Seb and the art of writing history


Sebastian Vettel has had a couple of busy weeks in China and Russia, finding himself mired in dubious incidents on both occasions. First came the first corner incident where Seb obviously strained a nerve in the stretch of a couple hundred meters — Marchionne must really be keeping his scarlet underlings sweating and sharp on their toes this year. Seb getting defensive is a rare sight — remember that Seb is the architect and main protagonist of Turkey 2010 and “Multi-21”, and in both cases he barely blinked. Yet a Seb blustered into an aggressive, concerted drive to deflect responsibility and blame the closest (non-teammate) driver is something to behold:

“I made contact. I had no chance to avoid. I had the Red Bull coming on the inside like a madman. And I hit Kimi.”

“Kvyat’s attack was suicidal. There was always going to be a crash. No way with the speed he had he could have done the corner.”

And at the end of the race, somewhat unconvincingly:

“Massive apologies to the team, but surely I didn’t do it on purpose. Very sorry for Kimi. There was nothing I could do. Kvyat came like a torpedo and I had to react. And there was no way out.”

And then making a fool of himself before the podium:

“You ask what happened at the start? If I didn’t go the left you’d crash into us and we’d all three go out!”

“You came like a torpedo!”

And after the podium:

“Shit happened. That’s what happened. If you crash with your teammate, you can’t be happy.”

Not all were convinced, though. Apparently Seb had forgotten that (1) the left foot can and should be used for braking, and (2) when your front wing is caught up right next to the rear wheel of the car in front, on the inside and during corner turn-in, as a general matter it is prudent to withdraw your nose. For those who missed it, here’s Matt’s elegant reconstruction of the train of thoughts going through Seb’s mind during the whole affair.

After several days worth of pixels in polemics on the internet, however, Seb seems unable to catch a break and this week all of a sudden Kvyat’s “madman suicidal” move has morphed into a “racing incident”:

“We are racing. In the end it was a racing incident.”

And clearly looking forward to see the back of this all:

“Honestly, I’m surprised that two weeks after it’s still a topic.”

“Everything that needed to be said has been said.”

“I think all in all I did what any competitive racing driver would do but now I think there has been enough talk about it.”

“Now it’s time to turn the page and move forward and now we are fully focused on the upcoming races.”

Not a fortnight past, and Seb cracks in Russia into his wildest, most public of hissy fits yet. (Still recall his throwing all of his toys out of the pram when testing Renault’s shiny new leaf-blower… well… power unit for Red Bull?) Strained nerves wouldn’t come even close to explaining this:

“Oh for f*ck’s sake! Mother f*cker! Who the f*ck? Oh, I’m out. [I] crash[ed]. Somebody hit me in the f*cking rear [in] Turn 2. And then somebody hit me in the f*cking rear again in Turn 3. For f*ck’s sake! Honestly, what the f*ck are we doing?”

(Upon hearing this, Christian Horner and Dieter Mateschitz must have found a big smile, immensely proud of their most prodigious graduate of the Red Bull School of Good Manners. Do not despair, though, as young Maximilian is quickly and steadily making progress in the same “shitty” English classes that Seb once took, and his English isn’t getting any better with time…)

While some will undoubtedly mutter under their nose “be careful what you wish for” before pointing Seb to karma—maybe pointing fingers so much last time round wasn’t such a very bright idea after all—, Seb seems to be nonplussed:

“It was not my fault, nothing I could change.”

“I don’t dislike him but I think he made a mistake two weeks ago and a mistake today but it doesn’t change anything.”

Of course Seb was very, very keen to point this out all throughout the Chinese GP, and is still very, very keen to point it out now in Russia… Trusty Marlboro Man also comes quickly to the defence of his scarlet driver, even to the point of suggesting that it would be inappropriate to analyze the telemetry in this incident:

“To turn to telemetry is not the right way to look at this situation. If we look at the images it is quite clear. Sebastian told me that he touched him one time – just at the beginning, and just a bit – but the second impact was quit hard.”

Really?! If Maurizio is suggesting leaving the telemetry alone, then something juicy it must contain. And, while the first “small” contact in T2 between Vettel and Kvyat was entirely the Russian’s fault (though on the slippery Russian asphalt, Gutiérrez pulled the exact same move on Hülkenberg), the second “hard” contact in T3 was much less clear. After all, immediately after the race Kvyat’s explanation for the accident was straightforward:

“Turn 3 is a high-speed corner, you obviously expect to go fast there.

