Where, you may ask, is the driver that took his first victory at the Italian Grand Prix? The driver that, with an inferior car, could drive so calmly and yet commandingly to his first victory in the wet conditions? Well, he is still there, but Sebastian Vettel has begun to undermine his own talent with a series of impetuous and impatient mistakes.
When Vettel leads a race, very few will claim that he is anything but brilliant. When the track is clear in front of him, he can take control of the race and never look back, with unbeatable pace and consistency to match. But this is where the problem comes in. While his talent is obvious, wheel-to-wheel incidents have ruined Sebastian’s title challenge this year.
At yesterday’s Belgian Grand Prix, a dozen laps of sitting behind Jenson Button wore down the young German’s patience, and a silly mistake under braking left the world champion out, and the Red Bull with a broken front wing and a drive-through penalty. After analysis, it has been asserted that Sebastian made his mistake when he swerved out to the outside too quickly, and then went out of control.
This is the sort of mistake that a world champion would not make. Can you see Jenson Button making such a slip? No, because Jenson is able to calculate and strategise his every move, and while this sometimes leads to him lacking in pace, it is what won him the title last year.
Vettel, on the other hand, has a stream of gaffes to his name, the most memorable of which being the collision between him and team-mate Mark Webber in Turkey. It was a simple overtaking move for the lead, and Sebastian defended too vigorously, moving into the side of Webber, and forcing him into a crash. Since then of course, he has been in the news for completely unnecessarily sustaining a drive-through penalty in Hungary, for holding up many of the cars at the restart.
Sure, many of his points losses this and last year can be accredited to reliability troubles, but the point is that he lacks the discipline and mental calmness to become Formula 1 World Champion – for the moment anyway. The 23-year-old has plenty of time to learn in his career, but for the moment any world championship would come undeserved.
Sebastian reminds me of Gilles Villeneuve in a way, as both of these drivers can, on special occasions, produce blistering performances that leave their rivals in awe. What Sebastian lacks is the emotional control that pulls the driver through difficult situations, such as wheel-to-wheel races like we saw on Sunday. A true world champion would soon realise this.