Sebastian Vettel: Can the four-time F1 champion turn around his form?
"I don't like the fact that people are trying to write off Seb," says Ferrari's chief executive; But can Vettel respond to Leclerc's run?
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 09/09/19 10:27pm
Sebastian Vettel has been backed to turn around his form by Ferrari's top boss after the four-time world champion's season lurched to a fresh low at the Italian GP.
Vettel's early spin out of fourth place - and resultant pit-lane penalty for what was deemed by stewards to be a 'dangerous' clash on his return to the track with Lance Stroll - came on the day team-mate Charles Leclerc ended Ferrari's nine-year wait for a home Monza success with a stirring win in front of the Tifosi.
- Vettel three penalty points away from ban
- Leclerc: Monza win beyond all my dreams
- Italian Grand Prix race report
Vettel's latest errors add to a series of mistakes in race conditions over the last two seasons - but Ferrari's chief executive, Louis Camilleri, insists people are unwise to write off one of the F1's most-successful ever drivers.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 as Ferrari celebrated Monza victory, Camilleri admitted "we're going to have to lift his spirits" but insisted: "I don't like the fact that people are trying to write off Seb.
"He's an amazing driver and I have every confidence that Seb's going to come back."
Camilleri's view was shared by Mercedes' Toto Wolff, who does not doubt that Vettel will return to his best form.
"Don't write him off, because he's a four-time world champion," said Wolff to reporters.
"The difference between the great ones and the good ones is that the great ones are able to get up again and I have no doubt that he can do that.
"He had a spell of bad races and now it will be about the ability to get himself back to where he deserves to be. Today, for sure is a bad day for him."
Vettel vs Leclerc since Canadian GP
|Last seven races||Sebastian Vettel||Charles Leclerc|
But is Leclerc now Ferrari's number one?
Although Ferrari are effectively not in the world championship fight, despite Leclerc's back-to-back wins, after a disappointing run before the summer break, the intra-team battle for supremacy between the team's young and established driver has become one of F1 2019's biggest stories.
Ferrari started the season by saying they would give early precedence in 50-50 calls to Vettel, but Leclerc has now consistently outperformed the 32-year-old in recent months.
Leclerc has qualified ahead in the last seven races and claimed their first two wins of 2019 in consecutive weekends. Leclerc also moved ahead of Vettel by 13 points in the Drivers' Championship.
"Mattia has said they're equal," said Camilleri.
"We started the season like that [with Vettel as priority], things evolve over time."
I still love what I do, but surely when you're not doing well what you know you can do well, you can't be happy.
Sebastian Vettel to Sky F1 after finishing 13th
But can Vettel, whose Ferrari contract runs to the end of 2020, reassert himself against the in-form Leclerc over the remainder of the season?
Sky F1's Nico Rosberg believes his countryman and former rival finds himself in a difficult position - but says Vettel can work his way out of it.
"This moment must be so dark for him. His team-mate just became an absolute Ferrari legend and has taken the number one status in the team, probably, from him," said Rosberg.
"Vettel is one of those guys who has a lot of self-confidence, so that's going to help him a lot through this. And in F1, it's so short-lived that it just takes one race, one really powerful race, and you're back.
"We shouldn't write him off because he can come back very quick - but it's not an easy one."