Mind games aplenty as Vettel defends his record
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Nov 2012   |  1:45 pm GMT  |  201 comments

It was inevitable that in the run up to the World championship showdown there would be mind games between rivals but so far Sebastian Vettel, who has the 13 point advantage over Fernando Alonso, has been the one on the back foot.

Alonso has been banging the drum lately about racing Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey, suggesting that Newey’s contribution is the more significant, “At the moment we are not fighting against Sebastian only,” he said in India. “We are also fighting against Newey let’s say.

“It is not so easy to fight, especially on Saturday, but on Sunday we are normally more competitive.” He reiterated this theme in Austin last weekend. The pattern of weak single lap Ferrari pace has continued with Alonso qualifying seventh in Abu Dhabi and 9th in Austin.

Alonso has also recently talked up Hamilton as his main rival, further undermining the status of the German, against whom he has now fought for the title in two of the last three years.

The prospect of Vettel being a three times world champion at 25 after only 101 Grands Prix, highlights the astonishing performance that he and Red Bull have achieved. Is it too much too soon to be credible, as his detractors would claim? Or is it just an example of driver and team in perfect harmony?

When a question about this came up this weekend, that he is where he is because he has had the best car, he was forced to defend himself, psychologically on the back foot, where Alonso wants to try to keep him,

“If you look back, I don’t know how far, but as far as I can look back, I think there was never people really successful in a really bad car,” he said.

“I think it’s a natural thing to happen that one day you have strong drivers in a strong team so you end up with a strong combination and then obviously that is difficult to beat.

“I think it’s natural to start in a weaker car..in my case I started with the BMW, replacing Robert (Kubica) for one race and then afterwards I got the seat in Toro Rosso, which at the time was not a very competitive car but I think we did a very good job and even won a race.. and obviously after that to step up to Red Bull Racing and 2009 was a great and fantastic season for myself, for the team, for the first time to be competitive, finishing on the podiums, win races, so I think it was a fairly normal way that I went.”

It didn’t help that one of Vettel’s closest allies in F1, Bernie Ecclestone, was quoted in the German media saying that he lacked charisma, compared to drivers of the past. Vettel was able to bat that away with humour.

In a later media session, Vettel paid tribute to Alonso as “one of the best drivers, who always gets the maximum out of the car,” but he will be focussed on doing his talking on the track. Red Bull has won this race for the last three years and in dry conditions Vettel should have no problem on Saturday and Sunday getting the fourth place he needs to clinch the title.

But with heavy rain forecast from Saturday night and set to fall all through Sunday, this looks like it could be a messy race, with safety cars and possibly rain delays. Anything can happen and that that neutralises Red Bull’s car advantage and makes it harder for Vettel to control.

He will need to be mentally very strong to close out the championship in such conditions; there will inevitably a nervousness on Red Bull’s side as they have more to lose.

“In sport anything can happen so we need look after ourselves,” said Vettel. “The weekend starts tomorrow morning (Friday) and not on Sunday, so really we have to go step by step, trying to do everything to ensure that we get the maximum result. Historically we’ve been very quick here, historically we know also it’s quite a place where a lot of things can happen so we need to be sharp in the moment and see what we can get.

“Weather-wise, it’s Sao Paulo. It’s the same as if you go to Spa, you know, things can happen quickly and the weather can change a lot here. Probably for Saturday, Sunday there’s some rain on the way, but then again you don’t know how much and when so I think I asked Pirelli yesterday if they have all the containers here with the rain tyres, and that’s the case, so I don’t think we have to be concerned.”

Curiously – and breaking with tradition – there was no handshake between the two title rivals for the cameras on Thursday.

It will be interesting to see whether they manage to get one together before Sunday.

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Alonso def has the mind game over Vettel (as shown above) – but Red Bull has the mind game over Ferrari

Ferrari are still very nervous following the huge strategy error in 2010


James, this is not the only time they have been doing this. Lewis says “Alonso is my biggest threat”. Alonso says “Lewis is the guy to watch out”. They have been doing that all year.

What do you make of that? I feel like they really worried Mr Finger, deep down, rightfully so.


Here we see where Alonso really excels, head games, mind games, political manoevering. While it has become standard in formula one, it became entrenched and accepted as unavoidable during the Schumacher era, it is still pathetic.

