Brawn: 'Vettel mistakes can no longer be seen as coincidence'

Formula 1 sporting boss Ross Brawn believes Sebastian Vettel has perhaps lost his way, suggesting his recent string of mishaps was not the product of coincidences.

Vettel’s already complicated task of hanging on to his title hopes against rival Lewis Hamilton was rendered even more unsurmountable after two errors last weekend in Austin.

The Ferrari driver was handed a three-spot grid penalty for speeding under the red flag in free practice, and then spun on the opening lap of Sunday’s race after a contact with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

His latest mistakes added to a costly tally that also included a run-in with Valtteri Bottas in France, a blunder at Hockenheim that cost him a sure win and another first lap set-back in Monza when he collided with Hamilton.

Brawn, who successfully managed several title bids for Ferrari during its golden Schumacher era, casts a critical view on Vettel’s campaign which has been marked by too many errors and lost opportunities.

“On Friday there was a small one, when he failed to slow sufficiently for red flags, and he paid the price with a three-place penalty,” said Brawn.

“Then, in the race, he yet again collided with a Red Bull, this time Ricciardo’s, and once again Vettel came off worst.

“It was another lost opportunity to close the gap in the title fight, especially when we saw what Raikkonen did with the same car.

“I certainly don’t want to put Vettel in the dock, but these incidents can no longer be seen as coincidence.

“Rather they would seem to indicate that Sebastian is a bit out of sorts at the moment.”

While Brawn is convinced that Vettel’s talent remains intact, he suggests that Ferrari must find the way to harness the German’s potential.

“Now, any hope of bringing the drivers’ title back to Maranello is dwindling and the time has come to do the maths,” said Brawn.

“Their most important task is to work out how to help Vettel make the most of his massive talent.

“You don’t become a four-time world champion for no reason and Sebastian has definitely not forgotten how to win.

“In a sport as complicated as Formula 1, you only reach your goals if all the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place,” he added.

“If just one piece is missing everything is compromised.”

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‘Vettel is using Red Bull as a comfort blanket’

David Coulthard believes Sebastian Vettel has turned to his former team Red Bull for comfort as his 2018 season struggles continue.

The Ferrari driver is 70 points behind title leader Lewis Hamilton with just a maximum of 75 points left to play for and his performance at the United States Grand Prix was blighted by more mistakes.

A red flag infringement in FP1 led to a three-place grid drop at the Circuit of The Americas, and P5 soon became P15 after another first-lap spin.

It forced Vettel into yet another recovery drive to P4 and Coulthard, who remains an ambassador for Red Bull, feels he is seeing the German back with his former team more frequently as the title has continued to slip away.

Watch: Bad start for Hamilton, even worse for Vettel

“He’s a four time World Champion, he’s made two mistakes in two corners,” Coulthard said via Channel 4. “One mistake you can say you’re finding where the car is…

“He says he’s tired, when you’re tired you go for your comfort blanket.

“I’ve seen him around Red Bull more often in the last few races than at any other time that he’s been at Ferrari.

“So he’s not knuckling down with his comfort blanket at Ferrari.

“To me it looks like he’s not only tired of the recovery drives, he’s just not as happy within the team as he was at Red Bull.”

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‘Vettel incidents are no longer a concidence’

Formula 1 technical boss, Ross Brawn, has said Sebastian Vettel is “a bit out of sorts” and his errors are “no longer a coincidence”.

Both rivals and pundits alike believe Vettel threw away another glorious opportunity at the United States Grand Prix, given Ferrari’s returning pace and Kimi Raikkonen’s long-awaited win.

Not for the first time this season, Vettel spun on the opening lap after a wheel-to-wheel battle and his P4 finish in Austin means only a disaster will prevent Lewis Hamilton from lifting a fifth World Championship this weekend in Mexico.

Brawn feels that something is amiss with Vettel and and it is down to Ferrari to help him get back to his very best.

“On Friday there was a small one (mistake), when he failed to slow sufficiently for red flags, and he paid the price with a three-place penalty,” said Brawn.

“Then, in the race, he yet again collided with a Red Bull, this time Ricciardo’s, and once again Vettel came off worst.

“It was another lost opportunity to close the gap in the title fight, especially when we saw what Raikkonen did with the same car.

“I certainly don’t want to put Vettel in the dock, but these incidents can no longer be seen as coincidence.

“Rather they would seem to indicate that Sebastian is a bit out of sorts at the moment.

“Now, any hope of bringing the drivers’ title back to Maranello is dwindling and the time has come to do the maths.

“Their most important task is to work out how to help Vettel make the most of his massive talent.”

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Wolff: Vettel on track for 'easy' Austin win without spin

Toto Wolff is convinced that Sebastian Vettel’s loss when he spun on the opening lap of the US Grand Prix led to Mercedes’ gain as the German had the pace to win on Sunday.

Demoted from second to fifth on the grid following a penalty received for excessive speed during a red flag period in free practice, Vettel launched his race with the bit between his teeth.

