Berger says 'experienced' Vettel can't be dismissed

Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger won’t write off Sebastian Vettel for the 2020 title fight, insisting the Ferrari driver’s vast experience remains a big asset.

Vettel, who won just single race in 2019, was outscored in the championship by Scuderia teammate and two-time winner Charles Leclerc last season and outpaced in qualifying by the Monegasque.

The 32-year-old’s contract with Ferrari runs out at the end of this year, and many believe that if the German is swept under the carpet by Leclerc, he’ll be heading into retirement after Abu Dhabi.

But Berger refuses to dismiss the four-time world champion as a contender for the 2020 world crown despite Ferrari sending a clear signal about the future when it extended recently Leclerc’s contract until the end of 2024.

“We don’t know if it’ll be a decisive year for him personally, he’ll determine that himself” Berger told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

“Is he driving his last year and wants a good retirement? Does he want to extend his stay at Ferrari for another three years? Does he want to take Leclerc apart?

“It’s clear that with Leclerc, he has a tough nut to crack. But he can’t do it. Regardless of whether you drive a Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull, you always have a tough nut to crack.

“That used to be the case with the top teams. There are always two alpha animals that go head-to-head until one remains. When I went to McLaren, I had Senna. You can’t run away from it.”

©WRI

While Leclerc ended the season with an upper hand overall on Vettel, Berger believes the German’s form in the latter part of the season proved that he should still be a force to be reckoned with.

“In the last third of the season, Vettel showed that he can do that [go head-to-head with Leclerc] very well,” added the former McLaren and Ferrari stalwart.

“There’s no question that Leclerc has the future ahead of him and Sebastian is in the last stage of his career.

“But he has some insane experience, he has been world champion four times, has been with Ferrari for five years.

“From this he can draw and balance out the boy’s bravery. It will be an interesting duel, but I don’t dare to predict the outcome.”

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Leclerc's 'killer instinct' threatens Vettel, says Berger

Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger says that Charles Leclerc’s growing ‘killer instinct’ is bound to cause problems at Ferrari with his team mate Sebastian Vettel over upcoming races.

Vettel hit out at Leclerc at Monza after he felt the Monegasque didn’t follow the team plan in qualifying, but Berger said that Vettel shouldn’t have been surprised.

“Good faith has little place in top-level sport,” Berger told Kolner Express on Tuesday.

“It’s been clear for a long time that Leclerc has an absolute killer instinct,” he added. “Vettel can never rely on him.”

Berger stopped short of calling Vettel ‘naive’ if he’d been expecting the youngster to play second string in 2019.

“Let’s not call it naive, but perhaps he is too much in the direction of good faith,” he suggested.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari in the FIA Press Conference.

The drivers had appeared to enjoy cordial relations before the summer break, but that seems to have grown increasingly strained now that Leclerc is picking up race wins for Ferrari while Vettel continues to struggle in 2019.

“I don’t know if he fooled Vettel [earlier on],” said Berger. “I say it very clearly, there is no team play at this level in Formula 1.

More importantly, Berger suspected that many of Vettel’s current problems came from within.

“It’s quite simple,” he explained. “If you lose your [killer] instinct, then you no longer have any claim to be world champion, so you have to get them back again.”

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