Even if I didn’t believe Vettel was the best driver this year, which he clearly was, I would still want him to beat Alonso.

Alonso’s esteem is lowered in my opinion.

What about Alonso’s Renault superiority during his championship years.

I don’t remember reading about Vettel making excuses when the RB was WAY off the pace this year.

Machinery comparative performance has ALWAYS played a role in the championship.

I was not a big Vettel fan at the start of this season; for all of the reasons cited by the Alonso PR Corporation; but if you have any doubts, take a look at Budapest, and watch Vettel, from way back, with a car clearly on the edge; it was that performance that changed my mind about Vettel.

My prediction for the race:

a. expect ANYTHING from Ferrari

b. expect fantastic measured racing from Vettel, and a third world championsip in a fair race.


fully agree.+1


No handshake? This is not very sporting. Especially since it is tradition. Have there been any queries about this put to the drivers, teams or F1 management?


I wonder How Vettel would’ve been rated had he been an Englishman?

I think there is a tradition in F1 to discredit German Drivers, this has been the case with Michael Schumacher and the same is being seen with Vettel, so comes as no surprise.

Car or not… he came out of nowhere in this year’s championship. His drive from the pits was the drive of the year. First safety car was counterproductive while the second neutralised the damage caused by the first. So, it was his driving that made all that happen.

First, it was Hamilton then, it was Ron Dennis, now its the car…. Can someone tell Alonso to shut up?

If he is fighting with Ardian and Vettel then Vettel is fighting Ferrari (which is not a dog of a car as Alonso claims) as well as Ferrari’s dirty tactics and more importantly Ferrari’s reliability. And ofcourse Perez (in Malaysia), Massa (in U.S) and Kartikayen.

If Ferrari were successful in poaching Adrian, then any championship won by Alonso must be negated in its worth?

He is not exactly running on his feet while Vetel is in his RB is it? he too has a credible car. Didn’t his Valencia win was courtesy of Vetel’s failure and Safety car?

And he is the lead and the only driver of a team with the largest budget in F1. and he is mudslinging a kid?

No wonder Kimi has the largest fan following in F1 for he wants to be left alone for he knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t care about any other driver. This is what we fan wants… we want Heroes like Kimi not whiners like Alonso.

The only way Alonso will win this year’s WDC is courtesy his Ferrari’s consistency and Redbull’s Failure.


I’m not a 10% sure of the thing about the English and German drivers; thre are a lot of Englishmen with a bizarre Teutonic-envy’ or something equally baffling; however, there is no doubt about the Britannia-centric focus of the Formula One English-language media.

Totally agree about Kimi; I am hoping for a car with the possibility to achieve podiums from the first race, then within a year we can all celebrate Kimi’s second WC.


John Surtees once reckoned that there is a dark side within Alonsos’s character. You summed it up nicely.


great comment


The photo in this article is perfect!

The expressions somehow tells a story.

Anyway Alonso has always been a mind games expert. But I prefer his racing skills anytime.


I think Seb is clever enough to understand that Alonso’s only reaslistic chance to win is with Seb retiring from race. He seems uninterested in Alonso’s mindgames. The funny part is that these jibes make Alonso look stupid at times if the race turns out to be uneventful/dry. Just to point out that Alonso’s crash at Suzuka was his own bringing. You could always watch replays on youtube and listen to commentary. I don’t ever recall MSc blaming Newey’s cars etc. in late 90s and early 2000s. I wonder why does Telfonso always needs an execuse to over hype his performance ?! Mark my words, if Vettelw in 3rd WDC on Sunday, this would start end-game for Telfonso at Ferrari. Ferrari loves winners only! and an extension of that would be Vettel being Ferrari no. 1 in 2014 along with a rookie no.2 driver !


Who is Teflonso? If your talking about the Ferrari driver, his name is Fernando Alonso.




For the sake of the Ferrarri Legend, PLEASE anyone but SB.


Who or what is ‘SB’?


Rubbish! Mark Webber has the same car and look where he is…


True. But Vettel is not THAT much better than Webber. The car has been engineered specifically for Vettel. Webber just gets the same one and does the best he can (which is not bad).


James, since it’s the last race of the season can you put together a list of all races showing which was the fastest car each weekend based on practice times on short and long runs and who won the race?


