Formula 1 2019 review: Warning! Contains Sebastian Vettel
The next season. By winning his sixth domain, the 34-year-old became statistically the 2nd most successful driver in F1, behind only Michael Schumacher.
However, while Mercedes were active hoovering up points for both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles, the rest of the amusement of the season was happening someplace – and it often included Sebastian Vettel.
Even though 2019 attracted a single pole position and him one race win that he receives top marks for turning what might have been a tedious year of rushing into a thriller. This is why…
Since the pressure mounted to the world winner to block the run of mistakes that had started in the second half of 2018, his team-mate Charles Leclerc was shooting most of the things – and each of the glory.
But then in Canada in June, Vettel came back with a bang to control score and qualifying his first pole – since the previous July’s German Grand Prix.
Had Vettel’s losing curse been raised? It appeared like the F1 circus was rooting for him to win in Montreal.
But whilst pursuing him down, Hamilton exerted pressure, and also the mistakes returned. The German was moving off on to the bud coming to a chicane returned into the track to shove at Hamilton towards the wall. This led to the stewards issue a penalty to him and to pick up their clipboards.
Cue Vettel shouting:”Where the hell was I supposed to move? I’d grass on my wheels. They’re stealing the race .”
But that was not its end. Vettel took the chequered flag, but once he found he wasn’t the race winner, he moved to a different rant.
“No no no,” he explained over team radio. “Not like this. You have to be an utter man that is blind – ? This is the wrong world.”
The German’s outrage induced him to interrupt the usual podium celebrations, park his car in parc ferme instead of in front of this’ number two’ board by the FIA officials , and storm off to the Ferrari garage. He was then forced by an FIA official to fulfil his podium responsibilities.
Along the road , he swapped the’number one’ board in front of Hamilton’s car for the’number two’ in which his should have been. Dragged him up to share the podium’s best step together once Vettel had came.
Unsportsmanlike behaviour? Not a little of this… Fans enjoyed it so far that Vettel was voted driver of the afternoon. And Ferrari joined in with the refusal to accept defeat, upholding their very long heritage of flying a flag.
Another motorist quite happy to challenge the stats this season is Max Verstappen. It’s the one he appears to refuse to accept, although the reduction of his pole position in Mexico at October wasn’t the very first time he has been stripped off a place due to a punishment.
He had been given a three-place grid penalty after failing to slow flags in his final qualifying lap when Valtteri Bottas crashed, and even confessed his error at the post-qualifying press conference having a nervous giggle.
Then his eight career victories have come amid some kind of play. Just take the one in Austria in June – Verstappen’s first win of this year along with his second in the team’s home race.
The Mercedes pair were from contention for the win with engine cooling problems, and so a rivalry blossomed between Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. A gripping struggle saw Verstappen chase down the Ferrari and pass with two laps.
As Hamilton had done to Vettel in Canada three weeks earlier, Verstappen forced a mistake and made Leclerc run wide. That’s one way of studying it. Another, if you’re in the Ferrari camp, would be that Leclerc was pushed clean the trail away from.
There was a long wait to detect if Verstappen would continue to keep his race win. The verdict – that his success stood – was not called until hours later. The Dutchman called it”difficult racing”. Leclerc started concocting a revenge program, and took his bat and ball home.
Two weeks later that strategy was enacted.
Ferrari Returned in the Grand Prix with bite. Leclerc and verstappen faced off in one of their most intense struggles of the F1 era.
Since they ceased for fresh tyres it extended to the pits. The race to get back on course as fast as possible meant a duel the Silverstone pit lane just wasn’t designed for.
They fought until their struggle was ended by a safety car on lap 20 and Verstappen was held off by Leclerc.
Enter the challenge to be taken up by Vettel. But rather than taking the struggle to Verstappen, he piled . The German abandoned the Red Bull driver to track home in fifth, and put himself to the rear of the field.
Vettel not only collected a 10-second penalty, but also the next two superlicence factors to add to those from the 2018 US Grand Prix, and the Canadian Grand Prix following the”bud on my brakes” episode. They wouldn’t be the last.
