Sebastian Vettel had another season that did not live up to expectations, and the German needs to be careful he doesn’t fall in to the same trap as Fernando Alonso.
Throughout Vettel’s career, he has shown stunning pace, and a knack for being able to make the most of starting at the front, and that ability contributed to him winning four world championships with Red Bull, but for all of his talent, the 32-year-old has plenty of weaknesses, and they keep rearing their heads.
With all the experience that the German has, he should be the clear leader in any team that he turns up at, and whilst he had the edge on Kimi Raikkonen during their partnership together at Ferrari, Vettel has struggled since Charles Leclerc came on to the scene at the start of the year.
If this was the first time it were to happen, then many would most likely give Leclerc more credit than he has received, as a driver who is insanely fast, and probably the most disruptive since Lewis Hamilton threw a spanner in the works when he arrived at McLaren alongside Alonso.
But it isn’t the first time. Vettel also struggled in similar circumstances against Ricciardo at Red Bull, and he has continually shown that he struggles psychologically in certain situations.
All drivers have their weaknesses, no matter who they are. Hamilton’s has always been about personal matters affecting his racing, whereas Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher couldn’t cope with losing and took drastic actions to avoid it at all costs.
But the difference with the three drivers mentioned above is that they had – and in Hamilton’s case, has – the ability to contain those faults for the majority of their careers, and they only flash up ever so often.
Vettel, on the other hand, has displayed his weakness on a number of occasions, and it is affecting his ability to be able to perform at his best.
At Red Bull, his form dropped off against Ricciardo, with the Australian having the edge over him during the course of the season, and Vettel has a tendency to make big mistakes when under pressure in race battle.
Last season he made a number of blunders in racing action as he challenged for the title, spinning out on numerous occasions, including a costly one at the German Grand Prix, and making contact with other cars, and then who can forget Baku, when he deliberately hit Hamilton whilst running behind the safety car.
Again, this season he has struggled in the pressure of battle, making a costly mistake in the Canadian Grand Prix whilst trying to keep Hamilton behind, and he made an unforced error in the Italian Grand Prix, spinning off the track and then narrowly avoiding a huge crash with Lance Stroll when he returned to the circuit.
In Brazil, whilst racing against Leclerc, the pair collided and retired from the race, yet the contact was avoidable and occurred because Vettel moved slightly across Leclerc on the straight, when there was no real need to.
It would be unfair to say that Vettel has had a disastrous year, but it definitely won’t go down as one of his best, as Leclerc had the edge, taking more victories, and finishing ahead of Vettel in the driver’s standings.
And, if Vettel isn’t careful, his career could potentially take the same trajectory as Alonso – ending his time in F1 without the amount of world titles that he should have had.
There is no doubt about it, when Alonso was on the F1 grid, no matter what he was driving, he was arguably the fastest driver, but his problem was that he was a nightmare to manage.
When things started to go against him, he became almost impossible to manage, and ended up being a hinderance rather than helping.
Nobody ever questioned his speed or ability, but it was his behaviour that led to him leaving McLaren, and Ferrari, and the reason why Honda didn’t want him in one of their cars for this year’s Indy 500 after he slammed their F1 engine.
As a result, Alonso found himself stuck with more midfield cars than he should have had, and he never added to his two titles from 2005-2006, despite possessing the abilities to be capable of having at least five world titles.
Yes, Vettel has four world titles to his name already, thanks to a dominant era for Red Bull, when Vettel was able to extract more performance than any driver, due to the rear diffuser suiting his driving style, but he has also had the ability to win further titles in recent years, and hasn’t done so.
Part of that can be laid at Ferrari’s door, with the team making development errors both last year and this season, but it cannot be ignored that Vettel also played a big part, and since Leclerc arrived on the scene, his form has dropped even further.
Hopefully, Vettel can reset over the winter and come back all guns blazing when testing begins in February, because he is a tremendous talent and on his day, he is an amazing driver to watch, but with 2021 contracts looming for the majority of top drivers, including Hamilton and Max Verstappen, it is one of the most important of Vettel’s career.
If he gets beaten by Leclerc for a second straight season running, then he will more than likely lose his seat at Ferrari, and he will definitely be stripped of his number one status.
If that happens, it is hard to see Vettel ever recovering to add to his championship tally, and would most likely walk away having never achieved what he was truly capable of, just like one Mr Alonso.