“When people brake in front of you unfortunately sometimes there is no time to react. That’s what happened, I had no time to react to Seb’s braking.

“I will speak with him about what happened. Maybe he already had a problem from what already happened in Turn 2 and he had to brake or something.

“When you are one metre behind a car at 150km/h and suddenly someone brakes, it’s unavoidable.”

From the videos emerging of the crash, it becomes obvious that immediately prior to the accident Vettel had lifted considerably in the high-speed corner, possibly in reaction to the limping Force India which was nurturing a puncture from T2. It is not clear though why Vettel hadn’t instead chosen to go round the Force India on the outside. And Kvyat was indeed following him at a metre or so behind, leaving him close to no time to react, which would indeed explain his hard shunt into the back of the Ferrari:

From the video it is also obvious that other cars like the Toro Rosso had plenty of speed as well, compared to the Ferrari, but being just that little bit further behind had time to avoid the messy zone by going very wide on the outside of T3. And once again, why would the 4x WDC slow down that much in that part of the track is unclear, as the Toro Rosso clearly showed that with timely reflexes going round the outside was easy-peasy. If he had a car problem, Ferrari doesn’t seem intent to let it be known. Nor are they intent on discussing telemetry…

So is this Seb and Ferrari trying hard to write history, exonerating their chosen driver of any fault in two incidents after which he went berserk like a “suicidal madman”, and in both of which he seems to have had at least some share of the blame? Is it possible that Sergio is going medieval and tightening the screws on Seb, and the poor guy is starting to show signs of cracking under the pressure? Marchionne’s going all melancholic about the Schumacher era (who said anything about Ferrari not being ALL about the #1 driver?) are hardly providing Vettel with any reassurance on the matter:

“I was used to seeing a Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, so it breaks my soul to see a Ferrari that is suffering so much.”

In fact, Vettel’s public posturing on the two incidents involving Kvyat may have been so effective that Herr Marko found his perfect excuse to ditch Kvyat mid-season and promote Max instead.

Indeed, a curious game seems to be at play now. TJ13 has reported recently that Marchionne showed interest in Max’ contractual situation (again, nothing to reassure Sebastian here), and Red Bull’s harried and messy promotion of the youngster could be seen as a pre-emptive strike by Red Bull to ward off any advances another top team, like Ferrari, may be making to the teenager.

Another distinct possibility is that Sergio wants either to replace Vettel or give him proper competition in the form of Ricciardo, forcing Red Bull to quickly evaluate their teenagers in a more realistic setting. Either way, it might seem as if Marchionne has decided that Vettel cannot deliver this year the world titles he wants, no excuses tolerated—still recall his warning to Arrivabene not to bitch this year?—, and that further reshuffles at Maranello are on the cards…

37 responses to “Seb and the art of writing history

  1. I feel very sorry for Kvyat. Not only have many of the tifosi been comparing him to Maldonado, through no real fault of his own, but he gets abruptly demoted into the RBR b team. I’m hoping that the Ferrari engine update that’s coming to STR puts the b team on a better footing for Spain.

    • Maybe I missed something, but I was of the understanding that STR don’t get ANY updates this year as the unit is a 2015 spec. STR will be back markers by the end of the season.

      My take on the whole situation is basically what is implied in the last paragraph. RB are potentially going to lose RIC to Ferrari, so promoting VES early is a smart move.
      I assume Ferrari can’t have ignored the fact that RIC beat VET in the same car, so by placing the same pressure on VET again will not only increase his motivation, but also guarantee that if VET doesn’t perform RIC could potentially deliver Ferarri the title they desperately need to save face.
      This scenario is all entirely dependent on what Renault deliver with the PU upgrade. If it’s as good as they say then RIC will stay with RB because a competitive PU in a 2017 spec Newey chassis is probably a title favourite. Ferrari generally play catch-up for the first year after new regs…

      • it is better to have missed such formula one matter that smells such dampness.

        • The Zen master drops a koan for this unworthy person to unriddle. Surely it is not a sutra, yet my befuddlement knows no bounds.

