Consider this situation; you get into Formula 1, the sport you have always dreamt of since childhood. You struggle consistently for 2 years with critics dismissing you as a non-starter. Eventually, you get a reliable car and win the first race to become the youngest driver to win in F1.
Later, things look up and you get a more reliable car finishing 2nd that year. In the next four years, you become untouchable and win the F1 title championship back to back, and other titles including the DHL Fastest Lap Award. In the 5th year, things start going south and you fail to win even a single race.
Sebastian Vettel’s Career in Brief
If you are a Formula One enthusiast, you know the above is a simple analogy of Vettel’s entry into Formula One: success and later fading away. When Vettel started racing proper with Toro, pundits were quick to point that this was a reincarnation of Michael Schumacher.
Fast forward to 2014 and you will not even believe that this is the same driver who had won records back to back. As Vettel started the 2014 season, the world obviously expected him to reign, but as fate would have it, the FIA changed rules on F1 cars.
Along the way, Vettel had impressed everyone and had even managed to come 3rd in the overall tally of pole positions behind F1 greats Ayrton Senna and Schumacher. He might have struggled in the initial years with BMW Sauber between 2006 and 2007 and Toro Rosso, but by the end of 2013 F1 season; everyone expected a lot more from the Red Bull driver.
Where did it go wrong?
The entire Formula One fraternity, including his team Red Bull, was shocked when in September 2014 the German activated an exit clause. At that point, everyone started appreciating just how badly Vettel was fairing with no wins in the new car.
As historians will obviously do this, why not make their work easy and try to assess what really went wrong in 2014 for the German driver? Here are some ideas:
Excessive attachment to his winning toy: Red Bull Chief Horner is candid that Vettel felt like a child whose favourite toy had been taken away. This was the car that had propelled him from obscurity to F1 greatness and he couldn’t still understand why anyone would want him to change.
Understandable resistance to electronics in F1 cars: Truth be told, not many drivers love the new cars and Vettel was candid about it at the start of the 2014 season. As a born racer, you want to have total control of your car and the excessive electronics gives too much control away.
Daniel Ricciardo’s rise: The Australian arrival at Red Bull after Webber’s retirement made things worse as he seemed to enjoy the new car. After winning the Canadian, Hungarian GP and Belgian GP, it was obvious pressure would come down like an avalanche for Vettel.
Well, Sebastian Vettel is now freely speaking about the 2014 terrible season. The fantastic driver says he contemplated quitting F1 due to disillusionment with the turn of things. How things change. Hopefully his new home at Ferrari will bring him more deserved wins.