Fernando seems about to combust under the pressure. I don’t think he’s ever going to win a title with Ferrari.

His time will wait until he switches with Seb in 2014 (one rooster at Ferrari at a time please; RB will have an opening).

FA in a RB will be unstoppable like we’ve never seen.


Ironically, if Red Bull ever do have to replace Vettel (which I personally don’t see happening), Alonso would be at best their third choice after Hamilton and Raikkonen, both proven winners who fit far better with the Red Bull brand image.


Why does Dick Dastardly have to do it?

James says that Vettel is on the back foot, I don’t agree. The Aussies in cricket invented ‘sledging’, where you make comments or insult your opponent to put them off their game.

The funny thing about it is that the one who does it is REALLY the one on the back foot.

It shows a lack of security, a bit like a school bully.


I think the general action of ‘sledging’ may have originated in American baseball before it was in cricket.

Depending on how it is done, sledging is part of sport. Sly, cryptic or cheeky remarks here or there are OK whereas attacking someone personally (like Nelson Piquet on Nigel Mansell) is totally unacceptable. I don’t think Alonso has said anything which could be considered unacceptable. I also don’t think anything he says will put Vettel off his game.


Interesting that you cite Piquet. He used to claim that Senna is gay and Mansell’s wife is ugly. It was part of the game back then. I wonder if such claims would be acceptable in today’s corporate era? Also Senna used to start every second sentence with the f-word while being interwieved. I wonder what the FIA would have to say about such language nowerdays? Seems F1 changed a lot since back then.


nice comparison



Mutley would never make such comments, he just snickers at others’ failings.


The more Sebastian says it’s not about the car so much the more hilarious it is. People aren’t asking this because of mindgames, it’s simply because the majority believe he isn’t the best driver this year. He says in history people don’t do well in bad cars but the problem is the guy in red fighting with you has already done well. Let’s be real here Red Bull have failed in reliability in a couple of races but that is part of your package. Grosjean crashing into you is not part of your package so Alonso probably deserves to be leading the championship before this race. I was just watching free practice 2 here in Asia and the two commentators listed their top 5 drivers this year.. one has Vettel in 4th behind Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen. Sorry Sebastian guess you can’t sit in the fastest car and have everyone ignore the obvious… you aren’t the best driver this year. Congratulations on your title.


Very true and very well said.


And yet the title will be remembered.

No one in 30 years will say “oh yea but FA tried so hard”.

Bleeding hearts need to realize that it is the result that counts; which is why Ferrari pulled their Oh-So-Desperate trick last weekend (and also why, if they win, no one will care).

Seb will be the youngest 3 time champ ever. He will also be the younger 5 time champ. He will be regarded as one of the best ever. The one who took away the titles of a driver who COULD have been the best ever (but unfortunately drover for Ferrari).


Well Niki Lauda’s valiant effort in 1976 is still remembered even though he did not win the championship.


‘The one who took away the titles of a driver who COULD have been the best ever (but unfortunately drover for Ferrari).’

Ferrari do have the potential to win 5 titles in a row, provided they have a brilliant driver, Schumi is proof to that claim. If Alonso fails, it will be due to him not being good enough.


This reminds me of the Williams days. Damon Hill nor Nigel Mansell were regarded as an all-time greats yet their win/pole counts were impressive. Mansell could’ve easily been a triple world champion with Hill a double world champion (maybe triple, had he not been fired for 97) but for unlucky incidents. Similarly, Nelson Piquet, a triple world champion is quite frankly remembered only for that fact and nothing else – he also got lucky. Also, recall how impressive Schumi was in dragging his Ferrari into contention in 96-97 – a la Alonso for the last 3 years.


Yes and there were many great drivers in the past that never won a world championship. Luck, best car and team are all factors that are beyond the control of an individual driver. Who ever wins on Sunday, both Vettel & Alonso are very talented and the rivalry makes this season special. Lets hope 2013 has more of the same.


I’m not Vettel’s biggest fan but I respect everything he has achieved. He may be in the fastest car but then so is Webber who is always slower.

What really annoys me is when people say Alonso outdrives the car. Its not possible to do something in a car its not capable. He obviously does extract more performance than Massa however,


And lately, NOT better than Massa.

