Sebastian Vettel has won the biggest prize of all in Formula One, four times in fact, but he has been fading away over the last few years, and this season could be the German’s last opportunity to shine in F1 again.
Listen, I’m not saying Vettel is not a class driver, because he is and his career backs that up, becoming the youngest driver to ever win a World Championship back in 2010 and followed with three consecutive titles at Red Bull Racing.
But let’s be honest, the last few years has seen Vettel’s performances drop significantly, although some back his corner by saying the cars haven’t matched his quality, which is partly true. But Vettel shouldn’t be excluded from any criticism.
The German joined Scuderia Ferrari in 2015 to replicate his fellow countryman hero, Michael Schumacher, who won seven World Championship at the team, but that Tifosi dream ended as a nightmare.
The downfall of Sebastian Vettel
Vettel mounted title challenges with Mercedes in 2015 and 2017, falling short at every hurdle, mainly due to Mercedes considerably higher horsepower than the Ferrari. But 2018 was the year that Vettel started to creep errors into his driving and ultimately cost him a fifth world championship.
He won back-to-back wins in Australia and Bahrain, also picked up a victory in Montreal before his costly errors, including tangles with Kimi Raikkonen in Monza, Max Verstappen in Japan and Daniel Ricciardo in Austin.
Now, that became a recurring theme for Vettel in the latter stages of his career thus forcing the Italian-based team to part ways with the German.
After 14 wins and 41 podiums, Ferrari announced Vettel’s departure at the end of the 2020 F1 season, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz replacing him. Meanwhile, the four-time World Champion was announced as Sergio Perez replacement in September 2020 for Aston Martin.
It was obvious that Vettel’s relationship with his boyhood team Ferrari became toxic in the final year, and that was portrayed in Netflix’s Drive to Survive season 3 when one of the episodes showed the behind-the-scenes of Ferrari garage, with Vettel looking deflated.
So, starting a new adventure at Aston Martin was supposed to reignite the German’s career yet four races in, people’s concerns of Vettel’s declined inability has only heightened after a difficult start.
Vettel failed to score a single point in the first four races, finishing as high as 13th, while his team-mate Lance Stroll has since finished in the points twice, scoring five points.
However, he broke that duck at the weekend after a fantastic drive in Monaco to finish fifth and leapfrog his fellow Aston Martin driver, showing glimpses of the classic Vettel.
The lack of point finishes shouldn’t be entirely blamed on Vettel himself, but also Aston Martin, who at this point last season regarded as the ‘best of the rest’. They are now behind the likes of AlphaTauri and Alpine, whilst being a further distance away from McLaren and Ferrari.
However, the German has also been at the forefront of mistakes already this season, as saw in the opening race in Bahrain Grand Prix when Vettel crashed into the back of Esteban Ocon, although it didn’t affect his final result, it still showed a bit of careless driving from the four-time world champion.
So, is this season really the last chance?
He made mistakes, none can deny that. But at the end of the day, he is a four-time world champion, and you don’t just lose your mojo as you get older, take Lewis Hamilton as an example right now.
Vettel’s toxic end to his tenure at Ferrari hasn’t helped his confidence at all, and while joining Aston Martin was supposed to be a new start, it feels like he’s dealt with another under-performing car that has dented his confidence even more despite the result in Monaco.
On the other hand, it has only been five races, and teams will begin bringing in new upgrades, especially Aston Martin, so ultimately, it’s hard to judge Vettel performances just now.
As it well documented now, 2022 will be a new era for the sport, with brand-new regulations coming into play, and that could be what Vettel needs to rejuvenate his career.
Let’s see how the remaining races of the 2021 season play out for Vettel as, for all we know, that result in Monaco could spark a light in Vettel. But the opening of a new era for F1 next season could, and should, be Vettel’s last chance to cement his seat in the sport for the next few years to come.