A Formula One great has revealed the extent to which Daniel Ricciardo’s arrival at Red Bull in 2014 upset Sebastian Vettel.
Former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger has questioned Sebastian Vettel’s ability to cope with pressure, as the German’s form slump continues.
Vettel recorded just one podium in 2020 in a horror final season for Ferrari, finishing 13th in the championship and scoring just 33 points, compared to teammate Charles Leclerc’s 98.
He’s moved to Aston Martin for 2021, but that partnership got off to a rocky start in Bahrain, with Vettel sent to the back of the grid for not slowing sufficiently for yellow flags in qualifying. The German could only finish 15th in the race, during which he was penalised for running into the back of Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.
Berger, who won 10 races during his Formula One career in the 1980s and 1990s, noted that Vettel has struggled in years where he’s been up against a teammate who can match his pace, something that first came to light when Daniel Ricciardo joined Red Bull in 2014.
“Sebastian is a four-time world champion, so he’s one of the outstanding drivers, no question,” Berger told the In the Fast Lane podcast.
“But, he never reacts very well under pressure.
“We remember when Daniel came to Red Bull, Daniel was very strong, and he put pressure onto Sebastian.
“For Sebastian it was difficult to cope with it.”
Vettel enjoyed a brief renaissance in his first four years at Ferrari, when he was paired with Kimi Raikkonen, who, although he is a former world champion, won just a single race when he was Vettel’s teammate.
Once Leclerc had settled into Ferrari by the second half of 2019, he very much had Vettel’s measure.
“At Ferrari the same thing, now I just feel he is not free, not relaxed,” Berger explained.
“He maybe wants to prove things, but at this moment it is not possible because the car is not good enough, or his own form is not good enough.
“When you are in this situation you need to sit down, do a step back, and just take it easy and the success is going to come again.”
Vettel turns 34 in three months, a fair way removed from the 21-year-old who was, at the time, the youngest ever winner in Formula One when he stunned the motorsport world to claim the Italian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso in 2008.
Berger was Toro Rosso boss at the time, and believes age may be catching up with the four-time world champion.
“He’s at the end of his career, when you are having done so many races, there comes a point where you’re not anymore in the situation where you’d like to take all the risks, where you fight like you would fight before you win any races,” he said.
“In some ways, it just hasn’t worked out well for him, he starts to do mistakes, people then start to question him.
“That’s just, step by step, more and more pressure, and he doesn’t like pressure.”
The situation at Racing Point could prove difficult for Vettel. His teammate, Lance Stroll, is the son of the team-owner, and therefore hardly likely to play second fiddle to Vettel.
Stroll made a solid, if unspectacular, start to 2021 in Bahrain, qualifying 10th and finishing in the same position, to claim the team’s first point of the season.
The weekend was notable for team boss Otmar Szafnauer’s comments that Aston Martin, along with Mercedes, have suffered the most from the off-season rule changes, indicating the team is in for a battle in 2021.
“I think it’s just an uncomfortable situation when you’re in a team and your teammate is faster, and obviously they maybe give a little bit more time to your teammate, but that’s something you have to deal with,” Berger explained.
“I have to say Lance is not doing a bad job at all, he’s performing. The only thing at the moment I think they are struggling with the rear end of the car, the car doesn’t look too good.
“It’s not really a driver issue they have at the moment, I think what they have at the moment is the car is not performing in the way they were expecting.”
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