The 2018 German Grand Prix is a painful memory for Sebastian Vettel fans. Vettel’s crash and heartbreaking team radio, after realizing he’d made an unfixable error, made for a rather bitter sight.
Just over 2 years on from the crash, previously unfamiliar evidence has come to light which could suggest why Vettel beached his Ferrari on that fateful day. It’s time to revisit the race at Hockenheim.
Heading into the German Grand Prix, Vettel and Ferrari were leading arch-rivals Mercedes in the Championship Standings. Vettel’s main title contender Lewis Hamilton endured a miserable qualifying session and could only muster P14 because of hydraulic problems.
The German capitalized on his rival’s misfortunes to clinch a scintillating pole on home soil. Sebastian Vettel was on top of the world and seemed untouchable for the race. However, the rain gods had other ideas.
Come race day, the heavens opened up shortly after the race began, creating a damp track. Until the rain arrived, Vettel was comfortably leading the pack.
On lap 52, the 4-time World Champion, in what appeared to be a lapse of concentration, lost control of his Ferrari and careened off onto the gravel trap.
Vettel’s German Grand Prix was over and his gut-wrenching reaction to the crash over the team radio was telling. Surrounded by thousands of jeering fans, Vettel kept his visor down and walked away, a visibly shaken and disconsolate man.
But amidst the drama surrounding Vettel’s crash and aftermath, there was one crucial incident that occurred 5 laps before. On lap 46, the German clipped the sausage kerb, destroying a portion of his front wing.
For those unaware, a damaged front wing creates unbearable understeer and reduces downforce. Having worn slick tires on a damp track with a stricken front wing is a recipe for disaster.
Could this be why Sebastian Vettel actually crashed out of his home race?
It’s impossible to determine now if that was the genuine reason. Furthermore, Vettel never referenced his front wing in the post-race interviews. We may never know if it was a loss of front wing or focus which resulted in his DNF.
Many believe Vettel’s crash at Hockenheim changed the German’s approach to racing in Formula 1. Some say he is yet to recover from the distressing events that transpired over 2 years ago.
This could be partly true, but we have seen glimpses of the old, ruthless Sebastian last year. Given the right car, the Sebastian Vettel of old will surely regain his mojo.