Formula One: Red Bull rally around Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel has shown all the symptoms of a man under pressure of late but his Red Bull team jumped to his defence yesterday and insisted that he is still a contender for the World Championship despite disasters in the last two races.
At Spa Francorchamps on Sunday the young German took out rival Jenson Button after a controversial collision at the chicane on the 16th lap, was given another drive-through, and later split a tyre after colliding with Force India's Tonio Liuzzi. He finished a lapped 15th. That followed Hungary, where Vettel admitted that he “fell asleep” behind the safety car, thus earning a drive-through penalty for holding up Fernando Alonso.
As team-mate Mark Webber won the Hungarian Grand Prix after a brilliant drive and finished a fighting second in the Belgian behind fellow title contender Lewis Hamilton, thus earning 43 points, Vettel came away with just 15. The Australian is currently second in the chase on 179 points to Hamilton's 182; Vettel is third with 151.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner insisted yesterday, however, that Vettel will learn from his recent mistakes, so long as he keeps his head up.
“I think Sebastian, without a shadow of a doubt, is a very, very talented driver,” Horner said.
“Here was one of those races where it just did not go his way. He needs to stay calm and focused — and eventually it will come his way.
“It was difficult for him. You have to make split second decisions and I think he made one mistake when he was racing Jenson. Jenson, braking where he did, just took him completely by surprise.
“In trying to avoid him he got himself into a spin that ultimately collected Jenson in very, very difficult conditions.
“He is a great racing driver, he is still a very young guy and it's easy to be very critical on somebody who is relatively inexperienced — but for sure he will learn a lot from what happened.”
Horner concedes that the problem is Vettel's to fix, and believes that he is savvy enough to think things through and act appropriately in the remaining six races.
“Nobody knows that better than Sebastian, he is a pretty mature individual. Of course he analyses his own performance very, very carefully and I am sure he will bounce back from this. It would be foolish to write him off at the moment.”
On Sunday Webber was careful not to call for the focus of Red Bull's attention to switch to him, but said: “McLaren have won many championships, so they have a pretty good trophy cabinet. Red Bull have a good trophy cabinet but not one like McLaren's, so it depends on how hungry we are to try and do that.
“I think it's too early, at the moment, having said that, but maybe there is a different strategy compared to McLaren. I'm not sure but it's still too early at the moment, but not far away, I would say.”
“Things can change so quickly,” Horner said.
“Mark has won more races than any other driver at the moment, he has produced some great drives and he is definitely in the form of his career.
“Based on the season to date you would have to say that he looks in great shape, but as we saw here things can change so quickly, it would be a foolish person to rule Sebastian out at the moment.”
McLaren believe Webber is their toughest competitor, but team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: “I think they quite like their younger driver, so I doubt they will put their weight behind Mark.”