Motorsport Blog
Topic

Motorsport Blog

Insight: An irony of history as Sebastian Vettel avoids getting involved in F1 title mash up in Abu Dhabi

One of the intriguing cameos in Sunday's title deciding Abu Dhabi GP was Sebastian Vettel's attack in the closing stages which fell short of passin...

Insight: An irony of history as Sebastian Vettel avoids getting involved in F1 title mash up in Abu Dhabi

One of the intriguing cameos in Sunday's title deciding Abu Dhabi GP was Sebastian Vettel's attack in the closing stages which fell short of passing Nico Rosberg on track.

There is a strong irony in this situation with historic overtones and after the race I reminded Vettel of the final laps of the 2008 season in Interlagos, Brazil.

There Vettel was driving for Toro Rosso and he came up behind Lewis Hamilton, who needed to finish 5th in order to win his first world championship. Vettel didn't think twice and passed him.

Brazil GP 2008

When Felipe Massa crossed the line soon after to win the race and claim maximum points, Hamilton was all set to lose the title.

Then the rain fell harder and Timo Glock, who had gambled on staying out on slick tyres, lost temperature and grip as conditions worsened in the final lap and Vettel and Hamilton both passed him, taking Hamilton back into that fifth place he needed to be champion.

On Sunday, Vettel found himself being presented with a gift-wrapped opportunity again to pass a driver who was seeking his first world title. As Hamilton dropped his pace at the front, backing Rosberg into the pack behind, Vettel was coming through quickly on new supersoft tyres.

He was on Rosberg's tail from Lap 51 onwards, with Max Verstappen behind him. He had four laps to make a move. Had Vettel made his move, Rosberg would have needed to hold Verstappen behind him to remain on course for the title, but then Hamilton would have backed the pack up even more to give Verstappen the temptation to try it.

It would have been difficult, as Verstappen's tyres were eight laps older than Rosberg's, but as Hamilton had dropped the pace to 1m 47s, when a normal pace at that stage would have been a 1m 44s to 1m 45s, the tyre age would have been somewhat academic.

Vettel, Rosberg

Vettel could see all of this, knew Hamilton's tactics and the likely consequences of making a move on Rosberg. He had a couple of looks, but Rosberg defended well and it resolved itself that Vettel's supersofts had 'perhaps lost their edge' by the last lap or two. Who knows?

Vettel argued that once he came up behind two cars together the wash from them both made his car slide more. Hamilton's problem was that as Rosberg was so close behind him, that gave him DRS on the two straights. So he had to go quickly there, to avoid Rosberg trying a move on him. A collision in that situation would have favoured Rosberg and would have been a hideous way to end the championship battle anyway.

"My interest as soon as I passed Max was to win the race – but bearing in mind obviously that they are fighting for the Championship and… I mean we could all feel and see what was going on. Lewis was trying to back Nico up into the rest of the pack…" said Vettel.

"I was behind Nico and I was faster, but I think also due to the fact that Lewis was slowing down," he added. "At that point, you follow two cars, you slide, the tyres start to go too hot. I was struggling with my fronts at that point so it was difficult to stay close.

"I tried everything but they were very, very quick down the straights. Nico had DRS. The second straight was the spot I was having a look, but Nico defended well and closed the inside so I couldn’t really go anywhere. I couldn’t try something really stupid because Lewis was just ahead, so if I really dived down the inside or down the outside then I have a risk of hitting Lewis at that point."

Nico Rosberg

Vettel's true feelings were perhaps then shown by the heartfelt tribute he made to his fellow German, the third to win the world title for his country,

"You don’t win the Championship by luck. Nico won the Championship today. He’s a deserved champion. You collect a lot of points throughout the season, sometimes you might have, yeah, fortunate situations, unfortunate situations with your car but I think there’s been other situations in the past with other drivers, that’s the way it goes.

"Sometimes you have better years in this regard, sometimes worse years but I think today is Nico’s day and it’s a sign of respect and greatness to give him that. I think we owe it to him, he’s a deserved champion."

So there it is. You read between the lines with Vettel.

Did Vettel think through the consequences of a move on his fellow countryman in the final stages, a move which would have moved him one place further up the podium, but exposed Rosberg to an assault from Verstappen and who knows what end to the championship?

