After four-plus seasons, it is time for Scuderia Ferrari to move past Sebastian Vettel’s hopes of becoming a five-time Formula 1 champion.
Since four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel left Red Bull Racing following the 2014 season and signed with Scuderia Ferrari for the 2015 season, he has been the top driver at the Italian team.
Much of this stems from the fact that the 31-year-old German is a better driver than Kimi Raikkonen, who was his teammate at the Scuderia from the 2015 season through the 2018 season. Vettel won 13 races during these four seasons while Raikkonen won only one, and Vettel took 10 pole positions while Raikkonen only took two during the same span.
However, some of it also stems from the fact that Ferrari prioritized Vettel over the 39-year-old Finn, which was no secret at any point during their four seasons as teammates.
Leclerc finished in fifth place in the Australian Grand Prix behind Vettel in fourth, and an engine issue late in the Bahrain Grand Prix prevented him from sealing what was a dominant performance with what would have been his first career Formula 1 victory. Instead, he finished in a career-high third.
Yet Leclerc sits in fourth place in the driver standings with 26 points while Vettel sits in fifth with 22. Why? Because Vettel, like he has done several times in recent seasons, threw away a potential top two finish by spinning out and losing his front wing late in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Vettel has thrown away a boatload of points, especially since the 2017 season, due to unforced errors, and this has cost him the opportunity to truly contend and beat Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s Hamilton for championships. So far, even through only two races, the 2019 season has produced more of the same.
If not for this plethora of mistakes, Vettel could be a six-time champion right now. Meanwhile, it is Hamilton whose championship total has increased from three to five over the last two seasons. Simply put, spins and other self-induced incidents have plagued him, yet Ferrari have continued to invest in him as their top driver.
With all things considered, Ferrari need to move on from this strategy, as it has resulted in nothing but bitter disappointment for Vettel and for the team as a whole in the past.
If they don’t, they will waste the potential of Leclerc just to watch Vettel fall short of Hamilton, and perhaps others, once again. He is already trailing Leclerc in the driver standings despite the fact that he has already been prioritized twice in only two races and despite Leclerc’s heartbreaking engine issue.
It is hard enough to beat Hamilton at full strength. Vettel simply cannot beat Hamilton in addition to the rest of the field to win another Formula 1 championship if he continues making these kinds of mistakes, and given the fact that he has shown no signs of eliminating them, Ferrari cannot afford to put all their eggs in his basket with the hope that he will deliver them their first driver championship since Raikkonen won the title in the 2007 season.
Source: Beyond the Flag