Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari tenure is striking some parallels to his predecessor as his bid for a fifth title and first for the Italian outfit draws nearer to being switched off life support.
The German’s fourth season at Maranello is concluding on a whimper despite enjoying an early season stranglehold.
Only now is the magnitude of his cumulative unforced errors revealing its true hand, with the pendulum swinging definitively towards Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton over the course of three races.
Just as Fernando Alonso – having missed out on the crown so narrowly the previous season, appeared to have the momentum to go all the way in 2013 with multiple victories in the opening races, these were marred by unforced errors from driver and team.
Vettel ultimately charged home with nine consecutive victories. As it is, Hamilton has claimed the past four Grands Prix.
Commencing with Germany, six of the past seven where Vettel conceded the initiative which he hasn’t come close to thereafter.
It’s increasingly difficult not to also pinpoint Sergio Marchionne’s untimely passing in July to the almost overnight withering, not so much in terms of losing morale, rather in reverting to the old habits which blighted management prior to his arrival in late 2014.
Ferrari could be excused for turning its attention midway through 2013 to the introduction of the hybrid regulations for the following season.
However, it failed to fire a shot, culminating in the personnel upheaval which led to Alonso’s departure after five years.
Reports of significant tension between incumbent team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, and chief technical officer, Mattia Binotto, only further undermine the team’s direction.
Though the technical changes for 2019 aren’t as significant as 2014 ushered, conflicting ideologies and power struggles are a worrying albeit familiar prospect.
Alonso felt disrespected when Marchionne’s predecessor, Luca di Montezemolo, reinstated Kimi Räikkönen in place of Felipe Massa for 2014.
It’s easy to highlight this decision as the beginning of the end of his relationship with Ferrari.
The Finn now finds himself replaced by Charles Leclerc next season despite Vettel and Arrivabene pushing for his retention and between the team’s fortunes and the Monegasque’s performances, this could determine their respective futures with the squad.
That’s if Arrivabene isn’t ousted in the offseason which would deprive Vettel of a crucial ally in his grip on the team.
From the outset, the Spaniard infamously butted heads with his successor, the mythical Marco Mattiacci, and it was he who facilitated Alonso’s departure prior to being swept aside in favour of Arrivabene.
Vettel is tied to Ferrari through 2020 but he’ll surely analyse his options if there’s continued instability in the coming twelve months.
Michael Schumacher secured his first title in his fourth complete season at Maranello. If the German hasn’t after five, it’s difficult to see it occurring at all.
It’d be disrespectful to ignore Mercedes’ pressure and resilience in forcing another Ferrari capitulation, though there’s only so much disappointment that a partnership can endure before the slate needs to be wiped clean for both parties.
If it’s any consolation to Vettel, he ’d join illustrious company of established champions in failing to tame the Prancing Horse.