Is Vettel Cracking Under Pressure At Ferrari?

Sebastian Vettel. [Photo courtesy Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez]

Sebastian Vettel. [Photo courtesy Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez]

Between 2009 and 2014, Sebastian Vettel had the world by his hands. He was on a team that had a tough teammate and a great technical developer. Nothing could go wrong. And with four world titles under his belt, he was looking forward to tying Juan Manuel Fangio with five championships and maybe even his mentor, Michael Schumacher with seven. Even the idea in 2015, to head to a team where his idol won five titles, Ferrari could give Vettel the chance to have such a great finish to his career. His first season was tough, but he won three races, not bad for getting off to a good start.

However, for most of this season, Ferrari has suddenly had a problem. What has happened to the team that could possibly challenge the mighty Mercedes conglomerate? Even Red Bull are the only team to take on the AMG Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton by having Max Verstappen win in Spain and Daniel Ricciardo become victorious in Malaysia. But for some reason this season, Vettel rarely was on any podiums, mainly in third. And the frustration began to grow, so much that this past Sunday at the Grand Prix of Mexico, Vettel became ever so close to passing Verstappen for third place, only to have the Dutchman veer off the course and drive right in front of Vettel, prompting many to think that Verstappen would move over due to his penalty and give Vettel third. But the pig headed Red Bull driver of 19 years would not budge.

And that was it. Vettel exploded with a rant that his patience had no more. What really did it was the criticism of race director Charlie Whiting, who without question was listening to have only three more races and he would retire from all of this. But Vettel and all his adrenaline, exploded complaining about the Englishman, telling Whiting as an official to F*** off. It was directed towards Whiting and even with all the drama that was going on, Vettel, who had already been upset at blue flags that slower cars he tried to lap, would not get out of his way. In addition to this, being in favor of a rule in which a driver cannot move under braking. In Mexico, this was all gone to waste as Vettel, who thought that he would have the decision with Verstappen reversed, got on the podium, only to have all the pomp and ceremony erased as he himself, was in violation of this illegal maneuver when Ricciardo tried to move past him when Vettel was also defending against Verstappen.

For Ricciardo, it was an incident that very surprising to the Red Bull driver and felt that Vettel himself had gone quite a step too far.

“I definitely sense he’s been more frustrated this year,” Ricciardo said to ESPN F1. “He’s shown it in the past that he can be quite emotional, but this year it seems to be a bit more. In the moment it’s easy just to press that radio button and say a whole load of things, but we all know that it can get broadcast. Trust me, I would say twice as much, but I tend to say a few things to myself and then press the radio button. I think he’s obviously a bit frustrated with how the season has gone and he probably thought they had a chance to fight Mercedes and it hasn’t worked like that. We’ve seen him get frustrated by some things in the past, but it’s probably been a bit more uncharacteristic this year and probably been a bit too much There is a lot which from one side you need to say ‘heat of the moment’, you have to be a bit lenient with it. But if your instinct is to hit the radio button and start spurting a whole lot of stuff, you have to be more sensible than that. You don’t need to broadcast it, you can swear in your helmet and then speak your mind more relaxed a few moments later.”

Christian Horner, the man that molded Vettel and now is Ricciardo’s team manager, felt that more action needs to be taken and that even driver points for a violation like this, should be implemented.

“Of course in the heat of the moment there’s always going to be emotion from the drivers,” Horner said. “In other sports, I’m sure if football (soccer) players had microphones on their language would be an awful lot bluer than what’s going out on the track. But in any sport what you can’t do is give abuse to the referee, essentially. So I would be surprised if that went unreprimanded. It is not an attribute that he had when he drove for us. Obviously his frustration is vocalizing, and everyone can hear that.”

Whether this is a one-time event or will Vettel continue to do this remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, unless Ferrari has more of a banner season in 2017, it might seem at the moment that cracks are beginning to appear in Vettel’s relationship with the Prancing Horse. And if it does not improve, maybe Vettel might find greener pastures when his contract runs out in a couple years’ time.

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