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Viewpoint: Sebastian Vettel and the F1 team mates he may never have
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Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Sep 2017   |  10:20 am GMT  |  64 comments

Sebastian Vettel was on impressive form in Singapore qualifying, pushing the Ferrari to the limit and beyond to set the pole position lap. Afterwards both sides of the car showed damage to the tyres and wheel rims from contact with the Marina Bay walls.

A few minutes later he was in the press conference room, sitting between two drivers, one of whom could be his team mate in 2019.

That scenario became more likely this weekend with the chain of events around the switch-abount of Honda and Renault engines. Renault’s contract with Red Bull ends in 2018 and they have told the drinks manufacturer that after that date they will not be supplying them engines any more.

Both sides were evasive about that on Friday, suggesting that there may be some legal angles being pursued, but as we wrote at the time, this potentially throws the driver market open for 2019.

Ten short months from now Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will need to be making decisions on which team is going to give them a winning car in 2019. Is that long enough for Red Bull to find a strong engine package for 2019 or long enough for Honda to catch Mercedes and Ferrari on power and reliability?

The dynamic this night between Vettel, Ricciardo and Verstappen was fascinating to watch. There was some camaraderie between the former Red Bull team mates, but an edge too.

Vettel was quick to put Ricciardo down when the Aussie asked if he was “missing us” when he went to inspect the Red Bull car on the start straight after qualifying.

“I don’t miss you,” Vettel shot back. Not nastily, but neither was his trademark sardonic smile on his lips.

The banter level had been high before that and was again afterwards.

Vettel teased Ricciardo after the Australian had first joked about pizza and alcohol being the best preparation for humid races, then talked about dehydration – “Yesterday I felt like I had a bottle in my hand all day and I was still struggling to go to the toilet”. Vettel turned to him and said, “Just to get that straight, you were struggling to get to the toilet because you were struggling to keep balance because you were drinking so much?”

Before the conference started there was banter; Vettel had changed his sweat soaked undervest for a Ferrari team shirt, baring his torso as he walked onto the stage where the press conference seats are. A female journalist asked Ricciardo for a comment on Vettel’s six-pack and he made a “so-so” hand gesture which got everyone laughing before the conference went live.

On Vettel’s right Verstappen tried to join in the banter, but it’s not really his forte yet and Vettel rarely made eye contact with him, unlike Ricciardo. For example this exchange,

MV: Do you think you’ll have a good start?

SV: Yeah.

MV: I hope not.

DR: Your starts haven’t been that good, have they?

SV: Yeah, they have been. Monza, no, but the other ones have been.

More tellingly – the real take-home from the night for me – Vettel paid tribute to Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc, for his work on the simulator at Maranello overnight Friday to Saturday that had made the difference between a tricky car in practice and a pitch perfect one for qualifying,

“I think it’s been phenomenal, the amount of work,” said Vettel. “Obviously yesterday (Friday) we were a little bit caught off guard. The car wasn’t behaving the way we wanted it to.

“But it’s been pretty special the amount of effort that has gone in overnight, the support from Maranello. Charles (Leclerc) has been in the simulator – usually it’s swapping between Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles so that’s very very important for us.

“They answered a lot of questions that we couldn’t, simply because we didn’t have time enough and a lot of questions remaining.”

Charles Leclerc (XPB)

For a four time world champion to be talking up a 19 year old for his simulator work doesn’t happen by accident. Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne is pushing for both of his juniors to race for Sauber next season in a Ferrari junior team type scenario. Vettel made sure to mention Giovinazzi in his answer, but the subtext and messaging was clear; post Kimi Raikkonen my team mate for 2019 could be one of our two Ferrari youngsters, we don’t need either of the gentlemen sitting around me right now.

Vettel showed real class on Saturday night; Singapore performance ramps up run by run, but it wasn’t easy this year and the German was the only one to really improve by 0.17s in final Q3 runs. Verstappen was slower in his final attempt, Ricciardo found just 0.02s, Hamilton 0.07s.

