Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing’s head of driver development no longer considers Sebastian Vettel as one of the top three drivers on the grid. It’s been five years since the German left Red Bull Racing for Ferrari. During the five seasons, he won 14 races and finished on the podium a total of 54 times.
Sebastian Vettel’s fall from the top
He was Lewis Hamilton’s main rival between 2017-18, finishing as a championship runner up. 2019 without a shadow of a doubt, his worst season with the Italian team. He had a solitary race win and finished 5th in the championship. For the second time in his career, he finished behind his teammate. His 240 points were 24 behind teammate Charles Leclerc. The young Monegasque won the F1 pole position trophy, with a season leading 7 front position starts.
Compounding his misery, several driver errors cost him valuable championship points and momentum. Ultimately, his future within the sport is bleak. With his contract expiring after 2020, his future in Formula One is now in doubt. Speculation on Vettel retiring after 2020 has intensified over the last couple of months.
Helmut Marko on ‘Honest’ Sebastian Vettel
Speaking about his former youth driver, Helmut Marko feels the German is too ‘honest’ for Ferrari. Marko knows Vettel well, having mentored him during his formative motorsports years, including his time at Torro Rosso. Marko would eventually push Vettel to Red Bull, where 4 World Championships were won. Speaking about the situation regarding his former driver, Marko commented
“Unfortunately, I have to say that he is no longer among the best. Maybe Sebastian is a bit too honest. He was spoiled by Red Bull because we always spoke honestly with one another. Ferrari is known for politics within the team, but don’t write Vettel off just yet.”
Internal team politics and Ferrari go hand-in-hand. The team is notorious for enforcing a designated number one driver, right from the start. Until the 2019 season, Sebastian enjoyed the number one driver status. This season, an aggressive Charles Leclerc pushed hard for equal treatment. Given Leclerc’s season, it’s highly probable he will be the number one driver for Ferrari in 2020.
Sebastian Vettel’s future in F1
Ferrari is giving an ultimatum to the quadruple world champion. He has 5 races to save his F1 career with the team in 2020. Ferrari is actively looking at the driver market for its 2021 option. Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari junior drivers are in the mix for the second Ferrari seat.
As Helmut Marko said, one cannot write off Sebastian Vettel just yet. Vettel is still a very capable driver. As long as he can fit in well with a car, he can be a dominating driver, as we have seen in 2011 and 2013.
Vettel himself feels he has an uphill battle against Charles in 2020. But he is willing to fight it out, to prove he can still be a top competitor in Formula One.
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