I hope wins, but, that could only happen if Alonso retires, and maybe not even then.


When it is said that a driver ‘outdrives’ the car, it means that the driver gets better results than what could be reasonably expected from a driver with that particular car. Kovaleinnen also punches above his weight, so to speak, quite often.

Perhaps, what could be reasonably expected from the Ferrari is the mid point between Alonso’s and Massa’s results. Alonso has been better than his car this year for certain.


well said



Had Ferrari produced a fast car for Alonso, he would not need to explain or prove anything to anybody. The way I see, he really was the best of the best this year and I can understand his frustration – he sees Vettel taking the third title while his team simply can’t give him the car to fight. He is doing his absolute best every race – if not for Alonso, Ferrari would not even be fighting for the title now.

So yes, there is a perfect harmony between Vettel and his team, but it is easy to find harmony when things go your way.

Vettel should take this one pretty easy. No need to build tension:-)



If Koby was in the championship hunt, ppl would say he was flattering the car. But no one would expect him to win.

Glock may outdrive the car 18 raced a year but no one says he’s ‘deserving’ of the title.

Vettel gets the max from his car. His car is the fastest? Job done.

Alonso shouldn’t be commended for being in an underperforming team,


I can’t blame Alonso for feeling frustrated, he has delivered in every race, you can’t say the same for the Ferrari R&D team.

Whoever wins this weekend will be a deserving champion.


Alonso’s showing more and more of what I believe to be his true nature, his words and actions in the latter half of this season absolutely reek of excuses and desperation, I used to be something of a fan of his up until 2007 when we all saw a different side of his character, now I just think he’s one of the most distasteful drivers on the grid, Its extremely difficult to fault his skills in the car, but for me he’s not the most sporting or appealing of drivers, not by a long shot and I hope Vettel makes it 3 in a row, not only because he’s driven well enough to have earned it, but because he doesn’t appear to think he has a devine right to it. Let Alonso pursue his mind games, they’re the tactics of a player who’s running scared.




I have always been interested as to what people perceive him to have done wrong in 2007. He went to Mclaren a reigning double world champion having been signed sometime in 2005, he surely can be forgiven for assuming the team would back him against his rookie team mate? As the season progressed it became clear the rookie was no ordinary rookie and that the team didnt back Alonso and possibly didnt even give him equal treatment. His blocking in the pit lane was childish but hardly crime of the century. There is absolutely no comeback for the “we are racing Fernando” comment.

He does like mind games, part of being a successful sportsman.


You’d have to, or at least, I would have to, wonder whether a double WDC would need backing “against” a rookie in the same team. His actions in Hungary were of course a reaction to the devious and sneaky actions of said rookie, but being a WDC one might be forgiven for thinking that Alonso wouldn’t have been scared of the talents of a rookie, and given his experience and achievements would have known better how to handle a competitive team-mate, but then, as we’ve come to realise, Alonso it seems cant handle a competitive team-mate.


It seems to be a Ferrari thing – that they are ENTITLED to the titles. That, all things being fair and equal, ALL TITLES will fall to them.

It annoys the crap out of me. This attitude that they deserve it, just for being Ferrari, and just for being one of FIVE teams who have produced a race winning car (if no title winning campaigns). FA has been towing the party line more so this year than others. That he qualified 9th compared to Seb’s 2nd in Austin and said that he would outscore him. There is confidence, then there are delusions.

I fear that FA has bought into the Ferrari nonsense and believes that some fate will intervene to make them the TRUE champions. It’s a shame really, because FA in an RB would be impossible to route against, and impossible to lose.


I am encouraged that we see the Ferrari ‘entitlement’ similarly.

It is obvious to the attentive observer that Vettel-RB have earned their position.

If I wasn’t, sadly, expecting it, I would be so disappointed with the pre-emptive excuses pouring out of the Alonso-Ferrari PR Corporation.

Alonso is a great driver, but this whinging does NOT put him in good light.

Go Filipe, go!


I’ve never been a fan of Alonso, and 2007 just served to confirm my prejudices. I had thought he’d changed this year and was starting to come round to him, but all this stuff strikes me as childish and unsportsmanlike. I know he’s renowned for his relentlessness etc, but I think this is a sign of mental weakness. Go Seb.

