Sebastian Vettel is a man who likes to be in control. Sebastian Vettel is also a man who, for a German, has always had a strong grasp of the appropriate use of profanity in English. So when a podium finish at Spa was thwarted on the penultimate lap of the Belgian Grand Prix after his right-rear Pirelli exploded at well over 200km/h, Vettel was furious. Furious that his remote chance of a championship charge – one based on a run of 21 straight points finishes and unerring consistency – had likely been scuppered by a shredded tyre; furious that the tyre blowout, had it happened a few seconds earlier as he hurtled into the fearsome Eau Rouge and over the top of Raidillon – could have had more dire consequences than falling outside of the top 10.
“If this happened earlier, then I’m f***ed,” he raged.
“Things like that are not allowed to happen. If it happened 200 metres earlier, I’m not standing here now, I’d be stuck in Eau Rouge.”
It was hard to argue with him, and for those who have bemoaned Pirelli’s rubber since the company became F1’s sole tyre supplier, his stinging criticism was completely appropriate. But once his fury died down in the days after Spa, Vettel would have realised that a fifth world title – as unlikely as it was – is now almost certainly not happening in 2015. But the next race, as last year proved, is where unlikely comebacks can start.
At Monza last year, Lewis Hamilton came to the Italian Grand Prix after the controversial collision with teammate Nico Rosberg at Spa, and 29 points adrift in the title race. Given Hamilton’s often emotional response to adversity in the past, Rosberg looked to have played a brilliant and decisive card in his quest to become world champion. But Hamilton won in Italy, then in Singapore, and then seemingly everywhere else. Six wins in seven races after a moment that may have plunged the old Lewis Hamilton into crisis made him a worthy world champion.
It’s unlikely Vettel will ‘do a Hamilton’ this year; for one, his car isn’t good enough to allow for that relative to the Mercedes, and two, if a Mercedes finishes a Grand Prix, it’s usually in first and/or second place. But if Vettel can’t win the title, how about winning Ferrari’s home race in front of its devoted tifosi? From where Ferrari was this time last year, a Monza victory would be akin to a championship win. And Vettel, a three-time victor at Monza already, could certainly deliver on that front.
The Italian Grand Prix simply has to stay at Monza (that’s another blog post for another time), and we preview the final F1 race in Europe for 2015 this week on Episode 116 of ‘The Inside Line’. Check it out.