Has Vettel Cracked?
This time last year we were all scratching our heads and preparing ourselves for the inevitable, Vettel already had a large lead in the championship, and with the Red Bull looking unstoppable there was no silver lining in sight for a classic battle at the top.
Mark Webber admits himself that he never really got his teeth into these blown diffuser cars. They had a very particular way of controlling that was not very natural to the Australians way of driving. This meant that Vettel was on his own to steal the honours at nearly every Grand Prix. And this he did, in some style as well, grabbing pole at nearly every opportunity and making sure if there was trouble in any particular race, that he was always far from it.
It was certainly a champions drive, his consistency all season was devastating, with many speculating that we had the next ďGreatĒ on our hands.
Something about this didnít sit right with me, and it seemed more than a world away from the driver we saw in 2010. A brilliant driver he has always been, but one with many flaws. Most notably, his temperament when things are not quite going his way.
We all remember the incident with Webber in Turkey where the team threw away an almost certain 1-2 finish when Vettel, having passed Webber for first position on the track, attempted to re-take his line without checking to see if he was fully past Mark. Of course he wasnít, and they both ended up red faced and scrambling around in the gravel.
Predictably, Vettel pointed his now famous finger in Webbers direction, calling him all sorts of names and seemingly with the teams owners on their young prodigies side.
Later in that season, we saw another flash of crazy from the German as a reckless attempt to overtake Button in the Belgium Grand Prix, somehow ended with him slamming head on into the side of Jensons McLaren, ending the Englishmanís race and hindering Vettels seemingly faltering title challenge.
It seemed as though he had grown as a driver over the next few months. The gains he made in driving awareness and consistency were simply staggering and should never be forgotten, but as the 2012 season gets underway, Iím being reminded of the still very young manís Achilles heel.
Just looking down the pit lane, itís clear a change in the tide has occured. The usual air of confidence that normally exudes from the Red Bull garage is nowhere to be seen. Instead itís been replaced by nervousness and some seriously concerned faces. The relaxed, jokey atmosphere of the teams garage has been evaporated by the heat of sweaty mechanics making last minute setup changes, staring at computer screens, and desperately wondering just where their pace has gone!
The banning of blown diffusers and the tighter regulations on the flexing of front wings has seemingly hurt the team in a very serious way, and at the moment at least, it seems as though the car they have built, whilst still very good, is not quite the class of the field.
This does not sit well with Vettel at all, and to make matters even worse for Sebastian, his team-mate, the man who he destroyed all year in 2011, seems to be a lot more comfortable in this car which requires a more rough and ready approach.
All of this amounts to pressure! The word we use so often in this fast paced world. Some drivers thrive on it, and others break under itís weight. It may be way too early to decide if the latter is happening to Vettel, but a single second place is not good enough to meet the young Germans new expectations of himself. This showed itself very clearly in the last race in Malaysia.
As happened a few years ago with his team-mate, whilst overtaking Karthikeyan in the HRT, Seb cut back onto his line way too soon, running over the back-markers front wing and giving himself a puncture, effectively ending his race. The team telling him to retire the car towards the end of the race also seemed to fall on deaf ears, the German blaming radio issues for the lack of response. Iím tempted to blame hot headedness and blind rage rather than faulty Red Bull electronics, and Vettels dummy spitting rant as he got out his car at Nareins driving only confirmed my suspicions.
I think an apology to all the cucumbers sitting on our supermarket shelves is in orderÖ Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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