Much will depend on how this year ends up. If Vettel achieves his goal of winning the championship with Ferrari he will be in a strong position and Ferrari will be able to relax a bit.

If he loses this year and then in the first half of 2018 doesn’t look like he’s on target to win the title, Ferrari may feel some doubt and in that scenario one could imagine them wondering whether they need to put a Ricciardo or a Verstappen alongside him, despite the risk to team stability.

Moments like the start in Singapore (although he was not officially blamed, the collision would not have happened had he not moved left) and the road rage incident at Baku cost points and cast doubt.

But the dynamic on Saturday night in Singapore told the story quite clearly. Vettel doesn’t want either of those guys as his team mate in 2019 and if it ends up that way, it will be for the wrong reasons, as far as he is concerned.

What did you think of the qualifying and the way Vettel felt afterwards? Do you think he will get the job done this year and/or next? Leave your comments below

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64 comments

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1

Too close to call for this years championship, this is the track that suits the Merc least and the Ferrari most, the inverse of Monza, and so pole was expected for Seb here. The title may well be decided by the Red Bull boys getting amongst it, they seem to have a car right in the middle of the Merc and Ferrari performance envelope.
Either way, its been close and enjoyable, as long as there is no contact or underhand shenanigans between them, I will be happy either way.

2

He's just plain chicken 🐓
To have a top Racer in his team.
Ricciardo answered that question,
Vettel ran off when DR made him look second best.

3

not close at all vettel just caused an all mighty crash taking out most of the competitive cars.

4

I don't understand this comment given Tim posted it before today's race! It's like going back a year and telling someone "Nope!" when they believed Hamilton would win the title!

5

Craig, just call me "Mystic Tim"....

6

VET caused a crash?

7

The contact order was:
Max hits Kimi
Out of control Kimi hits Vettel

Did Vettel need to pinch? Could he see Kimi shadowing Max in his blind spot? Considering the result ends chance if WDC, it doesn't really matter much.

8

I forgot about the best bit of post quali banter I saw, from the unusually chipper Fernando when asked about Stoffel's pace "it's good he is now competitive, but still behind". Made me laugh, and the Sky team had a good giggle out of it. Will be good to see him back at the sharp end next season.

9

Thrusting 2 people together that will antagonize each other used to be the norm in F1.
I guess the feeling is if they are too nice performance will drop off as they start relaxing and not being productive.
I dont think this workings in a modern complex workplace as all the stress bleeds in to the rest of the workforce eventually.
That's why Mercedes seem to have the happy gang now and so do Ferrari and its left to the press and public to try and engineer a fight.

10

I don't believe Vettel will win the title. He has the second best overall car and will finish second. Mercedes qualifying mode may be the determining factor. A wet race at Singapore is not in Ferrari's best interest

11

I don't think Vettel will finish second.

He'll finish third behind Bottas.

12

Or maybe Seb was just being honest when he thanked leClerc for the work he did overnight in the simulator?

Much like he thanked Giovannazi earlier in the year?

Looking too deeply for something that's not there?

13

"Vettel doesn’t want either of those guys as his team mate in 2019"

So does this mean that Vettel would feel uncomfortable in a team where he would be up against a teammate (either Ricciardo or Verstappen) who might just be as fast and talented as himself - notwithstanding the fact that he is a 4 x WDC? Lets face it he isn't getting much opposition from an ageing Raikkonen.

It seems that Raikkonen's one year extension was counter signed by one Sebastian Vettel and Marchionne had no choice but to agree if Ferrari was going to keep Vettel beyond 2017.

When Webber reeled off a string of victories back in 2010 poor Sebastian got a bit frustrated. I mean how come this guy who is approaching retirement be doing this to me?

When Vettel is put under a bit of pressure he doesn't handle it very well as evidenced by Mexico in 2016 and Baku earlier this year. Hence, why would he want a team mate who might give him a hard time!!

