Rob Smedley: why 2019 was Sebastian Vettel’s best year in F1

( – Rob Smedley, engineer at Ferrari between 2003 and 2013, assumes that Sebastian Vettel will end or at least pause his Formula 1 career after the 2020 season – but at the same time emphasizes that 2019 may be The four-time world champion’s best season was: “I’m sure I’m going to be laughed at, but I think 2019 was his best year in Formula One.”

Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc

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“Because I think he had to face the biggest challenge of his career. Everyone wrote it off because it was easy to do,” said Smedley in an interview with the podcast ‘F1 Nation’. It was true that his hyped teammate Charles Leclerc was getting “better and better” and that his rise meant “the end of Sebastian”.

But Vettel was “still a very good driver” and “I think we saw the real Sebastian Vettel at the end of the year”. Smedley thus addresses four races in particular: Vettel’s victory in Singapore, the technical failure in Russia, where he led the first phase of the race, and the two second places in Japan and Mexico.

Leclerc had returned from the summer break with two wins (Belgium and Italy) in the previous weeks and suddenly became the new superstar of the Tifosi. In that phase, Vettel “performed really well under huge pressure,” says Smedley. “He felt the pressure from the team and Charles, no question about it.”

Vettel: Gathered up after a difficult start

“Sometimes he made a lost impression. I am sure that he would also admit that he did not always show what he wanted. Especially at the beginning of the season. Both in the team and in comparison to the team-mate. But then he got up and that’s what makes real champions. “

“Mattia (Binotto, Ferrari team principal; editor’s note) will certainly not agree with me, but I think Russia was a turning point. No matter how and why he took the lead, he scored in his Brain the decision that he would stay there now. It is a sign for the big ones because they are so tireless in their pursuit of victories.

At the end of the year, says Smedley, there had been “a few races,” “he didn’t do it all. He cites the US Grand Prix as a concrete example, where Vettel had to give up with suspension damage. But you also have to say: “Charles did a great job. There is no question that he is a total superstar.”

According to Smedley, Vettel is not to be judged by the inexperienced Formula 1 promoted Leclerc – you have to count Leclerc among the very big ones: “If such drivers come along, they immediately put their stamp on them. It doesn’t take them two or three years but you know within a couple of races that this will be a number 1 driver. “

According to Smedley, there is no question that Leclerc will one day become Formula One world champion: “The question marks you still have are: Will he be as successful as Michael or Lewis – or will he only win one or two world championships? That’s it Question mark on Charles. But that’s a luxury question mark. “

“Charles has no pressure either. The team set out a clear pecking order at the beginning of the year. He is relaxed, does his job, is happy. Sebastian had all the pressure, no question. I think he has never had so much pressure in his Career.”

Vettel: beaten calibers like Webber and Raikkonen

“He competed against good drivers, including world champions. He has Kimi [Räikkönen] dominated, and Mark [Webber] wasn’t a snail either. Still, he always hit him. But none of these challenges was as big as 2019. To put it away and fight back after a difficult start to the season: I think that was a very special achievement. “

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Vettel’s last realistic possibility to continue his career in Formula 1 would be an offer from current Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. However, the Silver Arrow factory team does not send any signals that a pairing Hamilton-Vettel would like to expose yourself to potential tensions as once with Hamilton-Rosberg.

What Smedley thinks is a shame: “You can do that. I always think that you should get the best drivers and then deal with the consequences afterwards. Or ideally, you should clarify the fronts beforehand,” he says.

“Mercedes had this situation before. That brings a headache for the management, no question. Do you want to do that again now that you have found a different balance between Valtteri and Lewis? I’m not sure.”

Smedley excludes a variant like a switch to Renault for Vettel: “My personal opinion is that we will not see Sebastian in a top cockpit in which he can show his skills. I am not sure whether we will see him at all “he fears.

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