F1 2014 Driver Review: Sebastian Vettel

7 Comments

Sebastian Vettel

Team: Infiniti Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 1
Races: 19
Wins: 0
Podiums (excluding wins): 4
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 167
Laps Led: 1
Championship Position: 5th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

There have been few title defences as tame as Sebastian Vettel’s efforts in 2014. Despite winning four straight world titles, he went into this season as the underdog following a miserable winter for Red Bull.

Malaysia saw Vettel nearly nab pole position from Lewis Hamilton before running Nico Rosberg close during the race, suggesting that Red Bull might not be in such bad shape after all. And indeed, the team did end the year with three wins, but not one came from Vettel.

The stand-out stat? Sebastian Vettel led just one lap of racing in 2014, taking the lead when Lewis Hamilton pitted from the lead in Singapore. In 2013, he led 684.

It was a year that saw Vettel struggle to work with the 2014-spec car, the RB10, and he rarely looked capable of winning a race. His two best chances came in Canada and Belgium, yet on both occasions, it was Ricciardo who took the bull by the horns.

Moving to Ferrari in 2015 gives Vettel a chance to build a team around himself and follow in Michael Schumacher’s footsteps. However, he has a lot of wounds to heal from a disappointing campaign in 2014 – will the memory of this year be character-building or character-breaking?

Don’t go thinking we’ve seen the last of him, though. Seb is still a supreme athlete and racer. He just needs to get the stars aligning once again.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

It’s hard to say Sebastian Vettel made it through 2014 unscathed from a perception standpoint. He will always be a four-time World Champion and one of the greats of his era, but his greater standing in the pantheon of all-time greats was jeopardized from a confluence of unfortunate circumstances that all seemed to hit at once.

The driver that won 38 Grands Prix and 44 pole positions from 2009 to 2013 managed to add exactly zero and zero to those totals in 2014, respectively, with only four podium finishes. Couple new teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s incredibly smooth transition into the team with his own results for the year, and it marked the first time Vettel had ever been beaten in the World Championship by a teammate over a full season.

So what were the issues? A disastrous preseason testing period slowed the team out of the gate. Unlike in past years, Vettel never got a proper handle on the car design as he had previously. The impending drawdown of Adrian Newey had to affect him. He went through several chassis during the year to try to find the right one. His longtime engineer, Guillaume “Rocky” Rocquelin, was getting a promotion to head of engineering at Red Bull for 2015, which meant Vettel would need to try to gel with someone else.

All that plus the unexpected surprise of Ricciardo surging to team number one status no doubt had to influence his departure and official switch to Ferrari, where he’ll have the chance to add to his own legacy, and perhaps try to match the feats achieved by his countryman and oft-compared reference point, Michael Schumacher.