Latest / Interview

Vettel Q&A: Ferrari’s ‘massive potential’ still not unleashed

19 Oct 2017

After a tough few races, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel goes into this weekend’s US round knowing he has to produce a strong result to stay in title contention. Fail to do so and it could all be over on Sunday afternoon. So how is Vettel approaching this crunch Grand Prix? Here’s what he told the media in Austin on Thursday…

Q: Sebastian, after a couple of difficult races could it be that Ferrari are going into panic mode and that you are the rock that prevents the team overreacting? Is that your role – apart from racing?

Sebastian Vettel: No, I don’t think so. We are very busy so there is no time for panicking! [Team principal] Maurizio (Arrivabene) is doing a super job in keeping everybody in the team in the right line and looking forward and not backwards. So that is not my job. My role is to push as hard as possible on the track. Sure I speak to the guys, but Maurizio is around the team a lot more. And as I just said, we are too busy to fall into panic mode.

Q: But the team does seem to have gone off the rails a little lately. What does that do to the hopes that in your third year with Ferrari you could win the championship together?

SV: We are still in there. Our chances are slimmer now than they were a couple of races ago, but there is still the chance – and we are going for it. It would be completely wrong to drift off in your thoughts. You have to stay focused. We have a great car and we had the package to win the last couple of races. It did not happen, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t win the next races. We look forward to what is next – and this is the race this weekend. So far we had a very good season. Obviously you are always judged by the last couple of races – and they weren’t super! But overall we are the team that has progressed the most. Everybody had expected Red Bull to be very strong this season, but as a fact they were not – at least not at the beginning. It was a given that Mercedes would be strong – and they are – but nobody expected us to be as strong as we are. So there are plenty of positives. Sure you are always looking at what you are facing at this very moment and that might be a bit tricky, but there are still four races ahead of us – and we have a great car. There is still a massive potential that is not unleashed completely. This is up to us. There are many good ideas for the next races – and for the future. We want to make bigger steps.

Q: When it comes to your chances of turning the championship around, according to the saying, ‘it ain’t over ‘til it’s over’. Is that your motto right now?

SV: Ha, I am not looking that far ahead – I never have. And I am not looking behind. I am really focusing on what is coming right here, right now. And coming here I don’t really know what to expect. The track is a bit of a mixed package with everything in it. The conditions can make a huge difference, but the progress that we have made in the last couple of weeks mean that the speed is there, so I am pretty optimistic.

Q: Could the reliability issues of late perhaps come from Ferrari pushing development a bit too far?

SV: No, I don’t think so. There are reasons for what happened and one of them is that we have to do things better as a team – things that have to be managed better from our side. F1 is a sport that lives from pushing the limits – and maybe sometimes you push them too far and sometimes you make small mistakes that have consequences later on: issues are always a mix of these components. And we all know that things can break. It hurts a lot when it happens, but it doesn’t happen for no reason. So we need to make sure that we find answers and solutions – not just look for a fast fix, but for solutions for the future.

Q: Let’s again look at the championship fight. Without mistakes from Lewis’ side your chances look rather slim. Is there anything you can do to push him into making mistakes? Can you get into his head?

SV: No interest.

Q: But if it’s to work for you, something has to go badly for him…

SV: I don’t know. We need to focus completely on ourselves to deliver four perfect races. That is the goal. What others do I have no influence on. And I am no protagonist doing politics and playing tricks. In fact I believe these things are always too much hyped for what the reality is. I concentrate on what is happening on the track and the rest I don’t see that you can hugely influence – and if yes, then it is not the way I do things. This should not be a part of the sport.

Q: There are four very different tracks coming up. Where do you see being ‘Ferrari-land’ – and where do you see Mercedes having an advantage?

SV: Difficult to say. The last couple of races have shown that you come to a track with certain expectations and they don’t come true. Right now I would say that at all four tracks we should be competitive – and will be competitive – but I also see that we will see a pretty even playing field with Mercedes. And I would also assume that Red Bull has raised their bar, so we easily could see a fight with three teams involved. But when looking at the sheer track layouts, I definitely do not see a clear favourite for the last races. It will be tight – even if on some Saturdays it will look slightly different, on Sunday everything should be back to the normal tightness.

Q: So how do you see your chances? You have the experience of past championships to help you turn things around. Does that help?

SV: It is known that I am a numbers person, but in that special case I put the numbers aside and will do everything possible – if that is enough in the end will have to be seen. That the last couple of races have not been helpful is no secret, but the chances are still alive – and that is what I am focusing on!