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Has F1 broken Sebastian Vettel?

Has F1 broken Sebastian Vettel?

BOX OF NEUTRALS: The days since the Canadian Grand Prix have been dominated by ferocious debate over the controversial penalising of Sebastian Vettel, taking from the German of what could have been Ferrari’s first win of the year and handing it to championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

By Michael Lamonato

Friday 21 June 2019, 09:30AM

Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari walks in to parc ferme to swap the 1st and 2nd place boards after the Canadian Grand Prix on June 9. Photo: Dan Istitene / AFP

Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari walks in to parc ferme to swap the 1st and 2nd place boards after the Canadian Grand Prix on June 9. Photo: Dan Istitene / AFP

Even with the F1 circus decamped from Montreal and on its way to Circuit Paul Ricard, near Marseille, for this weekend’s French Grand Prix, argument has been allowed to rage online, where increasingly polarised opinion has continued to fester, virtually guaranteeing the five-second punishment will be a central talking point for a second successive race.

But the controversial event is of limited importance in the championship fight, which even Vettel defeatedly admitted in the aftermath has as good as slipped away; its effect on the four-time world champion for the remainder of what seems destined to be a dead-rubber season, however, is of potentially greater significance.

“Ultimately it’s not the sport that I fell in love with when I was watching,” Vettel lamented post-race in a rare bearing of his emotions. The German had been set off his lost victory, and the anguish that came forth gave a fleeting but fascinating insight into his psyche in his fifth fruitless year with Ferrari.

“I was just thinking that I really love my racing,” he continued. “I’m a purist, I love going back and looking at the old times, the old cars, the old drivers… they’re heroes in a way.

“I really love that, but I just wish I was maybe as good doing what I do but being in their time rather than today.”

That Vettel, a keen student of F1 history, is a staunch motor racing traditionalist is no surprise, but the depth of his dissatisfaction with the modern sport, now a global brand that some argue is sanitising itself in pursuit of a corporate identity, had never been laid so barely.

“I think it’s not just about that decision today, there’s other decisions,” he continued. “Just hear the wording when people come on the radio that we have now – we have an official language.

“You have all this wording – ‘I gained an advantage, I didn’t gain an advantage, I avoided a collision’ – I just think it’s wrong, you know, it’s not really what we’re doing in the car.


“I think we should be able to say what we think, but we’re not, so in this regard I disagree with where the sport is now.”

The outpouring of emotion was contextualised by the events of the Canadian Grand Prix, but they were given an edge by the rumours that Vettel was considering hanging up his helmet at the end of the season.

Reports during the preceding Monaco Grand Prix suggested the German was thinking about ending his F1 career after 13 seasons in the sport, leaving his Ferrari championship ambitions unfulfilled – though he was quick to dismiss the speculation upon arrival in Canada.

“I never said anything like that,” he protested. “I am very hungry and I have a mission here to win – that is the only thing that really matters to me, to win with Ferrari, and that is what I am working for.”

But his post-race monologue has allowed the rumour to smoulder, as has his answer on Sunday night when asked point blank if he was considering his future after his loss.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not ready for this kind of question.”

Unfounded rumour or not, there’s no question Vettel’s suffering after eight difficult races for Ferrari. How he responds from this weekend’s French Grand Prix onwards will be telling.

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