Need proof that F1 has become harder to fathom than ever? Some of its rules and regulations for next year are baffling, sure, but consider the curious case of Sebastian Vettel this season. After crushing the opposition time and time again to end 2013, the four-time world champion has been little more than a bit-part player in his own team this year, let alone compared to the rest of the field. What’s even more baffling is that Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko – yes, the same Marko who has always been so pro-Vettel since his arrival in F1 – has felt the need to call out his star driver. Yes, hard to fathom indeed.
To be fair to Vettel, which many Australians haven’t been this season – he has endured the lions’ share of the reliability gremlins within his team (the law of averages had to catch up with him eventually), and the new rules for 2014 couldn’t suit his preferred driving style less, particularly as he had more to lose than anyone else when the new cars came into play this season. There’s no way he’ll stay down for too long – he’s far too talented for that – but it has been curious to see him so soundly beaten by Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo when his car has actually held together to complete a race weekend this season .
Vettel has out-qualified his teammate just twice and is yet to finish ahead of him in a race where both cars have seen the chequered flag. Not even the most optimistic Ricciardo fan – nor Daniel himself, come to think of it – expected the scales to be so heavily weighted in the new boy’s favour.
As the season rapidly approaches its halfway point, as the sport’s rulemakers find new ways to turn F1 into a laughing stock and as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton stage their own intra-team battle for the title, Vettel’s response after the coming mid-year break – to Ricciardo, to the new cars and to his critics – will be one of the most intriguing stories of the rest of 2014. He might not be the headline act this year, but his exploits are arguably more compelling now than they were 12 months ago.
Vettel’s struggles and Marko’s well-directed rocket feature on Episode 62 of ‘The Inside Line’, while we also preview this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone. It’ll be hard to get an unbiased read on the weekend ahead given most of the press we read/hear in Australia tends to be from England, where objective views about the British Grand Prix are as rare as F1 rule changes that make sense, but there’s no doubt this event is one of F1’s better weekends.
Forget the typically dreadful weather  and horrific traffic jams – this is a Grand Prix with history, pedigree, a super-fast circuit layout and one held in front of knowledgeable fans, four boxes that aren’t often all ticked on the same weekend. The first blast through Copse-Maggotts-Becketts for the year always ranks, to this writer, as one of the best moments of the year. Particularly in 2010 after what happened the day before .
Check out ‘The Inside Line’ on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday July 2, and/or on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 8.30pm on Thursday July 3.
 Mark Webber has attended three races this season – Australia, Monaco and Austria – and Vettel has retired from all three of them. Part of me wanted to see Vettel finish on the podium in Austria just so Webber could interview him. As an aside, it is curious that someone who told me last October that he “wouldn’t be setting any alarm clocks” to watch F1 has been so visible since he walked away from the sport. Didn’t see that coming, but maybe I should have.
 The ‘English summer’ is a term that always amuses me.