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Interview with Sebastian Vettel: “Our car was not dominant”
Google Translated from German article by Auto Motor und Sport:
Sebastian Vettel looks back on a year in which he was on the right track to the WDC title, but then took a wrong turn. The Ferrari driver talks about the background of the technical breakdowns and a series of inexplicable slips.
They’re still on schedule. Michael Schumacher became world champion only in his fifth year with Ferrari. Does that reassure you?
Vettel: I already came to Ferrari with a two-title advantage. I don’t really want to compare myself with that, although I understand that the comparison is somewhere close at hand. Both German, both Ferrari, both four years without title. If we win then we can talk about it. Then half of Michael’s title would also be okay for me.
What is your summary after four years of Ferrari?
Vettel: That’s hard to get to the point. The team has developed a lot during this time. Today’s team is much stronger and more focused than four years ago. In the beginning everything was very fragmented, now a unit. In a way, the success proves us right, even though the whole big success has not yet happened. But in recent years we have shown that this team has potential. We already had a very good car in 2017 and this year we achieved our goals the way we had set ourselves. Looking back, I’m sure you would have liked things to go a bit faster, but the trend is positive, even though we haven’t yet got where we want to go.
Were you any closer to the title last year or this year?
Vettel: One would tend to this year, but both years are surprisingly very similar. Last year we lacked engine power. The car was good, but too inefficient on certain routes. This year the aerodynamics were more efficient. With the engine, we were closer to Mercedes but of the car not yet where we should have been.
But in certain phases of the season Ferrari had the better package.
Vettel: What does dominant mean? As dominant as Mercedes was in Spain, France or Russia, unfortunately we didn’t have such races. We didn’t have a one-two win and had two front rows on the grid. That was different last year. That’s why the bottom line is that both seasons are quite similar.
Was it the three races in Singapore, Sochi and Suzuka that broke Ferrari’s neck?
Vettel: They cost us a lot of points, of course, but overall it was the not yet there as it should have been. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gotten into situations we’d partially gotten into.
Is it a coincidence that it always happens after the summer break?
Vettel: I think so. Of course we have to work on ourselves. Maybe the tension was too great for us after the races that didn’t go so well. So one quickly comes after the other. Once you have problems with your leg, it’s not so easy to get rid of them.
Mercedes strikes back immediately after every defeat. At Ferrari it took three races. Is the reaction time too long?
Vettel: Of course a lot of time was lost, but it was difficult for us to see where the mistake was. We had to take a good step back so that we could perform again on the track. That’s why we weren’t on the same level of development as our rivals in the end. I don’t know where the problems at Mercedes were if they ever had any. Maybe it was easier for them to find their way back.
Was the death of Ferrari President Marchionne an incision? He was somehow the organising hand in the background.
Vettel: What you can’t do is to say that from that moment on things went downhill. That wouldn’t be fair to the team. Of course, the president was somehow an ordering hand, but what happened to us after the summer break was already planned before the president’s death. The racing team had already been quite isolated in its day-to-day business and acted independently. Nothing was changed or stopped afterwards. The decisive factor will be what happens in the coming months. Only then can you get an idea from the outside what influence the absence of this central figure had.
Was there this one moment of change in the title fight? Maybe the accident in Hockenheim or the defeat in Monza?
Vettel: After such an accident as I did in Hockenheim. That was really stupid. A small mistake with huge consequences. I didn’t try to attack, didn’t think about who was behind me, how big my advantage is, whether I win or not. I just concentrated on my race, looking from corner to corner, especially under the circumstances with rain every now and then. I was really only a tick too late, shifting down, the rear axle stops. I slid a bit straight ahead, could only make a correction, and then I was already on the green strip and with a wheel in the gravel bed. The speed was also nothing. I couldn’t believe it at first. Sure, I left a lot of points there. I believe that Mercedes’ strength this year was to exploit our weaknesses to the maximum and to fight back in exactly those races. At the same time they told everyone that our car is so dominant and tries to increase the pressure on us. I see it differently. Our car was not dominant. We had our chances. We used most of them. But the bottom line was that something was missing.
What role does psychology play between the two main actors in the World Cup duel?
Vettel: I don’t think much of these psycho duels. In the past few years I’ve kept myself out of this 1:1 duel as there were between some drivers in the past. That never touched me so much. I’m not the one who shot any poisonous arrows.
You had relatively many slips by your standards. What went wrong?
Vettel: Many of the situations were 50 to 50. It could have been Lewis in Monza. He didn’t see at the time that I was lying diagonally behind him. Lewis isn’t the type to stab in without regard to losses and close the door. I was trying to avoid the collision, but I couldn’t disappear. In retrospect I might have preferred to stay on the gas and take both of us out. Then I turn away and he gets away. My car is damaged, not his. Such a thing happens unfortunately. I was at the wrong place more often this year.
