Shaken, sebastian vettel wipes his face with his hand, eyes briefly closed. "Stop when you’re mude," advises a stern female voice – and suddenly this video clip can also be understood as a snapshot of the ferrari driver’s entire dilemma.
The world governing body actually wants to use the pictures to advertise traffic safety, but vettel’s expression during his brief appearance also seems to reflect the scuderia’s renewed plight ahead of the fifth formula 1 race of the season in barcelona.
His fifth year at ferrari, which was finally supposed to be a crowning achievement, could hardly have begun much worse. Four double victories by mercedes duo valtteri bottas and lewis hamilton have pretty much demolished vettel’s world championship hopes. Once again, the 31-year-old has to prove his ability to find the strength for a counterattack. It wears on him, you can hear and see that. "If we had the choice, we weren’t going to want to rely on a comeback. But that’s the way it is," says vettel.
But simply stopping, tired of the many defeats with ferrari – that’s not an option for vettel. "Despite everything, we are optimistic that we will find our way back to our old strength," says the driver from heppenheim. The team wants to force the turnaround with a new engine expansion stage and other innovations developed in a rough hurry by ferrari. In the opening practice session on friday, however, the finn bottas is again faster than vettel.
So ferrari cannot hope for a slowdown from mercedes. "There’s no room for complacency in our position, because we know it doesn’t accurately reflect the true balance of power from the way the season has gone so far," says mercedes team boss toto wolff. The austrian describes the rough lead in the overall standings as "far too flattering for us" and derives from this the hunger for more and more victories.
At the winter tests in barcelona, mercedes seemed to be behind and vettel was the fastest, before the start of the season became a series of frustrations for him. The four-time world champion is already 35 points behind the leader bottas, while defending champion hamilton is 34 points ahead of him. "We need to start scoring points, the faster the better. The longer this goes on, the worse it looks," warns vettel.
Ferrari could also use soccer as a role model, says vettel’s team danger charles leclerc. After all, the sporting wonders of liverpool and amsterdam proved how supposedly safe leads were still being made up. "The champions league was a good example. And that’s exactly the mentality we have in the team," stresses the 21-year-old leclerc.
Vettel also uses the analogy to soccer and, looking ahead to the long season ahead, says: "we’re down 0:4, they’ve beaten us four times. But there are a total of 21 goals to be scored, so there are still plenty of goals or races to be had."But he will hardly want to emulate his frankfurter eintracht, whose unfortunate semi-final exit in the europa league the hessian watched on tv. Vettel has long since had enough of bitter failure just before the rough goal.