Mark Webber believes that the current technical set-up of the cars are part of the reason behind Sebastian Vettel’s loss of form in recent years.
The German was a force of nature at the start of the last decade as he rattled off four straight Drivers’ titles ahead of the likes of Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and, of course, former Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
Indeed, the Australian was a first-hand witness of the ruthless nature in which Vettel approached his driving during those years but, since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014, we’ve not really seen the same driver.
A couple of decent seasons for Ferrari – which were littered with mistakes to cost the chance of a championship, it must be said – aside, Vettel hasn’t been at the races in recent years and, after a really tough 2020 with Ferrari, his move to Aston Martin has so far underwhelmed after two rounds.
Of course, there’s still time for him to get to grips with his new team and car and improve but Webber thinks there are more fundamental problems behind Vettel’s struggles:
“I think his confidence is incredibly low now,” he said to Marca ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
“His time at Ferrari didn’t work out for him. Sport puts men and women to the test sometimes, but in his case, it was a very long period of time.
“I think the standards of these cars don’t suit Sebastian very well, they are not his type of car. He likes cars with a lot of grip, a lot of downforce and he is a very delicate driver, with a lot of feeling with the car.
“Remember Monza in the rain with the Toro Rosso? It was unbelievable, he got away from everyone that day. But when there is less grip, with the Pirelli… the cars now give you less confidence and the rules don’t suit him.
“That’s a problem for him, but it’s about being good with all the rules, look at Hamilton, he’s strong all the time. I think the stars have aligned against him. And he’s getting tired, he put a lot of effort into Ferrari.”
As mentioned, Webber knows better than most what Vettel can be like when he is at his best, with the two clashing on more than one occasion in spectacular style.
The suggestion that the Aussie might be enjoying his former rival’s plight, though, is wide of the mark:
“I don’t like it. People think I enjoy watching him suffer and no, I’m not happy,” Webber said. “I want to see him do well because it’s very strange to see him so different from how he was.
“But this is F1, we can’t not complain about the drivers who don’t perform. It’s the top, we have to celebrate drivers like Norris, Leclerc or Max performing well.
“If you are a driver who is at the end of his career, or who is suffering… you also have to talk about it.”
Certainly, Vettel is suffering at the moment and time will only tell this season as to whether we’ll see signs of recovery at his new team.