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.