom I had there is the freedom that I have here. We have a very strong lead here. Maurizio [Arrivabene] has the team in his hand, is a strong leader and is doing a very good job.
Does the Ferrari culture impact the way you are on track, the Italian way which is quite macho team compared to Red Bull?
“No. I don’t think so. I think unfortunately now days, if you bring that Baku thing up again then people try to make a story. Honestly, I got hurt by it because I know where they are coming from and where they want to lead. But I had questions I found that was silly like to have an anger management problem and stuff like that… I think if you take other examples this year I remained fairly calm where a lot of people I think would have freaked out. So I don’t think there is a problem with that. I think it’s normal that you show emotions and in the end that’s what people like to see as well. And, trust me, we had some serious conversations where I also got the point and had to apologise for some of the stuff that I do. That’s how it goes sometimes you are right with what you do and sometimes you are wrong.”
Can Ferrari be championship winners in the future?
“Absolutely. Overall, we are on the right track. It’s up to us to keep it going. The tension is there. I can’t speak for everyone, I can tell the guys and lead by example so to speak, but we obviously are due some results and we need to bring them home to get the grip back and increase everyone’s attention and focus to where we want to go.”