As he battled Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for position on the opening lap of the race, the two cars made contact and Vettel spun, leaving him to chase from behind in a race in which he would eventually finish fourth, thus surviving to fight for the title another day.

“Imagine Sebastian not spinning out on Lap 1, I think he would have probably won the race easily,” admitted Wolff.

“It’s stressful, the drivers’ championship, we’re in a solid position, but I always said we mustn’t drop the ball.

“We’ve seen that in the past with other teams, and with the constructors’ championship, that is very important for the team.

“Nothing is done yet. There are 129 points to be scored with 66 that we have.

“Of course that is a good buffer but there is no reason to giggle away and think that you have the trophy in your hand because we can see that we haven’t got in our hands.”

Forced to run his race on a two-stop strategy after an early VSC period, Hamilton struggled with tyre management in Austin, a fact that also impacted the level of performance of the Silver Arrows squad relative to Ferrari’s winning SF71-H.

“But there was more on top of that, which we’ve just been talking about – and to how much of an extent that is,” said Hamilton after the race.

“In the race there was some debris, some damage on the floor, all these different things add up. A couple of tenths in floor damage, [but you] have to assume everyone else had the same thing.

“We had another problem that we just discovered but we don’t know how much time that is.

“We were forced into a two-stop race for certain things we had that weren’t ideal with the car,” he added

“We didn’t know that was going to be the case when we got into the race. If we hadn’t had the problem we’ve had, tyre usage wouldn’t have been anywhere near as big an issue as we had.”

Mercedes tech boss James Allison suggested that the team’s relative underperformance had also been caused by a lack of dry running at COTA.

“We normally get the car in a happier place than this, but with Friday being washed out we were blind to the problems we experienced today,” he said.

“They were cruelly exposed today and they led to the disappointing outcome.”

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Vettel: F1 doesn’t define who I am

Although he concedes Formula 1 is important in his life, Sebastian Vettel is adamant it does not “define me as a person.”

The four-time World Champion is one of the very few drivers in the paddock in the paddock without a social media presence.

He chooses to keep his private life just that, private, and his wife and two children rarely attend races.

This has led to complaints of the German being boring with former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone even going as far to say it is why Lewis Hamilton makes for a better World Champion than his fellow four-time champion.

The Brit added: “Sebastian is also not doing much for F1. People hardly recognise him on the street.”

Vettel, though, has no intention of changing.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “Obviously F1 is a big part of my life but it is not the most important thing. They are linked, but it is important there is a lot of time where it doesn’t define who I am.

“I don’t feel special because of what I do for a job. I am a lot of other things as well. It doesn’t define me as a person. It is not who I am, it is what I do.

“I am happy to do things that people think are boring but for me they are not. Being at home, mowing the lawn. I cook – not so good, but from time to time.

“I do the school run, I go shopping, I take the metro and the bus. I think it’s just normal to be normal.

“I am sportsman, I am not celebrity. So when I go somewhere and somebody recognises me I think they are interested in sport and not in how I do my hair, or which shoes I am wearing or that bollocks.”

The German also weighed in on his rivalry with Hamilton, which sees both drivers fighting for their fifth World title this season.

Vettel leads the race by eight points.

“It is something you want, you want to be in close rivalry,” he says. “You want to be in a position so you can fight for victory, that is the ultimate satisfaction, of course it is more intense when it is closer.”

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Livid Arrivabene: 'Allison should be ashamed!'

Mercedes’ allegations of foul play by Ferrari expressed in the heat of the moment after Sunday’s British Grand Prix didn’t go down well with Scuderia boss Maurizio Arrivabene.

Kimi Raikkonen’s collision with Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone, two races after Sebastian Vettel punted Valtteri Bottas out of the French Grand Prix, led Mercedes technical director James Allison to say that the red cars’ actions must either be deliberate or the result of incompetence.

Vettel labeled the claims as “silly”, insisting incidents happen when the racing is so close. But Arrivabene was outright shocked by Allisons’s words, as conveyed by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

“Who is incompetent? Kimi? Who is he to judge what the drivers are doing in the car?” the Scuderia boss told Sky Italia.

“If he really said something like that, he should be ashamed!

“Allison worked at Maranello for many years, but now we are here in England teaching him to be a gentleman.

“I accept it from [Sky Italia pundit] Jacques Villeneuve because he was a driver. But this guy?”

Red Bull’s Christian Horner says the rhetoric is a clear indication that tensions between the Mercedes and Ferrari are reaching a boiling point amid the teams’ fierce world championship battle.

“When you have that growing tension, speculation is unavoidable when these incidents occur,” he said.

“But I believe it’s nothing more than a racing incident. I would be surprised if there was anything else or if Kimi is that kind of driver.”

In the German camp, Valtteri Bottas who enjoyed a momentous scrap with Vettel in the closing stages of the race, also played down the incident and the accusations.

“We are always racing closely with Ferrari and there can always be contact,” he said.

However, Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda commented: “The accident was just unfair. It was the second time a Ferrari has hit us in the first corner. That’s not funny.”

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