Rumors about his future, a teammate who overcame him and a painful series of mistakes; Sebastian Vettel is not in the best period of his glorious career. How should things go with Ferrari's four-time world champion?
Thursday evening, Singapore. Ferrari will hold a press moment in which Vettel will first speak. The tight loft where the German speaks is packed with sweaty journalists and cameramen.
It is of course mainly about the last Italian Grand Prix, in which Vettel again made a mistake. His young teammate Charles Leclerc won for the second time in a row, while he himself had not won any more than a year.
Vettel opts for the relativizing strategy. "Of course it's not good, but it's not a disaster again," he describes his current situation at Ferrari. "I'm not at the level I want to perform at the moment. But things like that happen to us all."
32-year-old Heppenheimer does not want to make his series of mistakes too large. "We should not make it too complicated. I am in the right place here and I think I am doing the right things."
One of Sebastian Vettel's mistakes this year: at the GP of Great Britain, he ran into Max Verstappen. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Lack of confidence in the car
Yet he gives a small indication of where things might go wrong: confidence in the car is sometimes missing. Vettel is known as a driver who needs a stable car. The Ferrari is a true rocket in a straight line, but as soon as turns appear, the problems begin.
"I don't have the right feeling or trust here and there," he agrees. "That's in the details. Hopefully everything will fall into place. Until then it's just head down and go."
While Vettel explains why his season is going so hard, Leclerc enters the Ferrari tent. The Monegask is neatly waiting for Vettel to finish, until the conversation comes to the winner of Spa and Monza. "I just have to say that Charles is doing very well", the German says. "If I am defeated by him in qualifying or racing, there are no excuses. Then he just did better."
See also: Leclerc still finds atmosphere at Ferrari good despite incident in Monza
"Everything is good again after qualifying in Monza"
When Leclerc takes over the press moment, the conversation quickly arrives at the qualification in Monza, where 21-year-old Monegask got the hang of it with his experienced teammate. Vettel had given Leclerc a tow - or slipstream - in the decisive part of the qualification, but did not get it back later. While that was agreed.
The young driver tries to handle the subject quickly. "The team doubted why I had done that, but I was able to explain it and everything is fine again."
Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari (Photo: Pro Shots)
"Sometimes it's just a bit disappointing"
Shortly after the press moment at Ferrari, the interviews start at Red Bull. There, Max Verstappen goes a little deeper into the relationship with a teammate and you don't always have to be the friendliest.
"You have to stand your ground. I can imagine that Leclerc thought: if I don't drive on, I don't have time myself. If you don't stand up for yourself, you won't make it in this sport. At least not as the first driver "
At Ferrari there has always been a clear first and second driver, says Verstappen. "So they are now fighting for that. But Vettel can certainly still drive. He has made a few mistakes in the last few races, but he did quite well for that. Sometimes it is just a bit disappointing."
Figures Sebastian Vettel
- Races: 233
- Victories: 52
- Polepositions: 56
- Podiums: 117
- Points: 2,914
- World titles: 4
Vettel had a bad season earlier
Daniel Ricciardo was a teammate of Vettel in 2014, another season in which it didn't work for the German. The then 24-year-old talent overpowered his teammate, who had just won the title for the fourth time at that time. The following year Vettel relocated to Ferrari.
"I think I'm the right person to say something about Sebastian's situation," Ricciardo replies when NUsport asks him at the press conference if he thinks Vettel can hit back after a bad run.
"That is very similar to 2014. Then he went to Ferrari and immediately won his second race," the Australian remembers. "He certainly has the capacity to come back."
See also: Verstappen: "Software problem with Honda engine has been solved"
Punishment in Canada had an effect on subsequent races
Ricciardo has his own analysis of where the problems started for Vettel. "Of course I don't want to speak for him, but I think it started with the controversy surrounding his sentence in Canada. That should have been his first victory of the year, but it went differently. That could have had an effect on the following races."
Vettel has already won four times in Singapore, and according to Ricciardo it can happen again this weekend. "You never know. He is only one race of the turning point. He is waiting for that weekend when everything falls back together and he finds himself again."
"There are so many things that play a role in this sport," the Renault driver wants to emphasize. "It's not just about talent, especially when you're at the top. It's busy, how free are you in your head? Where are you in your private life? That counts. But you don't lose your talent. Sebastian is definitely still a fast driver. "
GP Singapore start times
- Friday: First free practice - 10.30 a.m.
- Friday: Second free practice - 2.30 p.m.
- Saturday: Third free practice - 12:00
- Saturday: Qualification - 3 p.m.
- Sunday: Race - 2.10 p.m.