  2. Marchionne makes a disparaging remarks toward Vettel, then, from the tenor of his statements, blames “mistakes,” (from the paddock) for keeping Vettel from winning the 2015 WDC; “Ferrari deserves a championship,” smacks of either hubris stemming from a sense of privilege or a desperate mind verging on becoming unhinged. Overall the tone from the quotable Ferrari pair of Vettel and Marchionne seems, at least, a bit —– whiny.

    Perhaps a “letter to the fans” is in order.

  3. Interesting article, Landroni. +1

    I found it curious that Vettel’s tirade in Russia was spewed forth in English, and not his native tongue.

    I wonder if some are confusing hot-blooded ‘passion’ and cold-blooded ‘calculation’ – as Vettel would’ve had time for forethought by that stage.

    Maybe something… Maybe nothing… But it, for me, adds to the growing list of things that I’ve noticed which allow for small glimpses behind the impish facade that is Vettel. Methinks there’s a sharp and quick-witted little reptile tellin’ us jokes.

    Or not… What the F do I know?



    PS: Standard fan response would be, “but all the greats are ruthless, no?” To which I’d say, “no, I don’t think so. There’s raging on-track passion, there’s having a win-at-all-costs instinct on-track when pushed… and then there’s premeditation. Singapore ’08 is premeditation, as an extreme example.”

  4. Nice to see balance in your articles… you were the author last year attacking Ferrari because of a futuristic prototype they unveiled to the public..

    You’re constant that’s good

    • Balance is a funny thing and cuts both ways. It’s not like publicly supporting Ferrari’s outrageous bonus payments or systematically bringing up how biased the British media are on things F1 (while completely overlooking the biases in, say, the Italian or Spanish media) is a particularly balanced way to present things. One just doesn’t get slammed for these things…

      But criticizing Ferrari or Vettel when they deserve it turns out to be a particularly taboo thing to do. Ferrari’s futuristic prototype were a political move that has morphed into the 2017 regulations (as predicted back then by the Judge himself, and which you didn’t seem to have a problem with at the time), and which has all the signs of bringing to the brink of bankruptcy teams like Sauber and Force India. And Vettel’s reaction to on-track incidents in the past several GPs was completely unacceptable and disproportionate. Just because you’re a gifted 4x WDC driving in a Ferrari company car doesn’t give you the right to swear in public like a drunken sailor or start throwing chairs left and right for real or imagined slights…

        • No, of course not. But we’re talking about public personas: there are ethics, there are standards. There are many things we can do in private, but when your kick ass party (pun intended) with ambiguous connotations becomes an item of public consumption then it becomes really tenuous to keep your position as protector of the motorsport realm… Same for journalists, if you keep swearing in writing you will never hold onto your position at Autosport or The Economist. And how long do you think Brundle or Coulthard would keep onto their positions if they did a Vettelian 10s speech every other weekend? F1 drivers, as the highest profile figures of very big corporations, are no different…

  5. Re Seb’s tirade….

    Brundle mentioned in commentary that most of that tirade was been spewed even before the second contact. So could he have been so busy lashing out in anger he lost track of what he was doing and thus being at fault for the second hit?

  6. See hamfosis of this world it’s not only lewis who gets a kick in the nuts here!

    • Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaa…..lets all go out into the streets and celebrate, for someone has written an article criticizing Sebastian Vettel, because that has now brought balance to the force. Let us all ‘party like its 1999’ (though i prefer ‘When Doves Cry)

        • Just listened, well if she didn’t pick him after that, she’s a evil woman. First i’ve heard that one

          Last time i heard anyone emotions like that in a a song, was Lenny Williams ‘You know i love you’

  7. Let me spell this out, because it was quite clear. Contact 2 in Russia was due to a punctured Force India, both Hamilton and Vettel slowed seeing him squirming across the track. The drivers behind had to avoid the cars in front. All managed that bar one. If Vettel was at fault for slowing, so was Hamilton, the Brit actually slowed more so than the German, that blocked any escape route for Kvyat. Plenty of drivers managed to slow down just fine though. One didn’t, unfortunately for Kvyat he was so close to Vettel (though not as close as he was in T2) meaning the reaction times involved would have to be very short.

    If Ferrari think they can win World Titles in a car that’s over a second a lap off the pace and has worse reliability than it’s major rival though, they’re very much deluded, you could stick Senna and Schumacher in the Ferrari and it wouldn’t beat the Mercs such is their car advantage. I expect Kimi to be gone at the end of the season either way though, he’s expensive and not as quick as he should be.

