Has Seb still got it?
Four-time World Champion is set to join Aston Martin next year, will we see the old Seb or Ferrari's broken driver?
Sebastian Vettel has certainly not had the ideal last season at Ferrari, a team he had always dreamed of winning world titles for. The four-time world champion has struggled to get points this season, finishing inside the top ten only seven times so far in the last fourteen races, the definition of a good race for the Ferrari driver has changed completely, certainly, in my house, we are cheering when he secures tenth place. The dreadful season started with a surprise announcement that he would not be driving for the team for 2021, young driver Charles Leclerc taking his place as the team's favourite. It was certainly a shock for all F1 fans alike and to the German driver himself, who, in the five years of being there, has not been able to secure any more championships against the dominating Mercedes. However, with a seat secured at Aston Martin next year and a podium in Turkey, Seb's future seems to be looking up, but will he be the same again?
Naturally, the best way to compare performance it to compare where he sits with his teammate. Before 2019, Seb had placed higher in the championship than his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, for his entire Ferrari career, however, his reign as no.1 Ferrari driver ended as relatively new-face Charles Leclerc had a seat swap for the 2019 season with the Finnish driver who now drives for Alfa Romeo. With a relatively competitive car against Red Bull, Vettel had a decent start to the 2019 season with four podiums in the first seven races of the season, outracing Leclerc 6-1. But it was after the Canadian GP where his spirits seemed to crumble and his performance dropped slightly. I'm sure many Ferrari fans, Vettel fans and fans who just like Seb still feel furious at the mention of Canada 2019, where a controversial five second penalty stripped Seb of his first win of the season for an "unsafe return to the track" and for "forcing another car [Hamilton] off the track". Vettel crossed the finish line having made a four second gap between him and then five-time world champion Hamilton, but it wasn't enough. It was clear the majority of fans thought that he had deserved the win as the crowds clapped as he switched the first place sign from in front of Hamilton's car to the empty space of where his car should have been. I think that race was the breaking point for the German driver who at first refused to attend the podium ceremony.
In the next three races he came fifth, fourth and sixteenth, being outraced by his teammate in all three. It took until the fifteenth round for Seb to win his first - and only - race that season at Singapore even after the threats of a Hamilton undercut out of the pits, proving his ability to drive under pressure. The win seemed to boost his morale as in the next race at Russia, he secured an early lead after Leclerc started on pole, despite his teammate's complaints that he should be leading the race, Vettel told his engineer that before Leclerc could overtake, he had to make up the three or so second gap. Unfortunately for Seb, the race ended in a DNF for him after an engine failure not long after the Ferrari strategy gave Charles back his lead, however, the young Monegasque driver was not able to keep it as he finished the race in second.
The last five races of the season were a mixture of success, composing of two DNF's, one as a result of a collision between both Ferraris, however, Seb also secured two second places and a fifth. Overall, Seb was on the podium nine times that season and outraced teammate Charles Leclerc 11-8, not quite what was expected of the no.1 driver, maybe? Ferrari clearly thought not as they looked to secure Leclerc for the future as their priority, refusing to sign a contract with Vettel in the process. This possibly being the largest affect of the German driver as he looked at the possibilities of retiring at 33. However, his mind was put at rest once he signed a contract with Racing Point, soon to be Aston Martin, this did not heal the relationship between the driver and the team though as many races finished with silence on Vettel's part on the radio.
As we come to the end of the 2020 season, Leclerc is leading the teammate battle 4-8. Performance suggests a difference in the two cars, however, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto denies that there is anything in the cars giving Vettel a harder time than his teammate, but Leclerc has spoken out saying that the car might have been built for him which in result is affecting the four-time world champions ease of driving. However, in the last two races, there have been points where Seb is in fact faster than his teammate, however, in Imola during his pit stop, the Ferrari mechanics failed in putting two wheels on first try, losing the advantage Seb had gained and in Turkey, a slow pit stop almost lost him a podium, however he was able to overtake Leclerc on the last corner to secure a third place, his first podium since Mexico 2019. Hopefully this will increase morale and improve his results in the last few races of the season.
The question of whether Seb still 'has it' can only be answered when we see him race at Aston Martin next year and how he compares to his future teammate, Lance Stroll. Hopefully the new chapter of his career brings with it a new Seb with all the success, skill and performance of his Red Bull self and all the experience of his present self. I've heard predictions that Seb will secure at least one more world title to his name at Aston Martin - and I certainly hope he does! But for next season, I'm hoping he'll bring in a few podiums and maybe a win or two.