Vettel’s missed Ferrari opportunity and a possible shot at redemption

by Daniel Roodt


Sebastian Vettel’s move to Scuderia Ferrari in 2015 was meant to be one that solidified his status as one of Formula 1s modern greats. It was a chance to drive for one of the sport’s most iconic teams, as well as following in the footsteps of his idol and fellow German, Michael Schumacher.


Sebastian Vettel (left) and his idol Michael Schumacher (right) celebrating a podium together while Vettel was at Red Bull.

Vettel joined the Italian team as a four-time world champion, having won the drivers championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 while driving for Red Bull. The move to Ferrari was supposed to elevate his career further and provide more competition to Mercedes. 


He was also going to be racing with his good friend Kimi Raikonnen who was with Ferrari when Vettel joined. It looked like the perfect move for the exciting German. 


However, unfortunately for Vettel and Ferrari, his time there has not exactly gone to plan. While he will leave them as their third most successful driver in their history, he has been unable to break Mercedes’ and Lewis Hamilton’s grip on the constructors and drivers championships respectively.


Since Vettel’s move in 2015, Mercedes have won all the constructor’s championships while Lewis Hamilton has won four driver’s championships in that time and looks set to add another later this year. 


The German’s time at Ferrari has reached a low-point this year, with the team not offering Vettel a new contract and their cars performing incredibly poorly on the track. He has also been somewhat usurped by his teammate Charles Leclerc. 


When the Monegasque driver joined Ferrari in 2019, it was assumed that he would be the clear junior driver and that Vettel would be the team’s main driver. However, it hasn’t always been the case, as Leclerc has arguably overperformed, especially this season considering Ferrari’s car troubles. 


Vettel and his Ferrari teammate before a race this season. Leclerc has largely outperformed his teammate since he arrived at Ferrari last year. 

This year, Leclerc is sitting in 8th place in the drivers’ standings with 49 points while Vettel is 32 points behind his teammate in 13th. Despite Ferrari’s immense struggles with their cars this year, Leclerc has still managed to achieve two podiums while Vettel has none to his name so far. 


Vettel also only managed to win 14 races in his six years at Ferrari, which averages out to less than three wins per season. Furthermore, in two of these six seasons (including 2020), he didn’t manage to win a single race. While he has achieved several podium finishes throughout his Ferrari career, he has been unable to replicate the form that secured his move to the team from Maranello. 


Lewis Hamilton also appears to be on his way to leading Mercedes to another constructor’s championship title. On a personal level, he is edging ever closer to winning his seventh driver’s championship and equalling Micheal Schumacher’s record of seven in the process. Currently, Hamilton is only one win behind Schumacher’s record of 91 and looks set to break his record this season. 


Vettel's acrimonious ending at Ferrari was almost a reflection of his time there. From the outside, it appeared that Vettel rejected a contract offer from Ferrari. However, in July Vettel stated, “We never got into any discussions – there was never an offer on the table, and therefore there was no sticking point.”


He also said, “The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season. Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices, and it never will be.”


Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto added, "This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best. It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person.”.


While Vettel's time at Ferrari has certainly not gone to plan and has not ended the way he would have liked it too, he has been given a chance to carry on his F1 career next season. 


The German recently announced that he would be signing for Aston Martin who has been called Racing Point F1 in 2019 and 2020. Racing Point, who were previously Force India, are undergoing another rebrand as they head into next season. This comes after the consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, the current owner of Racing Point secured a 16.7% investment in British auto-manufacturer, Aston Martin. Stroll will also become the executive chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda. 


Vettel will be replacing Sergio Perez at the end of this season who has been with the team since December 2013. He will be joining young Canadian driver, Lance Stroll, son of current Racing Point owner, Lawrence Stroll. 


Racing Point team-principal, Otmar Szafnauer appeared to be delighted with the signing of Vettel for the team. He stated, “He [Vettel] will help us take that next step that we will need to take in the coming years, such that we can consistently race among the top three, top four teams.”.


Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez, the man who he will replace at Aston Martin / Racing Point next season at an F1 press conference.

Racing Point is an exciting team, and their two drivers have consistently outperformed the Ferraris on the track this season. They are currently sitting fourth in the team standings, behind only Mercedes, Red Bull and Mclaren. With Vettel and Stroll behind their wheels next season, combined with increased financial backing, they look set to continue to get better. 


While Vettel insists that he has no regrets regarding his time at Ferrari, it does feel like a missed opportunity. Hopefully, for the German, he can revive his career with a team on the up and show F1 fans why he still deserves a seat at one of motorsport’s most coveted tables.



Sources:

  • Formula 1 Website

  • Wikipedia

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