There are lots of rules for a Ferrari driver. But number one, in the front of the rule book into black ribbon, is:’Do not mess up in the front of the Tifosi.’ Leclerc stuck to it. Vettel didn’t.
Leclerc made the ideal pole-to-flag success in September – with a controversially cut corner along with an aggressive defensive movement. He did that in an F1 circuit steeped in history, fending off Hamilton to become the first Ferrari winner in Monza because Fernando Alonso in 2010. Scenes.
But what about Vettel? Ah, well. He dropped a place to the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg on lap one. It got worse.
Under no pressure from anybody, the German lost control and spun at the Ascari chicane. Then it got worse still.
Attempting to re-join the track, Vettel did something to horrify Ferrari lovers and driving teachers alike. Mirror, signal, manoeuvre? Forget it. Apparently without appearing, Vettel returned to the track and crashed into Lance Stroll, who subsequently needed to swerve dangerously to prevent a collision with Pierre Gasly.
It was a shocking movement to come out of a motorist so experienced, and yet another jaw-dropping moment within an already dramatic race.
Then it got worse.
The stewards slapped Vettel with a 10-second stop-go penalty, also added three more points to his over-crowded superlicence. Three after that would indicate a ban.
Was that the end of Vettel’s dramas for your period?
Do not be foolish.
The internal power struggle reached breaking point with a crash and a retirement in November, at the Royal Grand Prix.
Leclerc was beating and off the track all season – as soon as the pair played in the paddock with remote control cars.
At Turn One, Leclerc made a clean lunge down the inside of his team-mate in the closing stages of the battle for third party at Interlagos.
Vettel was not pleased. He was not happy. He reacted by devoting DRS to strike back on the strategy.
Wheel-to-wheel was gone by the duo down the straight, As Vettel pulled off, he turned on Leclerc along with the cars made contact. The effect: suspension harm for both Leclerc, also punctures all around.
The feud had eventually erupted – and background had repeated. The transfer one Vettel had made during their Red Bull days Mark Webber in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix.
It was heartbreaking for Ferrari, but a pleasure to see just two groups – McLaren and Toro Rosso – make it on the podium. It was a sweet time for Red Bull’s most recent reject, since he won a drag race about the straight across the line. With that was the second of Pierre Gasly.
Gasly – demoted into Toro Rosso in August from Red Bull – along with Carlos Sainz joined Max Verstappen on the podium to celebrate a race which won’t be forgotten.
What happens as it warms down during a rush, and cars come a cropper on a corner coated – strangely – together using soap?
If you’re Vettel, you provide the ideal race – to once – by coming to moment, while much retires or of the area crashes.
Such was the situation in Germany in July, one left even odder with a rare Mercedes foul-up. The group came wearing outfits to celebrate 125 years in motorsport. They left having been sucked into enacting a full size tribute.
To think, after a French Grand Prix that is disappointing the month, that the F1 community had debated if the sport got stale. Germany provided a race for the ages – plus a few surprises.
Take the drivers. Bottas – sure. Hulkenberg – clear. Leclerc – a bit of a shock. However, Hamilton? The world champion came into desperation in a corner. Could Dick Dastardly paid a secret trip to Hockenheim? No one seemed able to describe – or take any action.
You wouldn’t get that kind of play in a game of Mario Kart.
However, the moment of this race was when Racing Point took a bet on slick tyres in the closing stages as the rain subsided, and Lance Stroll took the guide.
All bets were off who would finally stand to the podium, and Verstappen won, with the other screen of fair driving to improve his list of victories that are dramatic. Daniil Kvyat collected some champagne .
Away from Vettel’s antics, there are things.
There’s the bromance involving Lando Norris along with Carlos Sainz; the close midfield struggle and resurgence of both McLaren; the fall of Renault’s functionality; the ladder Williams and Haas keep to climb towards achieving competitive form; the Red Bull mid-season motorist swaps resulting in the discovery that their art pool is ironic; and also the constant discussions concerning the 2021 regulations.
But what is for certain, is that Formula 1 has provided many moments of tears, laughter, frustration and boredom. And long may it continue. See you in Melbourne in March, Sebastian? You gamble.