Sebastian Vettel says his controversial collision with Lewis Hamilton in Baku was a bigger mistake than any of the supposed driver errors which cost Ferrari the title this year.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne this week said a combination of driver “misjudgement” and technical issues played a role in the Italian squad failing to capture either championship. The team had been well placed to challenge for the drivers’ crown with Vettel until three successive setbacks in Asia derailed his challenge against Lewis Hamilton.
While Marchionne appeared to be referencing the Singapore Grand Prix, where pole-sitter Vettel had drifted to the left off the line and into a race-ending collision with Max Verstappen and teammate Kimi Raikkonen — allowing Hamilton to win — another error stands out in the German’s mind: the moment he drove alongside his title rival during a Safety Car period at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and angrily drove into the side of the No.44 car.
When asked what he thought about the president’s comments, Vettel said: “I think it’s fair enough. I think there are always things that you could do a bit different. Overall, I think we can all agree that we didn’t have the season, up to this point, that we could’ve had or should’ve had for various reasons.”
The follow-up question was whether he agreed that he had made mistakes this year, he replied: “I think looking back Baku stands out obviously, but for the rest I think it’s been okay.”
The Baku car chop was hugely controversial and earned Vettel an in-race stop-go penalty and three penalty points on his superlicence, though he avoided further punishment after taking full responsibility for the incident and apologising to the FIA. Remarkably, Vettel left Baku with his championship lead enhanced after race leader Hamilton was forced into a precautionary stop to fix a headrest which had come loose during the chaotic race’s red flag period, meaning he finished behind the Ferrari driver.
Until the events of the Asian leg, it had appeared set to be a blip in a highly impressive campaign for Ferrari and the four-time world champion. But the collision in Singapore swung the championship momentum towards Mercedes and was followed by back-to-back engine issues for Vettel in Malaysia and Japan, allowing the German manufacturer to clinch the constructors’ championship in the U.S. and Hamilton to wrap up the drivers’ in Mexico.
Despite squandering its chance to win at least one title this season, Vettel says the only focus now is on finishing the season on a high note.
“I’m part of the team so I think we all live through the season together, and the same is for the next two races. The morale is good, the guys have had a very tough time in the last couple of weekends with a lot of big changes, set-up changes and long nights etc.. So we hope for two calm weekends to finish the season and not calm in terms of results, we are aiming for the maximum.”