Sebastian Vettel is back on track after his only pit stop in BarcelonaPhoto:
HOCH ZWEI / imago images / HochZwei
Formula 1 is a sport of records: the most kilometers in the lead, the youngest driver with the fastest race lap, the most tenth places - everything is counted. Sebastian Vettel can also be found in the record lists (for example as the youngest world champion). The fact that he broke the record of 3,000 World Championship points at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on Sunday fits his current situation. However, as the second driver in Formula 1 history behind Lewis Hamilton.
The duel between the two best drivers of the past ten years is no longer one. Hamilton has by far the best car available. He hardly makes any mistakes. And is therefore well on the way to becoming Formula 1 world champion for the seventh time. Vettel, on the other hand, is now only in the fifth best racing car. He makes decisive driving errors with astonishing regularity. And that's why it's celebrated when, like in Barcelona, he collects six championship points thanks to a risky strategy and excellent tire management.
No early departure from Ferrari: Sebastian VettelPhoto:
Mark Thompson / Getty Images
It is completely irrelevant what Vettel delivers in his inferior Ferrari. He is always closely observed. That is the crux of a four-time world champion who drives in what is probably the only team without Formula 1 being inconceivable. Scuderia has been involved since the inaugural season in 1950, the fan base is large and particularly passionate, and no racing team has won more world titles.
Leclerc is the future of Ferrari
Now it is well known that Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the season. What was initially classified as a normal - and understandable due to the failures of recent years - decision is increasingly becoming a political issue. Vettel denied Ferrari's presentation of an amicable separation before the first race of the season in Austria, since then public communication has been limited to the bare minimum.
In terms of sport, Vettel is clearly overshadowed by his team-mate Charles Leclerc this season. The Monegasque, who in the new set of rules should win the first world title in 2022 after a 15-year break, has won 29 points more than Vettel thanks to its strong results in Spielberg and Silverstone. The two rivals prefer completely different basic attitudes in their cars. Vettel doesn't like it when the Ferrari understeers; it needs a stable rear end, then it can drive safely through all corners. Leclerc works differently, he gets along much better with a restless rear axle.
In the past few weeks it has been speculated whether Ferrari Vettel would deliberately put down a worse car because of the tense mood. No, the SF1000 is simply not a Vettel racing car, it suits Leclerc - and of course that will not be taken back. There were even rumors of a premature separation, but team boss Mattio Binotto contradicted this in the "Bild am Sonntag": "That is completely wrong," said Binotto, who is heavily criticized in Italy himself. "We need him for our success. In order to get more points in the constructors' championship, we need two successful drivers."
Fifth place would be unacceptable for Ferrari
A look at the World Cup results confirms Binotto's argument. After Leclerc's retirement in Barcelona - his car went out due to a technical defect in the middle of the race - and Vettel's seventh place, Ferrari (61 points) is behind Mercedes (221), Red Bull (135), Racing Point (63) and McLaren in the constructors' championship (62) in fifth place. Such an end result would mean considerable financial losses for the Scuderia (in 2018 the difference between third and fifth place was over ten million euros). With at least seven races still to go, a lot can certainly happen - even if Ferrari's speed disadvantage will probably not be remedied this season.
The race in Barcelona showed how tense the internal relationship within the team is. "I was a bit scratched," said Vettel afterwards on Sky. After changing tires, the 33-year-old asked on the pit radio how fast he should drive. "I should push," said Vettel, a clear sign for another pit stop. "Three laps later it was said that we wanted to drive through with the tires." A communication glitch that is currently typical for Ferrari.
The question of Vettel's future remains. Aston Martin would like it as a tractor for the Racing Point successor. Given the almost unchanged cars for the coming season, Vettel could then drive for podium places. He's still hoping for a return to Red Bull. That was ruled out by the team weeks ago, but Red Bull's dissatisfaction is growing with Verstappen's team-mate Alex Albon, who finished eighth in Barcelona behind Vettel. A decision is therefore not expected so quickly.Icon: The mirror