The 2021 FORMULA 1 season is turning out to be one epic fight between Lewis Hamilton, an inspiring seven-time world champion and his young adversary Max Verstappen, the raging bull of Red Bull. As revealed by the two races at Bahrain and then, at Imola, much of the laurels went to two of the best drivers on the grid in Hamilton and Verstappen.
But further down the grid, a triumvirate of world champion drivers was embroiled in their fight. Their names? Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. And while much has already been said about Raikkonen staying on at Alfa Romeo for another season with many a headline centred on the much-anticipated return of Alonso, one man, in particular, is surrounded by hype and should one say- a lack of performance so far. He is the former Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.
In the two races held so far, Sebastian Vettel- forget not a four-time world champion- has been unable to collect a single point. Seemingly not a great sign for a veteran driver who, at his peak, crushed opponents like shreds of paper in front of the marauding speed of his former machines.
More troubles for Sebastian Vettel
But here’s what’s more troubling.
As a matter of fact, not once did the former Red Bull sensation (especially if you consider years 2010-13) make it to Q3 in qualifying for either race, whether one speaks of Bahrain or Imola.
At the electrifying night safari called Sakhir, in Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel was able to qualify his AMR 21 to eighteenth on the grid (P18). While he was behind the Williams of Nicholas Latifi, he just about managed to keep the tail of his car in front of the ailing Haas’ of Schumacher and Mazepin.
What didn’t help his cause any further was the race finish- a P15, behind George Russell, a driver a decade younger than the celebrated German.
Furthermore, things took a turn for the worse for Vettel at Imola with the Heppeneheim-born driver failing to finish the race with just about two laps to go; a gearbox issue forced him to retire on Lap 61.
But it’s one thing to criticise and be taken in by the sordid drama and the lack of performance, and something quite different to appreciate the picture behind the curtain that veils all the effort.
So what do we mean by this?
Sebastian Vettel backed by a team principal who believes in him
None other than Aston Martin Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer is backing the former multiple world champion to get on top of his issues with the brand new Aston Martin machine.
He insists, as does the rest of the crew at the British stable who are behind the German, that Vettel will see off the challenges.
“For Seb, the philosophy of the AMR21 is completely different and that does take time to learn,” explains Otmar. “I spoke to Checo [in Imola] and he’s gone to Red Bull, which has a different philosophy to us, and he said similar.
“It’s going to take seat time to be able to get on top of the fine margins needed for getting the most out of the car. The more seat time, the better.”
In a world obsessed with instant fan reactions that amplify our social-media obsessing world with the minutest of observations or should one say digs, it’s easy to remember a fall but hard to appreciate a brave move.
Speaking of which one has to rewind back to the great battle that Vettel demonstrated with a driver much younger to him- and hence, in reflexes- Alpine F1 team’s Esteban Ocon.
It wasn’t that hard to see the old warring Vettel coming to the fore as he made that opportunistic pass on the Frenchman heading into the tricky Variante Alta.
That Sebastian Vettel is struggling for points is obvious and clearly visible. But that he is trying to get on top of his game is something one must appreciate and perhaps wait for with the same patience one applies whilst waiting for one’s sizzling hot blind date.
Surely, the critics can laugh off the much-hyped arrival of a great driver to a newly reconfigured team with Vettel bagging all the accolades when his new deal was announced, while it is much younger teammate Lance Stroll who’s delivered the performances so far.
But then, at the same time, there’s also sense in noticing how a very talented and undaunted driver like Sergio Perez struggled initially in his new Red Bull stint. A driver who goes for the move whenever the chance presents itself was reduced to a facepalm expression despite having the best view to tackle none other than Lewis Hamilton, come Imola courtesy his P2 in qualifying.
Patience the key
True philosophy dictates that greatness comes to those who persist but then so do great challenges, don’t you think?
It’s a long season ahead with 21 more races to go and Vettel’s disappointing run in the races that’ve been concluded must not determine what he’s capable of.
Furthermore, what can’t be ignored is the flying times that Seb was able to post once he put the slicks on under Imola’s inclement weather, beating Stroll in the second half of the race on sheer race-pace.
But in what lies ahead- Sebastian Vettel’s first aim should be to ace the qualifying runs in the all-important Saturday’s. And where experience and skill serve a reminder then it shouldn’t really be a predicament for a driver who’s got 57 poles against his name.
So where it stands at the moment- may the force belong to the one who contends with a lot of it at Aston Martin!