    • Hamilton had to slow so as to give back the places that he had gained for not taking T1. Furthermore his slowing did not interfere with Seb, as he was on the inside of the track as opposed to where Seb and Kvyat was. Had Seb not have what many people thought was a puncture, he would’ve been in front of Hamilton going into T4. Watch the video again and pay close attention to the 10 seconds mark onwards. Hamilton slowing down had nothing to do with what caused the accident.

      • If Hamilton wasn’t on the inside of Vettel, and he was slowing a similar amount to the Ferrari driver, then Kvyat would have had a gap on the inside as well as the outside of the Ferrari, so it does have an impact on the events that followed, not much I’ll grant you, but it limits Kvyats options for avoidance to one side rather than both sides. I’m not attributing blame to Lewis, because cars behind should be able to avoid vehicles ahead whether they’re slowing to let people back through or because of the punctured Force India wavering across the track, it’s not like either of them jumped on the brakes hard, you can see the deceleration in the video of the Mercedes and Ferrari is pretty similar until the Russian Battering Ram (RBR) makes contact.

    • Hamilton had not accelerated at the same rate as Vettel or Kvyat out of T2 in the first place. He was simply waiting for all those behind — which he had shortcuted by skipping T2 — to overtake him, to avoid getting a penalty. He was roughly going at Perez’ acceleration rate, but he didn’t have to — he could easily have overtaken him on the inside (which he later indeed did, after the Vettel-Kvyat contact). Vettel and Kvyat however were clearly on different acceleration patterns, as Vettel not only caught up with Hamilton but overtook him, before all of a sudden he lifted in the middle of an acceleration zone instead of the no-brainer solution of overtaking the Force India on the outside (on the inside there was little to no room as the Merc was there).

      My point being that the whole incident is more iffy than Vettel and Arrivabene have made it look like, and Vettel’s reaction to it was nothing if disproportionate. If Vettel were indeed innocent of lifting up significantly, then telemetry should have shown it, yet they’ve publicly refused to bring telemetry to the fore. Of course even in that scenario Kvyat would have been guilty for ramming a car from behind, but at least his mistake would have had a clear and understandable explanation. The way things are, however, he’s been painted in the starkest terms for a crash that any other driver would’ve likely had as much difficulty avoiding if they had been under the same acceleration patterns and distance from the car in front…

  8. Can I just say how refreshing and welcome it is to have an article about another F1 driver instead of the usual nonsense about Hamilton?
    Thanks so much!

    • yes it is refreshing to have an article about the finger instead about Lulu, his hamfosi does need a change of subject to talk about

      • True, I guess I had the top drivers in my head, HAM, VET, RIC, ALO, ROS, etc

        • I think we’ll see plenty about RIC going forward. His battle vs Max will be great to watch.

  9. My goodness you chaps are blinded by something. This was vettel bashing rebranded as Seb bashing for 2016. No ifs but or maybes. The guy got punted out was naturally pissed off, like that time you were karting and the fat guy drove you off the road.

    • Many guys got punted this year from behind: Guttierez, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen… Yet none have displayed the same amount of vitriol in response as Vettel did…

      • You’ve heard all all driver reactions on radio and in private? the vitriol was before he knew who was responsible and was in response to the previous 3 impacts, inc. two dnfs and one almost. seems altered from the start by a dislike. That’s fine, but imo hate is the easiest of f1 hobbies! I’ll get me coat.. 😉

        • the vitriol was before he knew who was responsible

          Precisely. This is what makes it even worse, IMO. There could have been a number of reasons why someone may have hit him (again), say dead brakes or broken suspension, so going ballistic like this before even knowing what has happened is somewhat of a strange response. Even Gutierrez, when flipped airborne by Pastor in Bahrain a couple seasons back, had only “What just happened?” to say… (And that was arguably a more outrageous accident than what happened to Vettel in Sochi.)

  10. Pretend your car is rammed off the road as you drive at high speed on your way to sophistry classes and imagine the emotions. Analysis of the motives and judgements of such reactions is massive speculation and mostly pointless, imo. Just seems unfair.

  11. “Pretend your car is rammed off the road as you drive at high speed on your way to sophistry classes and imagine the emotions.” Being neither clever nor deceptive, perhaps you were indulging us with a brief description of a personal happenstance.

    When sober and reasoned thought cannot win the day, the asylum rules.

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