The computer kids like Verstappen race on the Playstation in their spare time. They have played through every racing situation 1000 times. Is that an advantage in such moments?
Vettel: That’s nonsense. Then I would have to be a great football player. When I play something on the Playstation, it’s football. That hasn’t helped me yet. Or if you watch James Bond movies all the time, you would have to be a born secret agent.
The whole world seems to function only digitally. Good or bad?
Vettel: In terms of sports, the computing power of the computer helps us enormously. This is the only way we can build these cars the way we have them now. In general, I’m very sceptical about the whole thing. The model is not really forward-looking if we abolish ourselves now. It will be exciting to see how far we go. In the end, however, everyone has to decide for themselves how far they want to surrender to this digital world or not.
You are the only driver who is not travelling on these digital platforms. You don’t want to control how you stand in the shop window?
Vettel: The platform does exactly the opposite of what they pretend to do. They don’t show the real picture. Once you’ve got millions of followers, no photo goes out uncensored. It’s like believing you know the people from the TV. It’s a self-portrayal stage with which you can earn money. The user doesn’t really learn anything. It falls into the entertainment category.
Are you surprised that your otherwise so introverted team mate Kimi Räikkönen suddenly plays this game?
Vettel: Yes, I do. Meanwhile there is obviously a lot of money to be made. It’s become a kind of currency.
Don’t you want to earn money there?
Vettel: I have no need to communicate. Why should I tell people where I am right now? That only eats up life. I don’t want to criticise anyone who does that. Everyone has the freedom to do what he wants, but my world is not. I will not take part in this race.
In Formula 1, the flood of data has its advantages. Would this sport be different if it only had to rely on feedback from the drivers and lap times?
Vettel: I think so. Of course, the data gives us the opportunity to discuss everything much faster and get a concrete picture faster. Is that always better? Is that what you want? That’s how the world developed, and the sport can’t ignore it. Not only Formula 1, which has always had a great affinity for technology. Other sports have also become a science in the meantime. Now that this knowledge is there, you can no longer escape it. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that it would be good for sport if it were simplified.
Don’t the technical possibilities sometimes stand in the way of the engineers because you can’t see the forest for the trees? Would your aerodynamics problem have been discovered earlier if you had used common sense?
Vettel: Yes and no. If many parameters are omitted, you rely on what remains. The driver’s feedback would then play a more central role. It can happen that you lose sight of the overall picture if you have too much information and concentrate on every detail. On the other hand, you can also argue that we wouldn’t have reached this point if we didn’t have the technical possibilities. But for the individual decision here and there it would be the quicker way to listen more to the driver. The driver’s input gives the whole thing something that the sensor can’t give. Feelings cannot be measured.
They prefer twelve cylinders to 120 kilowatts from the battery. Are you afraid that we won’t be able to drive the cars we grew up with in ten years?
Vettel: At some point these cars that we love will no longer be built. You have to come to terms with that. But I still believe that you can still drive around with the old cars. Anything else would be a crime.
Have you ever driven an electric car?
Vettel: Yes, a few years ago. I’m not an opponent of it now either, when it comes to the transport from A to B. But I don’t think that electric cars solve all the problems of the world. I think it’s the wrong technology. Too complex, too expensive, not as clean as they are made. Think of the problem of disposing of batteries. Because it does not stink locally, it pleases at the moment. But it just stinks somewhere else.
And in motor sports?
Vettel: You have to separate it. What we do is entertainment. And emotions are part of it. If there is only one laser show at a rock concert, something is missing. I go there because of the music. It is then the question which show each individual wants to see.
“Lance absolutely loved his time in the car,” said Szafnauer in an interview for the official F1 website. “He said the car could do the things that he wants the car to do, which is good.
“And we were duly impressed with Lance. We were already impressed with him when he ran in the simulator, he was on the pace very quickly, up to Esteban’s level in the simulator.
“We were just hoping that the pace he showed in the simulator would translate onto the track and it did. He was very quick on track too.”
“We’ve got some good potential there in Lance and we’ll work with him to hopefully teach him some things we know about how to drive the tyre and how to preserve it, make it go quick and last over the stint. We’ll do that with him, help him qualify better too.
“But he brings some great skills. He’s quick, he usually does a great job at the start, over the first lap he usually makes up places so we’re looking forward to work with him.”
“Esteban’s young enough, Esteban had opportunities this year but they weren’t forthcoming I think due to his management structure. It’s just how Formula 1 is.
“However I think in time those guys with the talent will come to the forefront, their talent will rise.”