Tornillo Amarillo

Could Hamilton get ahead? He can equal 5 victories in 2012 with Vettel, not too bad for a non-title contender.


Hamilton started out with three straight podiums. Since then he’s only scored four more … all his four wins.

If patterns hold, then Hamilton will not finish this race. He hasn’t finished the next race after any victory.


I think here we are making a big fuss of nothing.

When Alonso says “we (Ferrari) are not fighting Vettel only, we are fighting Newey as well” he he just stating the obvious: Vettel is a great driver (not the best in the eyes of Alonso and many more) but Red Bull (Newey) is producing great cars during the last few seasons and we are finding really hard to beat that combination, that’s it.

I don’t find that disrepectful or unsporting, not even a mind game, he is just describing the current situation for Ferrari and him. Looks like speaking one’s mind is counterproductive nowadays…




Mind games or not, one should always show a minimum of respect to his competition.

I understand that to be at the top of any sport, you need to have a strong believe in yourself, ergo a huge ego. Still, you should be smart enough to accept that other competitors are talented as well.

I sense that FA and LH are frustrated at seeing SV achieving what they set out to do ahead of them. Their complimenting each other is just a way of putting SV down. Should they be in a situation where the fight to the WDC would be against each other, I easily could see them being less graceful toward each other.

Let them do their talking on the track where the championship is still decided. Marc


What I’ve read Lewis always ends up saying that Seb is a fantastic driver, and that, even if he has the best car, he still has to do the business with it, which he has done. I thought Lewis’ comments about Alonso being “more accurate” in terms of hitting apexes was more than fair. The drivers know themselves who’s the more consistent, and they have a general idea about what each other has faced in terms of fighting with their car, etc.


+1. they say this isnt cricket. well, this isnt WWE either for trash talk. and this isnt A1 GP either for all machinery to be equal.


Alonso trying to psyche-out Vettel and disrupt his eye on the target (“quiet eye”, in Sports Psych Language). Having a motivated Hamilton as an ally is critical to Alonso’s chances and can best explain the praise that he has recently hyped on the McLaren driver.

Will it work? Time will tell, it invariably does.


Val from montreal

Nothing new from Alonso here …. Post Monza 2006 after MSC winning the gp , Alonso comes out with this statement ( for no apparent reason ) :” Michael is the most successfull driver ever and he’s also been the most penalized driver this sport has seen ” …. To which Willi Weber ( Schu’s manager ) replies the following day :” That was very below the belt , a cheap shot … Michael will do his talking on the track .” …. Then the following race in China Schumacher humiliated both Renault’s with his INFERIOR Bridgestone wet tyres and beat first Alonso then Fisichella …. Yup , that was sweet indeed !! Go Michael , Go VET !!




@James Nowadays are drivers allowed to take over team-mates car like Fangio did once. I was thinking of the scenario Vettel has an alternator failure, can he take webber’s car?


No, for a start the timing transponder would have to be swapped over, but I’m sure there are other reasons


Well, we have also a set number of engines per driver, and their gear boxes have to last etc.

So this is a non-starter.

But it would be interesting to know what the last season was in which this was still legal.


He wouldn’t reach the pedals in Webbers car.


Quota* rules


Lol. Also they will have to swap the engine, gearbox, etc to fit within the quotes rules. Plus of course they’ll have to pull out all those ‘special’ parts from Vettel’s car and put them in Webber’s car that he’ll take over…:-D


It really really seems like Vettel is coming out of this pretty well – Alonso is trying the psychological stuff and Vettel is just doing his own thing.

It really is starting to feel like HAM, BUT and ALO are trying to bring the new boy down a peg or two because he is so successful so quickly. Sour grapes?


looks like it


I think you’re pretty close to the mark with your assessment, Vinto. Only a few short years ago both Hamilton and Alonso probably thought they had it made – talented drivers who’d landed in top teams. Then out of nowhere comes Red Bull with a tough to beat combination of superfast pilot, amazing designer and deep-pocketed owner who ensures that his team wants for nothing.

Hamilton’s move to Mercedes shows the level of his frustration and Alonso is finding that Ferrari don’t make it easy for him to become the next Schumacher.

The never-ending chatter about Vettel to Ferrari is ludicrous – it’s hard to imagine that he ever looks across at any of the other cars on the grid and envies what he sees.

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