F1 2016 Driver Review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 21
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: 2nd (China, Canada, Europe)
Fastest Laps: 3
Points: 212
Laps Led: 90
Championship Position: 4th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

2016 was an odd year for Sebastian Vettel. Despite falling well short of the pre-season hype that suggested he could be the man to end Mercedes’ dominance, there were times when Vettel did look capable of victory.

Take Australia for example, when the red flag played against Ferrari. Or Canada, when Ferrari’s strategy call cost him a real shot at victory. Baku was a weekend where Vettel was hugely impressive, just unable to compete with Nico Rosberg due to Mercedes’ pace advantage.

That said, Vettel did have a number of disappointing weekends where his most notable contribution to the grand prix was his radio complaints. “Blue flag!” was a regular one, as was “honestly!” – but the best radio nugget had to be ‘existential crisis Seb’: “What are we doing here?!”

Ahem, back to racing. Yes, it was a tough year that saw Vettel struggle and the cracks in the ‘meant-to-be’ relationship with Ferrari began to show. He still led Maranello’s charge, even if the gulf to teammate Kimi Raikkonen was not as great as in 2015 – let’s give credit where it’s due.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

It was fitting, really, that Sebastian Vettel finished fourth in this year’s championship. The four-time World Champion was often fourth or worse this year; he only had two podiums in the final 13 races after banking five in the first eight. Much could be attributed to James Allison’s midseason departure but in truth it felt this was another year of Vettel cracking from his near-peerless Red Bull days.

Within the team, he didn’t have as big an edge on Kimi Raikkonen as he should have. With the Finn’s driving style better suited to the 2016 chassis, Raikkonen outqualified him 11-10 on the season. Plus there were four races – Bahrain, Russia, Austria and Malaysia – where Vettel didn’t even survive the first lap.

Vettel became the arbiter of speaking out against drivers moving in the braking zone, or ignoring blue flags. Then, ironically, he did so in Mexico in the year’s goofiest podium roundup. It was Vettel’s second winless season in three years and arguably one of his most disappointing in his career, especially after how well he got on in his first year with Ferrari in 2015.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”