14

You're probably right but the most successful F1 drivers haven't just had great speed. Controlling your environment and having political nous is a highly beneficial quality to have as well.

I think Brundle once said that knowing what he knows now, if he could go back in time and redo his career he has no doubt he would have won races. And I think what he meant by that is he would have known how to have navigated himself into better cars.

15

James,
Why aren't the post quali and post race press conferences televised anymore?
(at least not in Australia) and no-one ever uploads them to youtube.

16

It's because they're interviewed on the podium for the race, or on the grid after qualifying as well now.

But I'm not sure why we can't also watch the press conferences. They're usually much more interesting than whatever the TV presenters are rambling on about at the same time.

17

I thought James might be able to enlighten us.
The only explanation I can think of is it's exclusive to print media Journos.

18
Ricciardo Aficionado

Fantastic insight James. Thanks!
I feel the mention of Giovinazzi and Le Clerc is also a clear warning not to ruin Vettel's race (and Ferrari's championship) at the first corner tomorrow.
I thinks it's probably more likely the Bulls will take each other out rather than tangle with the Ferrari.

19

Oh how wrong you are 🤣😂🤣

20
Ricciardo Aficionado

Very, very, very wrong.
What a disaster!
Rumours of Max to Ferrari can now be put to bed.

21

I thought it strange for Ferrari to send a tweet apportioning all blame to Max.

I don't think anyone was really at fault for the incident but Max was probably the least culpable party.

22
Ricciardo Aficionado

Yeah I thought that was a strange tweet too.
They have since claimed it was jut a factual account of the incident rather than apportioning blame but still weird.
You're probably right that no one was to blame but it was, I think, a bit clumsy by Vettel.
In fact, I'd say this was worse driving than the Baku "bump". That at least had some finesse and merit. This was just plain stupid.
But Ferrari (at least their PR machine) are not going to blame the newly long term signed 4xChamp.

23

I want to see Vettel man up and take on another great driver, no team orders or compliant team mates. So far I'd say he has been clearly better than Webber, but was he really a great? His legacy will not be the same unless he does, and his season of being beaten by Ricciardo will taint it as he was comprehensively beaten. Come on Seb, before you're too old, take on Ricciardo or Verstappen in the same team.

Hamilton's been beaten by Button in 2011 while his head was all over the place and magnetically attracted to Massa, by Rosberg in a close fight but skewed by reliability. He's never been pure outpaced like Vettel. He's been up against far more worthy team mates in my opinion than Vettel.

Alonso the same, he and Hamilton were equal and he's dominated all other team mates.

Schumacher is a difficult one, he was clearly super quick, but the team orders things and being outpaced by Rosberg in his latter years clouded it for me. I rate him as the best combination of driver, technical, and team abilities ever.

Senna and Prost both went up against each other and other greats in the same team, so full respect to both. Mansell did the same.

Liberty, get two great drivers into each of the top 3 teams and stop the clear number two drivers please. That would do a huge amount for the sport. At the moment only Red Bull have two equally treated drivers since Bottas has been told to hold station recently.

24

The most successful way of achieving the best for Ferrari with a clear number 1 driver like Seb is pairing with a number 2. With DR or MV, that scenario is not possible. Leclerc and Gio might need atleast two seasons to fully develop and gain experience. Therefore i see someone like Perez or Grosjean having a chance of replacing Kimi and theres a strong chance Kimi staying another year too Until Leclerc and Gio complete two full seasons. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

25

It's been broke since 2007/08

26

James Allen, it was a very interesting reading, entertaining to say the least. But I'm curious to understand the point of of the article. Is it just for entertainment or there is something else in your mind?

27

Can't see either of the RB guys staying put. Unless Honda make a huge step forward, and how many years have we been waiting for that to happen. Merc and Ferrari would be crazy to pass up the option to sign either regardless of team dynamic. Lewis and Nico weren't exactly best buddies but the team still won back to back to back.
My message to the likes of Seb or Lewis would be "suck it up Princess" may the best man win

28

My message to the likes of Seb or Lewis would be "suck it up Princess" may the best man win

While I agree with your point of view of forcing the main driver accept any team mate besides them, I don't understand where did you get the impression Hamilton refused to drive with any other driver in the same team?

