Formula 1 pundit an ex-Grand Prix driver Martin Brundle says that Sebastian Vettel has lost his racing prime and even wonders whether the four-time World Champion was deliberately slow during his swansong season with Red Bull back in 2014.
The introduction of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014 saw an end to the recent tyranny of Red Bull and their star driver Sebastian Vettel. In the final half of the previous season, Vettel claimed nine consecutive victories to equal Alberto Ascari’s 60-year-old record.
But in 2014, a far younger Daniel Ricciardo joined the outfit, replacing Mark Webber. The Australia was immediately on the pace, scoring three wins on his way to finish third in the driver standings, whereas Vettel languished behind in fifth and 61 points adrift.
The very next season and Vettel was off to Ferrari where he has remained with the squad since.
In a recent interview with F1 Magazine, Brundle went on to suggest that perhaps Vettel deliberately had a poor season in 2014 so he could trigger a break clause in his contract and leave Red Bull.
“I never understood Seb’s awful season, when Ricciardo arrived,” Brundle said. “He kept on about how he hated the hybrid cars – but when he got to Ferrari he was immediately on the pace.”
“I’ve always wondered if he went slowly in 2014 because he needed to trigger his Red Bull exit clause. Whatever, he had to leave, because another year like that with Danny Ricc, and his value would have dropped to almost nothing.”
Across the last few seasons and Vettel has evidently struggled against the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and more recently Charles Leclerc to put up a strong title challenge.
Brundle now admits that the German’s former menace that powered him to four successive world championships has been lost.
“I think that Vettel’s judgment in wheel-to-wheel combat has gone, and that’s critical. He’s always operated on a pretty highly strung level, but these days his default mood is to get angry, forever moaning about backmarkers, and so on, and that’s sad.
“I remember when he’d turn up with a rucksack, smiling, ready to go – I adored him in those days”
Vettel’s contract with Ferrari expires at the end of this year, and his next move will undoubtedly be a significant role in the driver market for 2021.