Image via @F1
Image via @F1
Sebastian Vettel entered the 2019 F1 season as Ferrari’s number one but left it as their second best driver.
His former Red Bull boss, Helmut Marko, blames the Scuderia’s political games for the German’s downfall.
For only the second time in his Formula 1 career, Vettel came second to a team-mate in the 2019 Drivers’ Championship.
While the German took one race win, Singapore, on his way to 160 points, his new team-mate Charles Leclerc outscored him by four.
The only other team-mate to have ever beaten the four-time World Champion was Daniel Ricciardo back in 2014.
Marko, Red Bull’s advisor, told Motorsport-Total.com that Vettel has struggled to deal with the internal politics at Ferrari this season.
“Compared to the other great drivers who have been in Ferrari, he cannot do his best unless he feels the unconditional support of the team,” he said.
“In Red Bull it was like that, in Ferrari probably not.
“Vettel suffers too much because of the politics in Ferrari. At Red Bull we were straightforward.”
The Austrian, though, has backed his former driver to bounce back next year, saying one “can’t write him off yet”.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says he is well aware of the affect having a rising star such as Leclerc as his team-mate had on Vettel.
The former Sauber driver was not only the first of the two Ferrari men to secure a win, taking the chequered flag in Belgium, but he also won the team’s home race, the Italian Grand Prix.
Leclerc finished the season as the top man in the season’s qualifying with seven pole positions to his name.
“[Sebastian] has been uncomfortable with the car at the start of the season, certainly with the braking instability,” Binotto explained to Formula1.com.
“The challenge for him has been [having] a good benchmark as well, because having such a fast team-mate gave him some headache and he was under a lot of pressure.
“Leclerc was coping a bit better with the type of issues [with the car] because of his driving style.”
The 2019 season raised more questions about Vettel’s long-term future with former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone predicting that 2020 will be the German’s final season in the sport.
“I haven’t seen him lately doing whatever he can to win,” Ecclestone told Sport Bild.
“I would not put my money on it [Vettel remaining in F1 in 2021], but he will make the right decision.”
Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri has given him until next year’s Spanish GP to decide what he wants to do as well as prove to his bosses that he deserves a place on the 2021 grid.
“Ferrari has the advantage that we are very popular among the drivers,” said Camilleri. “We are in a privileged situation.
“By the beginning of May, roughly around the race in Spain, we want to know where the journey will go in 2021.”