Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Ferrari is emblematic of a culture that stresses its drivers to the breaking point, says Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chairman Alex Wurz.
A close friend of the four-time Formula 1 world champion, as well as a colleague in the German’s capacity as a director of the GPDA, Wurz revealed the move took him by surprise, but he can understand why it happened.
“Sebastian is a friend of mine, but I didn’t see it coming,” he told Sky Sports F1. “He keeps those cards always very close to his chest.
“If you look at the history of Ferrari, you have this first few years and months of big love and all these radio calls, all the emotions that come out of it, which makes Ferrari so beautiful.
“But at one point, even with Fernando [Alonso], it seems like the whole system makes you go into burnout. Maybe the love is not there anymore, and that seemed to happen. But Sebastian hasn’t spoken to me about that.”
Pressed further on the topic, Wurz explained that the intensity of the spotlight that comes with working at the legendary Italian outfit takes a significant emotional toll.
“There’s more to it than just racing passion. There is really the national pressure up on you and the drivers go through that.
“Ferrari are really demanding of the drivers, they really love you if you push them forward but if the success is not coming then suddenly that starts to backfire and they will also be protective about their heritage, work and quality.
“There is always friction, and that’s not just for drivers, they have also changed team principals also over the years. And I think that comes with outside influence but also the lifestyle. That mixture seems to be tricky.”
And while the Scuderia enjoyed a remarkable period of success from 2000 to 2004, Wurz suggests it might be the lack of Italian influence that made it possible.
“We look back at the [Michael] Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Jean Todt era, that group went in there and was so strong, could succeed, and could push that Italian pressure, whatever you want to call it, to the side.
“Since they left, Ferrari is behind its own expectations.”