Sebastian Vettel is under duress. For five races before the end of the season 2017, the Ferrari driver threatens to lose the connection to World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
Prix Japan’s Grand Prix in Suzuka, Vettel has not scored a 34-point lag in the driving price, and since July has not scored better than his great rival in the title match. It is therefore high time for a change in trend, even though Vettel still has an intact chance of winning the World Cup.
Because the statistics already show that writing down fat would be a mistake. In the year of his first World Cup championship, Vettel was still two races away from finishing at 25 points, but in the exciting final he still won the overall victory. 2012 he even turned a deficit of 44 points in his favor, because he hurried from victory to victory in the last season’s race. So catching up with Vettel is no stranger. He has done it before and could do it again.
The technical basis for a Vettel comeback in the title fight also seems to exist: The Ferrari SF70H proved last to be a powerful weapon, only luck was not on Vettel’s side. In Singapore, a start-up crash prevented the destination, in Malaysia a defect prevented the possible victory. Vettel alone lost 31 points on Hamilton in these two races. Expert Martin Brundle summed it up perfectly: Sebastian could have been in the pole position in both races and they could have won. This surely hurts.”
Ferrari advantage in the World Championship?
Vettel again looks at the situation from a different perspective and says:”The result was not very good, but the speed is promising. I’m happy with the speed of the car. We had the fastest vehicle on the track.”The only thing missing was the implementation.
The big opponents did not miss this either. Mercedes sports director Toto Wolff, for example, looks suspicious at Ferrari’s performance, sees in Vettel an opponent at least equal to him and describes the latest results as a “wake-up call” for his team. We took advantage of Ferraris’bad luck. I’m not happy about this, but you’re not a prisoner in this sport,”Wolff says. We take these points with us.”Knowing that Suzuka could already mean a new trend reversal in the title fight.
Ferrari, according to the opinion of Formula One expert Brundle, could have already won the upper hand in the World Cup duel. The former Grand Prix driver sees the Italian traditional team as “slightly advantageous”. Mercedes, in turn, was the last to be smoked, as Valtteri Bottas must admit. Malaysia was “more difficult than expected”, said the Finnish. Mercedes had experimented with different aerodynamic packages there, but had not found an ideal solution. Prompt were the silver arrows in Sepang only the third force behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
How big are the problems with Mercedes?
In Brackley and Stuttgart therefore the alarm bells sounded. Mercedes says “a little lost,” as Brundle puts it. But the team realized the seriousness of the situation. Nothing has been decided yet, but the next races will be important,”Bottas says. We need to understand our difficulties quickly, otherwise it may be too late.”
Hamilton even talks about”fundamental problems”that would plague his team.” I cannot go any further, but if we want to have a chance against Red Bull and Ferrari, we need to get our feet up,”says the World Champion, adding:”People have been saying all year that we have the best car. That’s true for some races. But overall, I don’t think we have the best car. We are only doing excellent work with the material at our disposal.”
This is precisely what Ferrari failed to do recently. Especially the technical defects in Malaysia meant a setback for Scuderia. According to Vettel, however, the situation is “under control”. He says, “It is certainly not ideal if one day you lose one car and the next day you lose the other car [for technical reasons]. We need to look at this. We have a pretty good balance sheet in terms of reliability, but of course you always go to the limit.”
The great chance for Vettel
This is also absolutely necessary in the current situation from Vettel’s point of view – and perhaps Vettel’s biggest trump card in the World Cup title fight, As his former team leader at Red Bull, Christian Horner, explains. “Sebastian,” he says, “has nothing to lose. That makes it a little easier for him. Hamilton, on the other hand, is now dependent on the safe points and must exercise caution in case of doubt. What Vettel could play in the cards.
And Mercedes is warned: “We always think of our own performance,” says Wolff. “We always think of our own performance.” And in Malaysia, we didn’t have the Pace to challenge Red Bull or Ferrari. That’s the spirit of the team. In fact, we should have been faster in Malaysia.”
Still 125 points maximum to be awarded
For Suzuka Hamilton hopes for a recovery.” We should look better there with another package. But for Mexico, where a lot of abortion is required, I am concerned. We could get in trouble there. On the other hand, there aren’t too many curves there, so maybe it’s okay. I hope the other routes are more like spa or Silverstone for us. Then Ferrari would be closer, too. It is simply hard to say,”says the Brite.
And so only the view on the driver’s rating and the certainty remains: In the remaining five races, 125 points are awarded at most. Enough for Vettel to chase Hamilton back to the top spot. Theoretically enough for Bottas to go to the World Cup as an outsider. Even Red Bull pilot Daniel Ricciardo could still triumph. And maybe Vettel’s ex-team just turns out to be a tadpole on the scales in the final track of formula 1 2017. What is certain is: Vettel needs points – fast and many.