Sebastian Vettel has admitted he wasn’t “at the top of my game” in 2018 amid what proved to be “a tough year in general” for Ferrari.
Despite being locked in an exclusive championship fight with Lewis Hamilton for much of the season, Vettel ultimately finished 88 points behind his Mercedes rival.
While Hamilton enjoyed a near-faultless year, Vettel made a series of costly errors during the campaign and conceded after the season-concluding Abu Dhabi GP: “Looking back I haven’t been at the top of my game. I can be better than I was at times this year.”
Vettel also admitted he was in need of a break from the sport, saying: “I think I need some time for myself. It has been a quite difficult and exhausting year for me.”
In an impressively-honest critique, Vettel continued: “I don’t think I ever any problems raising my hand if I made a mistake.
“I don’t think I need to change things upside down but certainly I can adjust and get stronger.
“Having said that though, I think we also had a lot of races where we got everything out of the car and the package and I felt that I did everything I could.”
VETTEL: A TOUGH YEAR FOR FERRARI
As he reflected on 2018, Vettel described Ferrari’s season as “a tough year in general”, and cited the Scuderia’s well-documented wrong path on car development after the summer break as a critical turning point.
“We lost our path a little bit halfway through the year. Things didn’t come together so obviously we did a step back towards the end of the year which enabled us to be more competitive again but I think we’ve understood what went wrong,” he said.
“We had a lot of lessons, it was a tough year in general. I think the team is strong and the team has potential. The passing of our chairman, Mr Marchionne obviously had an impact and was tough so I think it’s up to us to look into every single detail and make sure we come out as a stronger group, enabling us to build a stronger package for next year and for the future.”
WERE VETTEL’S MISTAKES A RESULT OF FERRARI’S LOSS OF PACE?
While Ferrari frequently held a pace advantage over Mercedes in the first half of the season in particular, that superiority dwindled in the latter stages.
After August’s Belgian GP, Vettel failed to win another race while he only qualified on the front-row once after the Italian GP in the first week of September.
Was that loss of pace a trigger for the uncharacteristic number of mistakes Vettel made in 2018? Put another way: were his errors a consequence of trying too hard in a bid to make up for Ferrari’s relative struggles in qualifying?
“Towards the end, we were lacking a bit of everything and then one thing led to another,” Vettel reflected to Sky F1. “If we had the speed, you start from a different place and you are out of trouble. As a matter of fact, we didn’t have that speed.
“The gap is quite a big. Yes, we could have been closer. But being realistic, in none of the final races could we put the car on pole and lead the race in our style. Ultimately, we were not quick enough.
“But the way l see it is ‘well done Lewis and Mercedes’, they were just better than us this year.”
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission