Imola (dpa) – Suspicion travels with Sebastian Vettel. On his last visit to Italy with Ferrari, the frustrated four-time world champion was accompanied by a sinister suspicion that he was being harmed by his employer.
“Some idiot might never figure it out, but whether I’m a complete idiot? I dare to doubt that,” the 33-year-old growled into the microphone of the TV and turned on the fuse for a house argument. Vettel’s thinly disguised accusation: Since his forced departure at the end of the season has long been certain, stable rival Charles Leclerc will get the better car.
Prior to the 13th race of the season on Sunday in Imola (1.10 p.m. / RTL and Sky), the results in any case support Vettel’s position. With 75 points, the Monegasse Leclerc has more than four times as many points as the Hesse, which achieved a meager 18 points. Only in Hungary and Spain did Vettel finish ahead of the 23-year-old, and the German lost ten of the twelve matches to his teammate in qualifying. “It is not easy to be defeated anymore, it is a different class,” complained Vettel.
The persistent criticism of recent months has hit the former champion of the series. The wound from Ferrari’s cool retirement still hurts, even as his future in Formula 1 is secured by switching to Aston Martin in 2021. But Vettel is too ambitious to give away the last rounds at Scuderia and endure bankruptcies. And so it really annoys him that Leclerc apparently gets better with the crippling SF1000 while he keeps stumbling.
It is “clear: the other car is much faster”, Vettel recently told RTL in Portugal. Although he struggled in vain, “it looked much easier” with Leclerc. Already during the training laps in Portimao, Vettel had whispered on the pit radio: “That’s all in the car. At least in this car.”
Vettel’s former backgammon partner Bernie Ecclestone reinforced the German in his theory for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. For the 53-time Grand Prix winner’s inferiority to young Leclerc “there must be other reasons,” said the former Formula 1 director at Sport1. “Ferrari has always been a somewhat unclear team where domestic politics has always played a major role,” added the 90-year-old.
But team boss Mattia Binotto does not want to know about it. “The cars of Seb and Charles are undoubtedly identical,” said the 50-year-old. He hopes Vettel can improve in qualifying at Imola to be more successful in the race. “Charles is certainly very good. But you may expect a little more from the second driver,” said Binotto, directing the criticism directly at Vettel.
A warm goodbye is unlikely in the other five races of the season. “Of course it hurts. My own expectations are much higher than outside expectations,” said Vettel. Yes, he trusts “the people around me and in the garage,” the Heppenheimer assured. But in reality, there doesn’t seem to be much left of this trust.