4-time F1 World Champion, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel stood on the podium for the ninth time this season in Singapore – and for a record-seventh time at the Marina Bay Street Circuit…
But he will, no doubt, look back on third place with regret after another bungled event – first in qualifying during Q3, when Ferrari put him out behind a slow-going Valtteri Bottas that left him third on the grid…
… then in the race, when his aggressive undercut on title rival, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, was foiled – after being stuck behind Force India’s Sergio Pérez on exit from the pits.
A Singapore sting that has left his title campaign in tatters – a 40-point deficit to make up with six races to go.
It’s a world away from the upbeat tempo at the launch of the SF71H, with Ferrari confident it had finally created a Mercedes-beater…
SOUNDBITE (English) SEBASTIAN VETTEL,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“The real magic happens, sort of, underneath from what you can see but every little detail matters. Every little part can make a difference [to your overall performance] and I think this year's car is a big step from last year, so let's see how it feels.”
Or in the lead-in to Canada, when it looked like Mercedes had again re-gained the upper hand after a dominant one-two result in Spain. Vettel going on to win for his third of five victories so far this year.
SOUNDBITE (English) NICO ROSBERG.
2016 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“They've just lost a little bit of performance and things have just not gone quite to plan and some others have just done better, but that's how it goes through a season and it's good, it's what we want to see, we want to see some unpredictability.”
But, since then Vettel has crumbled under pressure – and at key moments…
“I think it is pretty straightforward," Vettel said in Singapore. "I think the biggest enemy is me.”
Arguably his biggest mistake was on home soil at Hockenheim – where he skated off a wet track into the barriers while leading the Grand Prix. An 8-point lead over Hamilton transforming into a 17-point deficit…
Or at the stunning Paul Ricard circuit – host of the first French Grand Prix since 2008 - where Vettel speared into Bottas at Turn 1, earning himself a 5-second time penalty; both re-starting at the back after pit stops.
We also saw it at La Pista Magica, in Monza, home race for Ferrari, where he tried to close the door on Hamilton into the second chicane - only to spin, and again have to fight back from last.
It’s now a tough task to recover, with Hamilton on a wave of confidence – having won four of the last five races – including Singapore, where his stunning pole position lap was the 200th for an English driver in F1 World Championship history…
But with Vettel needing to win all six remaining races to stand a chance, and for Hamilton to suffer some reliability issues.
There’s no doubt that Vettel is talented as a four-time F1 World Champion, one who is able to win races others cannot.
SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“What he has demonstrated so many times is creating opportunities - when sometimes… you have thought they are not going to be there.”
But mistakes have lost him ground on a title campaign he looked favourite for. A mental reset for Russia ahead will help him to rise above the deficit, for one last battle with Hamilton.
… even though the odds are now stacked against him.