Sebastian Vettel’s ongoing 2014 underperformance fiasco is owed to the fact that he is ‘worn out’, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has revealed.
Having utterly dominated the sport, culminating in his four consecutive drivers’ titles between 2010 and last year with relative ease, the 27-year-old German has struggled for form this season. In fact, since the departure of Mark Webber, new teammate Daniel Ricciardo has firmly cast Vettel aside after a number of performances that have put the reigning Quadruple-World Champion in the shade.
Ricciardo, having graduated from the Toro Rosso developmental territory, has proved to be a pleasant surprise to senior Red Bull personnel after he was signed as the team’s number 2 driver, expected to play second fiddle to Red Bull success story Vettel. In reality, Ricciardo is 6-5 up Vettel in qualifying, and with a clear 9-2 lead in the grands prix after 11 races. The Australian ace has even bagged two fully fledged victories, whereas Vettel is enduring a distinct lack of any such successes.
Horner says not only Red Bull but the entire world of F1 has been surprised by Ricciardo’s form. The man himself, meanwhile, remains philosophical – but nonetheless hopeful.
“I genuinely want to see if I have what it takes, if I am the best in the world,” 25-year-old Ricciardo told CNN. “And I’ve got the best guy to measure myself to.”
But Horner insists that, as ever in F1, the real story is somewhat more complicated than Ricciardo bursting onto the scene and effortlessly destroying one of Formula 1’s elite.
“It is a combination of several things,” the Briton told Germany’s Auto Bild Motorsport.
“First, when you have fought for the title for five years, it does wear you out a little bit, but that is not the fundamental problem.
“The way Vettel brought out those extra tenths from the car in recent years was quite unique,” Horner explained. “He is very sensitive to the behaviour of the car, especially when braking.”
So the new, mandatory ‘brake-by-wire’ systems this year mean Vettel has “lost part of his feeling for the car”, Horner said.
And “the driveability was really bad, so Seb could not look after the tyres in the way that he always has done,” he added.
Horner compared Vettel’s former driving style to “a ballerina, dancing on the throttle and the brakes”, which he explained was not initially possible in 2014.
However, after a number of difficult weekends, Red Bull and Renault have been working tirelessly to end their star driver’s woes, with Horner saying Vettel’s pace in Hungary shows he is “getting the feeling for the car back again”.
Horner continued: “We also can’t forget how many mechanical problems Sebastian has had, many of them just little things that have disrupted his flow.
“So he has had less time to adapt his driving style,” he added.
As F1’s travelling circus coughs back into life for the Belgian Grand Prix next weekend, Sebastian Vettel stands sixth in the Driver’s Championship with 88 points, whilst Ricciardo’s recent successes have elevated him to third with 131 points.