29

James totally off topic. 2020 redbull . You heard it here first Porche and redbull 😉 ..

30

2021 with new engine regs. IF red bull are still in it.

31

Ricciardo has the wood on Vettel it shows. Vettels refusal to engage Verstappen was rude and shows bit of fear I think.
Vettel should win tonight as his car is quicker and he is a good driver. But as I have said before he does show signs of being fragile sometimes.

32

I don't know if you saw the Asian broadcast James but there was an interview with Cyril Abiteboul who said they have a very strong engine upgrade next year, that they know it clearly will be very strong from their dyno measurements, and then he said he'd give a scoop... that they are thinking of bringing this update in before this year ends. He said they'd bring it for Renault, and for some of the customer teams so long as they "behave themselves". Truth... or Abitabull? I'm leaning toward truth.

33
Ricciardo Aficionado

So AJ has put the cat amongst the pigeons down here on Aus FTA...
Rumour is Verstappen has done a deal with Ferrari. Ex World Champ... he'd have to have the inside line you'd think.
Mind you he also thinks Sauber might go well now they have the Honda "injun".

34

@ RA..... I shouldn't take too much out of AJ's comments. Much and all as i like him and appreciate his background he is prone to making some wild predictions. I have met him quite a few times, a long time ago, at Bathurst in particular. He was a wild one then and the effects are showing now.

35

But they don't? Toro Rosso have it.

36
Ricciardo Aficionado

Exactly... An awkward moment for his co-commentators.

37

Yesterday I finally saw the Monza F2 wet race and I think LeClerc is dirty driver and I hope he doesn't drive for Ferrari any time soon.
I also saw Nick DeVries that I follow for a long time since his go karting days at Florida Winter Tour and was very satisfied.
The FiA marshaling was horrible and the driver were gaming at playstation, crashing each other all the time.

38

i did say yesterday that vettel was going in to play bumper cars with verstappen today and guess what?

39

Meh! Miss.
Max crashed Kimi.
Kimi crashed Vettel.
Then Kimi crashed into Max again.
Max then crashed Alonso.
No direct contact of Max and Vettel, so no bump.
The only permutation that didn't happen xD

40

No one can take that you away from you aveli, you nailed it 🙂

41

geoff gordon should be permanent in the channel four crew. he is ace!

42

Any team that signs Crashtappen is plumb crazy.

43

Don't know if Max still wants to join Ferrari after wrongfully being blamed on twitter.

44

i don't think it matters much, he will join any team which gives him a chance at championships.

45

Remarkably, lately the trend has been that Ricciardo could fit in with Merc and Verstappen with Ferrari. I don't see Verstappen going to Ferrari until he's at least 25. I think Toto and Niki want him with Mercedes, the Verstappens having ignored MB in 2015 notwithstanding. Ricciardo I cannot picture with Merc. Hamilton, other than Vettel, will not object to Verstappen joining. He really doesn't care whether competition arrives, or if he does he cannot afford to show it, even internally. Vettel on the other hand is much more protective of his position, as evidenced here.

46

mercedes only gave bottas a one year extention instead of their normal three. they must have other intentions beyond 2018.

47

I heard this weekend the other way around too, from people who claim to know. So we will see.

48

HI James,

Do you think riccardio might end up with Mercedes and verstappen at ferrari?

49

That's been my feeling but I heard it the other way round from two trusted insiders this weekend so I'm reviewing...

50

@James...just another observance. Verstappen and his team are an abrasive bunch and they seem to cause friction wherever they are. Do you seriously think that Ferrari or Mercedes would entertain this 'attitude' from within.? Particularly given the 'volatility' that exists between Vettel and Verstappen. Managing that would be problem in itself before the racing starts.

