Sebastian Vettel: What A Difference A Year Makes


Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel has had much to be concerned with in 2014.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of the 2013 Formula One (F1) season, Sebastian Vettel had claimed his fourth straight world championship in dominating fashion, winning the last nine races on the schedule.  That tied the all-time record for most consecutive victories and the 26 year old German superstar was being compared with the greatest drivers of all-time including fellow countryman Michael Schumacher.  Heady stuff by any evaluation, Vettel was on top of the world.  What a difference a year makes.

More than a third of the way through the F1 season finds Sebastian Vettel not only fifth overall in the standings, but he’s not even the best points driver on his own team.  Red Bull Racing brought up the affable Daniel Ricciardo from their sister organization Toro Rosso to be Vettel’s teammate and presumably his wing man towards another title.  That isn’t working out well for Vettel as the Aussie has outperformed the champion so far in 2014. Indeed, a year has made a significant difference.

Not all his fault

Not that Vettel’s situation is all his own fault.  For starters, a still unexplained engine and electronic problem finished Vettel’s bid for a record tenth win in-a-row at the opening event in Melbourne, Australia.  At that same event, Ricciardo finished second but was disqualified for too much fuel flow – yeah, we don’t want to go there.  That would have been Ricciardo’s first podium of his career- he has been able to earn three podiums since.  At Monaco, Vettel’s turbo failed, sending him out of the race.

These drivers are key reasons Vettel has struggled. Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton (left) , Nico Rosberg (middle) and Daniel Ricciardo (right) on the podium the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix at the Circuit de Monaco. — Mandatory Credit: Stephane Mantey/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports

Another obstacle for Vettel and Red Bull has been Mercedes, which has been cleaning the clocks of its competitors, with a torrid pace that has seen Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton dominate early on.  Only a breaking issue in Montreal at last week’s Grand Prix of Canada kept Mercedes from sweeping the first seven races of the year.


Which brings on maybe the most important complication for Vettel this season and that is his teammate Ricciardo. While Daniel has had his own issues with setbacks, he is third in the points, 19 ahead of Vettel and if not for the penalty and loss of 18 points back in his homeland of Australia, Ricciardo would have a commanding lead over Sebastian as the teams head back to Europe for the summer portion of the schedule.

Vettel has just two podiums in 2014 and both of them are third place finishes.  Along with his first win ever in Canada, Ricciardo has collected five straight top fours, including a hard-charging fourth in Bahrain after starting 13th.  And clearly what happened in the night lights of Bahrain was significant.  Vettel was complaining of engine performance and ended up sixth, while his teammate Ricciardo passed him late in the going.


What’s is most telling is that with the same car and same set up, the 24 year old Ricciardo has extracted more out of the Red Bull car than the champion.  Has Vettel’s four championships with a superior racecar dulled his skills? Up until this year, with an inferior car compared to Red Bull, Ricciardo had to learn to earn and push for everything in the middle of the pack.  Has the four consecutive championships gone to the head of Vettel?

The great Fernando Alonso and Ferrari are also struggling mightily this year, but the Spaniard has been able to stay near the front and is actually fourth overall with obviously an under-powered racecar … and ahead of Vettel.

Sebastian Vettel will undoubtedly go down in the record books as one of the greats, but 2014 does not look good even though there are still 12 events left to run.  Red Bull Racing will not languish for long and the fact they have struggled and yet have two cars in the top five in points, should have the other teams including Mercedes always concerned.

Will the two Red Bull Racing drivers be battling like bulls for dominance on their team?

Nevertheless, Vettel has been unimpressive to start the 2014 year and he will have to dig deep to get back to championship form.  When that happens, combined with an always improving Red Bull, should find the four-time champ battling for wins again.  In the meantime, Sebastian’s view this season compared to his lofty status going into 2014 is quite a difference. Whether things change dramatically for him this year or not, Vettel positions in the hierarchy of F1 will not likely change.  Still, the difference a year makes must be quite a remarkable adjustment for the defending champion.

Sources: Racing Reference, F1

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