He's a racing driver, who always wants to do as well as possible. But in making that move he would have been doing Hamilton a big favour. And it would have made Hamilton his equal as a four-time world champion in the field.

The 19 year old Vettel, so very hungry in his early Toro Rosso years, didn't think twice about passing Hamilton in the Interlagos rain.

But the four time world champion took a more measured view and didn't risk it on Sunday.

I mentioned this irony of history to Sebastian after the race, and he contemplated it quietly.

Discussing it with various racing luminaries after the race in the paddock, a couple of ex-drivers observed simply that you build your relationships over the years for days like this and people will either want to help you out - or not help you out - depending on that.

And that is motor racing.

What do you think? Leave your comments below
shares
comments
Rosberg drive worthy of a "great champion" - Mercedes

Previous article

Rosberg drive worthy of a "great champion" - Mercedes

Next article

Race analysis: Why Mercedes felt it had to intervene in F1 title showdown

Race analysis: Why Mercedes felt it had to intervene in F1 title showdown
Load comments
Russian Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Russian Grand Prix driver ratings

The 2021 Russian GP was decided by late-arriving rain that allowed some to climb and caused others to plummet. But the events which played out beforehand are equally significant when considering the all-important driver ratings

The "blind faith" Mercedes call that won Hamilton his 100th F1 race Prime

The "blind faith" Mercedes call that won Hamilton his 100th F1 race

Until rain turned the Russian Grand Prix on its head in the closing stages, Lando Norris was set to convert his first Formula 1 pole position into a maiden win. But having recovered well from being shuffled back at the start, Hamilton and his Mercedes team called the changing conditions spot-on for a landmark 100th F1 victory

Why momentum is again behind Australia's aces Prime

Why momentum is again behind Australia's aces

At the Italian Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo turned around a troubled F1 season and, in F2, Oscar Piastri demonstrated once again that he is a potential star of the future. BEN EDWARDS weighs up the prospects of F1 having two Australian stars

Formula 1
Sep 26, 2021
The tough balancing act facing Schumacher’s Netflix film producers Prime

The tough balancing act facing Schumacher’s Netflix film producers

Michael Schumacher is the latest sporting superstar to get the ‘Netflix treatment’, with a special documentary film airing on the US streaming giant’s platform this month. DAMIEN SMITH has the inside track on how the filmmakers gained access to tell the human story behind one of Formula 1’s most publicity-shy champions - while the man himself, for obvious reasons, is in absentia… 

Formula 1
Sep 25, 2021
Why Verstappen should be confident of Russian GP recovery Prime

Why Verstappen should be confident of Russian GP recovery

For the second race in a row, Mercedes has ended the first day of track action on top. It’s in a commanding position at the Russian Grand Prix once again – this time largely thanks to Max Verstappen’s upcoming engine-change grid penalty. But there’s plenty to suggest all hope is not lost for the championship leader at Sochi...

Formula 1
Sep 24, 2021
Why dumping the MGU-H is the right move for F1 Prime

Why dumping the MGU-H is the right move for F1

OPINION: With its days apparently numbered, the MGU-H looks set to be dropped from Formula 1’s future engine rules in order to entice new manufacturers in. While it may appear a change of direction, the benefits for teams and fans could make the decision a worthwhile call

Formula 1
Sep 23, 2021
The floundering fortunes of F1’s many Lotus reboots Prime

The floundering fortunes of F1’s many Lotus reboots

Team Lotus ceased to exist in 1994 - and yet various parties have been trying to resurrect the hallowed name, in increasingly unrecognisable forms, ever since. Damien Smith brings GP Racing’s history of the legendary team to an end with a look at those who sought to keep the flame alive in Formula 1.

Formula 1
Sep 22, 2021
Why the 2021 title fight is far from F1's worst, despite its toxic background Prime

Why the 2021 title fight is far from F1's worst, despite its toxic background

OPINION: Formula 1 reconvenes for the Russian Grand Prix two weeks after the latest blow in ‘Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton’. While the Silverstone and Monza incidents were controversial, they thankfully lacked one element that so far separates the 2021 title fight from the worst examples of ugly championship battles

Formula 1
Sep 22, 2021