51

I think Toto and Verstappen Sr have been and remain in close contact and Max is clearly a shade faster than Ricciardo - he's out qualified him 10x already in their first full season together. That speaks for itself.

As Max is now, when it comes to racing, then yes there is surely some doubt. But in another year, with more experience...

52

@ james. Thanks for response. I guess that we'll just have to wait and see. Evidence supports the 'shade faster' than Ricciardo when looking at the quali stats however race results are the final arbiter and that is where it counts. Will he change with experience? IMO, i doubt it, and that is why next year will be a game changer when it comes to the future of who drives for who. He has publicly stated that he has no intention of changing his style or approach. We'll see.

53

@James,
True!
More true even: in another year, with less misfortune keeping him from gaining experience...
Upon being asked by journalists that he surely must be getting stronger from all these misfortunes Max indicated no, he wasn't, he'd only get stronger from being able to battle up front. But he's been clipped off and let down by his car too many times for that to happen or for anybody to even be able to fairly judge him.
Sure, there's some youthful impatience: Hungary (Ric), Massa recently, engaging in a 3-car wide situation earlier, but that's about it.
Maybe a factor in the number of incidents is the way other drivers perceive Max. They certainly seem apprehensive when he is near and more prone to bouts of aggressive defending and other behaviour reminiscent of... inexperience.

54

@ James....Do your informers have credibilty from past forecasts?

56

Now there's something to further contemplate James. Thanks for that.

57

Ken

Personally I think DR, apart from his driving skills, would be a great fit for Ferrari and he would be warmly embraced by the Tifosi. While he is very much an 'Aussie' he is also in many respects culturally an Italian. There was a show on Perth TV about him where he talked about the importance of his Italian heritage in terms of large family gatherings, Italian cuisine and speaking Italian to his grandparents. He also said that he makes an effort to speak Italian to Italian F1 journalists. Lets not forget that his father sent him to Italy to live for a period of time when he was very young.

The other thing (as you may have read in my posts) is that I think things are starting to unravel a bit at Maranello with Vettel being unable to control his emotions/temperament and Raikkonen being somewhat of a disappointment. In all probability it looks like both world titles will be lost to Merc this year.

IMO, and if JA is correct, all DR has to do to get Kim's seat next year is to keep doing what he's doing now. Here's hoping.

58

It could be more about whet Vettel does between now and then..

If all is going well and he's heading for the title Ferrari has Leclerc at Sauber ready to promote

59

Part of me hopes they are wrong this time.
But if i were to wager who would retire first between Lewis and Seb, i would say Lewis. So there might be some more opportunity at MB. I think MB is clearly a more consistent operator.
If you take away the desires of the current No 1 drivers -then Max to MB and RIC to Fer makes more sense culturally. Northern European team and driver v Southern European team and driver.
I would imagine the Tifosi would be rabid for RIC's Italian blood though. Ferrari also seem to like their drivers to be a bit older and have proven themselves.

60

I am excited to think that we may see some major driver changes. Whilst we all have our 'besties' a shake out is well overdue.

61

Interesting thought that Vettel might not want another top driver alongside him, doubly so in the light of today's race. Did the desire to put Verstappen in his place prove to be Vettel's undoing?

62

Getting to the point of this article, I don't think any top driver likes a top end driver as a teammate except maybe Senna who didn't mind Prost staying on though Prost on the other hand felt threatened. But doesn't discredit Prost's ability as a driver just the way it is i guess. But if you take any other top driver they prefer a driver who is not upto par with them. Maybe an ego thing or probably upsets the balance of the team like Alo/Ham in 07 or they just like to be the sole No 1, heck who doesn't??? I find it hilarious when one of these drivers are asked who was the teammate who challenged them the most ,They will always mention one who was not in par with them but go on to say how brilliant they were, never mention who actually challenged them. I was watching an interview with Alonso and he mentioned Button where it was obviously Hammilton who challenged him the most

63

Vettel will not win this season's championship unless Mercedes implode!

64

Fascinating reading James, love the political insight

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