It’s hard getting to the top. And it can be even harder to stay there.
Yet going into this current Formula One season, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing had been able to stay the World Champions for four consecutive seasons.
That reign is likely to end this year. With F1’s new package of technical regulations, Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are now fighting out this year’s championship in the most dominant cars on the grid.
To Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, part of that comes down to Vettel simply being a bit exhausted from constantly defending his crown.
“When you have fought for the title for five years, it does wear you out a little bit,” Horner told Germany’s Auto Bild Motorsport. “But that is not the fundamental problem.”
The biggest cause of Vettel’s decline in Horner’s eyes is coping with the brake-by-wire braking system, which Horner says has robbed the German of some of his feeling with the car.
It also didn’t help that the RB10 overall wasn’t necessarily great at the start of the season.
“The driveability was really bad, so Seb could not look after the tires in the way that he always has done,” he said of Vettel.
But as Red Bull and engine manufacturer Renault have made progress in improving the car, Horner thinks Vettel is finding his way once more.
“His pace in Hungary showed he is getting the feeling for the car back again,” Horner said. “And we can’t forget how many mechanical problems Sebastian has had – many of them just little things that have disrupted his flow. So he has had less time to adapt his driving style.”
Vettel’s been knocked out early in three races this season at Australia, Monaco, and Austria.
At the most recent race in Hungary, he started on the front row but finished a sub-par seventh after a mis-timed pit stop under a safety car period and then a spin on track.