Vettel admits he wasn’t “at the top of my game”
Sebastian Vettel has admitted that this season he was not “at the top of my game” at times, but says that he knows where he and Ferrari must improve for next season.
At the halfway point of the season, the four times champion lead the championship winning four races. That put him level with title rival Lewis Hamilton in terms of wins, however since the summer break he only took one victory.
Vettel’s season will be remembered for his high number of mistakes on track, including crashing out while leading his home race at Hockenheim, as well as spinning because of contact early in the Italian, Japanese and United States GPs.
Vettel told Motorsport.com, “Naturally, the year I’ve had, I don’t think I ever any problems raising my hand if I made a mistake. Knowing how quickly things can go wrong, how quickly things could have gone differently this year.”
“I have to review a couple of things, but there’s other things that I think went wrong and don’t need a lot of reviewing and not over-complicating things too much.” He says that he certainly knows what he needs to do and admits that he hasn’t been at the top of his game.
Four of Ferrari’s six victories came across the first ten Grand Prix’s but it threw away a front-row lockout at Monza, where Vettel hit Hamilton on the opening lap and spun, and then went in the wrong direction on car development.
“We did a step back towards the end of the year which enabled us to be more competitive again, but I think we’ve understood what went wrong,” said Vettel.
The German says that generally 2018 was a tough year, but believes that there is a lot of potential within the team. This season was the teams best season statistically since 2008, with Vettel said it was important not to overlook the positives.
“We also had a lot of races where we got everything out of the car and the package and I felt that I did everything I could. I was happy with that.”
2018 was a “new” Hamilton – Wolff
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that Formula One has witnessed a “new” Lewis Hamilton after the Englishman won both races since he sealed his fifth world title in Mexico.
In the past, since he clinched the title before the final race, the five times champion has struggled to match his performances since sealing his title. However, this season Hamilton won both races since Mexico, with the Austrian believing he has proven that the British driver is different this time out.
He told Motorsport.com, “He has actually driven stronger after winning the drivers’ title. I feel he is so embedded in the team, and integrated, that the drivers’ title felt incomplete. For a driver, it is really strange because they are calibrated on a driver title, but he said it felt incomplete and we needed to seal the team title.”
“When you look at his face, there was almost more relief and happiness about sealing the constructors’ title than the first one. And that is why he just didn’t take the foot off the throttle until the very end. That is somehow a new Lewis.”
Hamilton believes that the way he has lifted himself this season was down to experience and being in a different place in his life. He added “I do want to continue to push the limits, push the boundaries and I wanted to finish the season on a solid high if I can.
“So that I can really continue to keep that foundation as strong as it has been this year, so I can use that to start on next year.”
Bottas vows to “drive it like he stole it”
Valtteri Bottas is vowing to “drive it like he stole it” next season in a bid to bounce back from his difficult 2018. The Mercedes driver has already admitted this season has been his most disappointing season in Formula One.
Next season, the Finn has made it clear that he is aware that Esteban Ocon, who hasn’t got a seat for 2019, will be trying to prove to Mercedes he is ready for a top seat. Bottas told Motorsport.com, “This sport is funny, you never know what happens in the future. But I think the right mentality for me to approach next year is like I have nothing to lose.”
“I just want to go for it and drive like I stole it, like it’s my last race, last day ever. So, yeah, I think that’s it. That’s a good plan.” Although Bottas fell short of his expectations this season, he says that the data suggests that both his qualifying and race pace was on average closer to Hamilton. But accepting that the results don’t match the performance.
Bottas remains adamant, that he still believes that he has never lost the belief that he has the speed to be able to beat his teammate Lewis Hamilton.
He says that the main thing in F1 is to tell yourself that you’re the strongest and that he has never told himself that he isn’t good enough.
Adding “I still believe so, even though I feel disappointed for the season, I know that I can do much more than what this season proves, and that is the main thing.”
Stroll joins Force India
Lance Stroll has formally been announced as a Force India driver for next season alongside Sergio Perez. The Canadian’s switch from Williams to the team comes as no surprise as his father Lawrence saved the team from administration in August.
