So far, season 2020 has been Sebastian Vettel’s worst ever season in Formula One. At this point, some might even be tempted to forget about Vettel’s four consecutive world championship titles with Red Bull (2010-2013). Nonetheless, the Ferrari driver has got 53 Grand Prix victories under his belt, which is more than anyone else besides Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. Although, it is not a secret that Ferrari’s 2020 machines are not the quickest on the grid, Charles Leclerc has already scored two podiums, and he is currently 4th in the championship standings. This makes Sebastian Vettel’s 13th place even more shocking. While no one would be able to give a definitive answer to this question, something should be made clear – they both race in an SF1000 for the 2020 Formula One season.
Charles Leclerc is the young face of Ferrari. The Monegasque driver won his first two Grands Prix last season with the Scuderia, marking the beginning of a long and secure partnership. Currently, Leclerc has a 5-year contract with the Scuderia, while Sebastian was officially announced to be leaving at the end of this season. Hence, it is normal for us to expect a somewhat different attitude from the team towards each of its drivers. Ferrari decided in 2019 that Charles Leclerc will be their long-term star, which is the usual practice for many other teams (Red Bull, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, etc.) Although one should expect to see Ferrari supporting their star driver more, intentionally sending you other driver outside of top 10 just does not make sense. Let us be honest, Vettel’s 13th place is in no way threatening to Leclerc’s 4th position, and Ferrari would be unwise if that is where they would like him to be at.
Scuderia Ferrari already announced that Sebastian Vettel’s chassis will be replaced before the upcoming weekend in Barcelona. Objectively, this decision does look like a step towards the right direction. Nevertheless, we cannot expect miracles. Ferrari became aware of their major design problems as soon as the pre-season testing began in February. More recently, their chairman John Elkann expressed his opinion by suggesting that Ferrari are not expecting wins before 2022. Such words can be anything but encouraging to the soon-leaving Sebastian Vettel. The German is a very intelligent person, and he is aware of the situation in the team. He is also aware that Ferrari prefer to see Leclerc succeed.
Seeing Leclerc succeed, however, does not mean that Ferrari want to torture Vettel by making him struggle outside of the points. Former Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher already expressed his doubts that Vettel will complete the 2020 season with Ferrari. Just like many others have suggested, the relationship between Sebastian and Ferrari is probably becoming more toxic weekend after weekend. However, it cannot be just the team to blame, and not all problems come from the car’s maximum performance. If anything, a potential early departure from the team would be mostly Vettel’s decision. The German has not finished higher than 6th this season, and has spun several times so far in 2020. And even though Ferrari’s 2019 car was one of the best on the grid, the German ruined his own chances multiple times by spinning 4 times in 10 races. Therefore, one should not ignore the “driver’s mistake” factor when it comes to Vettel’s 2020 run with Ferrari.
Sebastian and Charles likely drive the same car. In fact, it might be against the rules if they did not. Nevertheless, how you do your car’s pre-race set up is of crucial importance. And frankly, some cars just fit certain driver’s style better. Vettel’s poor 2020 performance might just be a very unlucky coincidence between contractual disagreements and bad aero setup. Although, when you combine it with personal emotions and motivation, the tension keeps growing by more than just that. It is easier to know when the aero kit does not work properly, compared to the feelings in someone’s heart. We can only wish Sebastian a better second half of the season, leading up to a more gracious “goodbye” with the Scuderia.