Juan Pablo Montoya believes Sebastian Vette’s problems are not head-related and suggests that the error-prone Ferrari driver is struggling to come to terms with the SF90 while his shooting star teammate Charles Leclerc appears to have adapted his style to the potent but finicky package.
Montoya told Motorsport Network, “I think he doesn’t like something in the car or this year’s tyres and Leclerc is able to better adapt. Vettel has to suffer to go as quick as the other guy. Because he has to suffer and he is not comfortable, he makes mistakes. When you’re not happy with the car and you push, mistakes happen.”
At 31 Vettel is a wily campaigner with four F1 world titles under his belt as well as 52 wins in 234 Grand Prix starts but is now on a winless streak lasting over a year.
At Monza last Sunday, he messed up in front of the tifosi with a blatant error while his teammate powered to a famous victory, the 21-year-old’s second in a week in which he comprehensively outshone his illustrious teammate.
Montoya said of Vettel’s freefall, “I don’t think it’s a mental thing. It is more a technical one. It’s about understanding, having someone on your side who’s able to find what’s going on.”
The popular Columbian driver revealed how he had to alter his driving style to suit the McLaren’s of 2005 and 2006, “I had to change the way I braked the car and it started doing very different things to what I was used to.
“Changing they way you drive is very complicated. If you change the way you drive the car you can still be quick, but probably not as quick as you used to be.”
“He will have to adapt to a certain extent, but learning to be quick in a different way is very difficult. It’s better to adapt the car to your driving than your style to someone else’s.”
Vettel has never been fully comfortable with the hybrid turbo era as he was with the V8s. Daniel Ricciardo outdrove him in 2014, and at Ferrari the German was hardly tested by Kimi Raikkonen in the last stages of his journey in Red.
Young gun Leclerc has by intent or not been extremely smart in how he has slowly shifted the power from the submissive young gun to the team’s top gun by simply delivering a blistering pace, setting the marker in race-mode and almost taunting Vettel with his ‘catch-me-if-you-can’ approach.
As the seven-time Grand Prix winner and Indycar Champion pointed out, this has the #5 car chasing too often, the driver trying too hard and triggering mistakes.
Perhaps it would be wise for him to take a page out of the Prost-Senna battle archives to figure out what The Professor did to contain and beat a teammate who was faster and younger than him. Tortoise and hare spring to mind.
Montoya, who is back in the F1 paddock coaching Lance Stroll, closed with advice for Vettel, “The only way is working harder, doing something different to what he’s doing now. He must be used to working in a certain way, but right now it’s not working out for him.”
Big Question: What’s bugging Seb?