Stroll is replacing Esteban Ocon, who has returned to Mercedes as there test and development driver, on what the team has described as a ‘long-term deal.’ Stroll said, “This is the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey in my Formula 1 career.”
“I look forward to working alongside a successful team with a great culture. It’s a new challenge and I am excited to embrace this new opportunity!” Stroll has often be called a ‘pay driver’ because of his billionaire father.
CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer, added “I’m pleased that we can finally confirm Lance’s arrival to race alongside Sergio next year. It gives us an exciting line-up with the perfect blend of youth, talent, and experience.”
“Lance is only 20 and already has two years of Formula 1 experience under his belt, as well as a podium finish and a front-row start.” However, he has managed to score decent points for Williams in his debut season, including a podium in Baku.
He finished 2017, just three points shy of team-mate Felipe Massa. Williams endured a torrid 2018 season, with their uncompetitive car offering rare opportunities for either Stroll or team-mate Sergey Sirotkin to impress.
Stroll ended the year ahead of the Russian in the charts, outscoring Sirotkin by six points to one.
Stroll’s move to Force India is the final piece in the 2019 driver line-up jigsaw following confirmation Alex Albon will join Toro Rosso at the expense of Brendon Hartley.
Force India targets top three and profit
Force India’s owner Lawrence Stroll says that his team can become profitable and fight for a place in the top three. The Canadian billionaire, who rescued the British-based team from administration in August.
Today, the team announced that Lawrence’s son Lance would join the team, the move has been seen as providing him with a more competitive seat than he had at struggling Williams.
He told the New York Times in an interview that he saw Force India as a good business opportunity. Speaking in mid-November and published today, Stroll said “I’m not in this for ego. I’m not in this to lose money. I’m in this for the long term, as I have been with every other business I’ve owned, be it Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors or whoever.”
Speaking about the future, he believes that there will be some kind of budget cap and better distribution of cash. Adding “there are all the right rumblings, and I’ve had enough conversations with (F1 chairman) Chase (Carey) to understand that is the direction they want and need to take the business.
“For me, that spells financial opportunity, and looking at 2021 onwards, a profitable business opportunity.”
Liberty has said it wants a more sustainable sport with a fairer distribution of revenues and a budget cap to ensure a more level playing field.
Verstappen wishes he could have fought Alonso
Max Verstappen wishes that he had the chance to competitive fight with Fernando Alonso in Formula One. The McLaren driver took part in what is expected to be his final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, as he pursues other opportunities next year.
However, the two times champion has never fully committed to retirement from F1 saying that he may return if his McLaren team returns to the front in the near future.
Verstappen made his debut in 2015, the same season Alonso started his farcical stint with McLaren, where he was hampered with an uncompetitive and unreliable car. While the Dutchman established himself as one of the grid’s most exciting young talents, with five career wins already and its often forgotten that he is only twenty-one.
He admitted that he would have liked to have raced against Alonso properly. He told ESPN, “It’s a bit of a shame I never really raced against him.
“Of course he was in F1 when I was there but I never really had a fight with him because he’s always been in the back because of the issues that they’ve had, so that’s one thing I might regret. I’ve been racing Seb [Vettel], I’ve been racing Lewis [Hamilton], and that’s been nice.”
“But never with Fernando where I think back in the day when I was watching TV, he was always the one really fighting them as well. So, of course, that I raced with him, but I never fought against him. Which is a shame.”
The Week Ahead
Well next week, F1 begins the countdown to the Christmas break. The news agenda will be set by the final WMSC meeting and the FIA Gala in St Petersburg. Hamilton will formally be crowned as champion and normally.
The annual conference of the FIA will also see the final calendar for 2019 and regulations confirmed. We are well now into wide down season, drivers and teams are likely to give there final interviews of the year.
Also, we are into award season we will have the Autosport Awards coming up next weekend as well as national Sports Personality of the years between now and December. It’s a period when we reflect on the year and we will report as an when drivers speak about that.
Remember the winter can be very unpredictable, so we will be prepared for the unexpected. Now the drivers market is settled, our next focus will be on reserve drivers and personnel changes in teams. Will Ferrari change because of there failure to win in recent years despite having a strong car?