PARC FERME: Vettel and the power of self-delusion

PARC FERME: Vettel and the power of self-delusion

Sebastian Vettel is having a torrid time at Aston Martin yet again this year, with the 2022 Australian Grand Prix being the latest episode of misery for the German. What is going on with the German?

To be the best, you first have to believe it! So what happens when you lose that winning feeling? Maybe we should ask Sebastien Vettel.

Australia’s Formula 1 Melbourne Grand Prix is one a race I’m sure the four-time World Champion would like to delete from the records. The lead up to it was bad enough, with him having to sit out Bahrain and Saudi with Covid-19.

He then arrived at the Albert Park track and had to climb inside the acknowledged number one shit kart on the grid and try to produce a silk purse performance with a sow’s ear.

No image of Vettel showed he’s enjoying his job

szafnauer wires-pool-sebastian-vettel-pit-garage-imola-aston-martin

It all started in FP1 when he had to park his car on track due to an electrical fault.  Having ridden a moped on the circuit to get back to the pits, he was up before the “beaks” for doing the same.

Then he thumps the wall in FP3. With his car in pieces, the 34-year-old must have thought he’d done enough to sit out “quali”. Allowing him to take up a position at the back of the grid without having to break a sweat.

Unfortunately, his team did (break a sweat that is). As they managed to put his Aston Martin “Jalopy” back together again in time for him only to be “dissed and dismissed” in Q1.

Finally, on lap 25 of the race, he was back in the wall, day over, apologizing sheepishly to the team. A loose wheel nut was later revealed to be the culprit. Hmmm?

None of the images I saw of Vettel over the weekend suggested that racing the Aston Martin is a job he relishes, and there seems to be an air of quiet resignation that his glory days are over and with no sign of Aston Martin having them anytime soon.

We can only wonder how much longer the dollar bucket weighs heavier than the one full of pooh and he decides to bow out of F1 as a driver.

From pole sitter to potential back-marker

So how has the youngest ever quadruple F1 World Champion gone from a pole sitter to a potential back-marker?

Research has demonstrated that athletes who win are not necessarily the fittest or the most skillful of a competing crop. However, there is one quality they must have in heaps: the ability to believe their own bullshit, regardless of the evidence of the contrary.

An athlete who “knows” he is the best will overhaul more talented participants who only “think” they are.  This “state of mind” is critical to an F1 driver, and in tight situations, it is the difference between winning and coming second.

This phenomenon has many euphemisms: arrogance, confidence, and conviction, but it all boils down to the same thing.

It manifests itself in different ways, ranging from blaming the car or the team for failure, to believing others are cheating or getting preferential treatment.

Rarely will you hear this expressed directly of course (except maybe by Max), but for sure that is what is going on in the minds of the Team Managers and pilots.

Old racing drivers don’t die, they just smell that way

For some, this cognitive bias is cultivated. Others only own it for short periods of time in their career. With Michael Schumacher, it was there from birth. The same I suspect of Nigel Mansell, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and a whole host of other World Champions.

I am sure Seb was of a similar mindset in the past. But after Leclerc started to get the better of him at Ferrari, I feel he succumbed to thinking the unthinkable; in other words: “Maybe I don’t quite have ‘it’ like before?”

Is there a way back? Who knows? I’m not aware of anyone who truly ejected that thought from their psyche once it was born, and certainly not at Aston Martin, a team that appears to offer only more of the same “racing misery,” he’s experienced to date in 2022.