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F1 2015 Driver Review: Sebastian Vettel


Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 19
Wins: 3
Podiums (excluding wins): 10
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 322
Laps Led: 176
Championship Position: 3rd

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Sebastian Vettel’s reputation took a big hit in 2014 during a difficult season with Red Bull that saw the four-time world champion be reduced to number two driver status behind Daniel Ricciardo. His move to Ferrari was a gamble, given the struggles that the Scuderia faced last year, but both parties have come out of 2015 looking stronger than ever.

The big worry for Vettel was that he would have another year like 2014, yet from the start of the season in Australia, he looked to be at ease with the car. Victory in Malaysia underpinned this as he perfected his strategy and pace, and he even gave Lewis Hamilton trouble in Spain in the early stages.

This was the year that Vettel proved his greatness. In a season dominated by Mercedes, Vettel pushed them far closer than any other driver, and – unlike Ricciardo’s wins in 2014 – even outclassed them on occasion. To say that his success at Red Bull was only down to the car greatly underestimates the talent and skill of Vettel.

What made him so good this year – and in his championship seasons – was how flawless Vettel was. His only truly terrible race was Mexico when he even apologized himself to the team, and there were mistakes in Bahrain and Canada that were costly. Throughout the year, Vettel was the most consistent and bulletproof racer on the grid.

Vettel also gave a sense of reality to F1 this year. He was the naughty school kid in the press conferences with Rosberg and Hamilton, cutting the tension with wry humor he is known for, yet perhaps hasn’t been able to display before.

It was a big year for Vettel, but 2016 could be better still.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Chalk up 2014 as a mulligan, and reborn, and renewed in the new environment of Scuderia Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel thrived in 2015. Those who have been regular readers of this site over three years know I’ve occasionally been critical of Vettel, or certainly made the mistake of not fully appreciating him. This year, I came to appreciate what a treasure Vettel is in the sport, and it took him leaving Red Bull to do so.

In a year dominated by the Mercedes W06 chassis, and when it was a question of whether Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg would fully control the day, Vettel was this year’s desperately needed thorn in the side. The fact Vettel won second time out in his new environment, at Malaysia, was a dream result that few would predicted. Further wins at Hungary and Singapore, both of which were well judged, meant Vettel matched his hero Michael Schumacher in winning three times in his first season.

But more than the results, it was the human side of Vettel that I fully began to appreciate, which is something those closer inside the sport have known existed for years. Within the Red Bull garage, Vettel was the driver most inextricably linked with the team’s dominance, but perhaps not fully appreciated for his own ability due to the caliber of design from Adrian Newey. It was always a “Vettel-Newey” combination, rather than just Vettel… even though he took Mark Webber to the cleaners in all five seasons as teammates.

Whether it was poking fun at the Mercedes duo in press conferences, or offering refreshing candor in nearly any media session, Vettel almost went full Daniel Ricciardo this year in fully enjoying his season while also being motivated to succeed, comfortable in his own skin outside his comfort zone.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.