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IN A LONELY PLACE

Is this a new low for Sebastian Vettel? After the recently concluded Japanese Grand Prix, it now requires a miracle to turn his fortunes around. Yes, he has done it in the past, remember 2010 or 2012 season? However, this time around, things are different, and so do the opponent.

Talking about the opponent, I am not referring to Lewis Hamilton, the ghosts reside within Vettel, and it is ambling its way out since the 2014 season. What we have witnessed this year is its acceleration. The highs of this season have come to terms with disappointments, and it is not over.

What can go wrong? Another four no finishes in the remaining races?  Overtaken by Bottas and Max Verstappen in the points tally? Suddenly, the season looks ordinary. Mind you, this has nothing to do with the car’s performance in general.

The last time I saw Ferrari this dominant was in 2008, albeit 2010 comes close. The 2012 season went into the final race thanks to the impressive drives made by Fernando Alonso.

The team Ferrari is mercurial, and that’s the way they play the game. Most people fail to understand the DNA with which they are wired. People look for logical explanations, curated PR messages and expect Ferrari to appease the non-Italian journalists. If you are expecting them to behave like a well-oiled corporate entity, then forget it.

At the heart of its operations, it is conducted as an extension of the family business, and to be honest, there is nothing wrong with it. They do as they wish and they are in the sport for the passion and not to forget the money.

The former term ‘passion’ separates Ferrari from the rest of the pack in Formula One. In Formula One’s history, enough examples illustrate Ferrari in the F1 business for the long haul, whereas other competitors have been selective.

For Ferrari, all is fair in love in the war of F1 business/politics.

In such a setup, Vettel has re-discovered himself, and in that process, he is letting the ghosts out within him. And, he must let them out to come back as a better driver both on and off the track.

Frustration, ego, anger have masked the fact that he is a four-time world champion. Currently, Vettel is in a lonely place.

And, with it, the time is ripe for introspection. He isn’t the same care-go-free Wunderkind as he used to be four years ago. Things have changed, and the winless years have contributed to this mini-crisis.

The last time Vettel won a driver’s world championship, Michael Schumacher was sound and healthy (2013). Unlike his formative years and his early days in F1, his mentor isn’t around for the past four years.

There would have been no better person than Michael Schumacher to talk about driving and his current ailments. The seven-time world champion went four seasons without a win with the Italian team before winning five consecutive titles between 2000 and 2004.

Not just winning, during those five years and up until his first retirement in 2006, we saw a different Schumacher. He had overcome the image of a ruthless, arrogant driver whose antics made headlines over his exceptional driving skills.

The accident at the 1999 British Grand Prix was the timeout Schumacher needed. Not just physically, he came back to the sport mentally more formidable and more robust. That made a lot of difference during that winning streak, a regular 2005 season and a close 2006 season.

Vettel is no Schumacher; however, both have tasted success relatively early in their careers. There comes a time in every person’s life when one should come to terms with who they are. An honest conversation within is a good starting point.

In the current case of Vettel, if Ferrari performs as well as they have this season, there is nothing he needs to worry about from the machinery point of view. He must bring his new avatar onto the racing track sans excess negative emotion currently in him. That’s something he must invest time into before the start of the next season.

Until then, Vettel is in a lonely place, and only he can turn his fortunes around.

Image – SkySports

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