In the wake of his controversial collision with title rival Jenson Button in last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, Sebastian Vettel has been defended by Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner as 'very talented' – but at the same time advised to 'stay calm and focussed', as Niki Lauda warned him that with just one more mistake, his chance of clinching the crown this season will be gone.
As he lined up for an overtaking move on the defending F1 World Champion approaching the Bus-Stop Chicane on lap 16 of 44 in the Ardennes, Vettel lost the rear of his RB6 on the slippery track surface and speared into the side of Button's McLaren-Mercedes, sending the Briton into immediate retirement and destroying his own hopes of scoring points into the bargain.
Subsequently labelled a 'crash kid' by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh and told by his victim that he has 'made too many mistakes this year to fight for the world championship' [see separate story – click here
], the German's woeful Sunday afternoon was compounded by a drive-through penalty for his misdemeanour – his second in as many races – and a later coming-together with Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi that resulted in a puncture and left him a lowly 15th at the chequered flag.
Reawakening memories of his calamitous misjudgement in clattering into the side of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul three months ago – and then having the temerity to blame the Australian for the clash – the error unleashed a wave of criticism of the 23-year-old's driving, with former long-time McLaren chief Ron Dennis the latest to offer his view.
“I think that it's easy to say it's a racing incident,” the Englishman is quoted as having said by GP Update
. “That's the simple answer. It seems Sebastian is just too impetuous – look at the incident with his own team-mate, look at incidents that put him out of the race. It's good to push, it's good to be competitive, but there are so many historical lines in motorsport and the one that fits him more than anything is, 'to finish first, first you have to finish'.
“You have to understand that, if he doesn't win this year's world championship and he's considering the reasons why, I think he should first consider his own actions. It's one thing to put yourself out of the race, but it's another to take out either your team-mate or a member of another team – it was a completely avoidable accident, and he was lucky to get away with a drive-through.”
Vettel's raw speed in F1 2010 has been beyond any doubt – witness seven pole positions from the 13 grands prix to-date – but that he has succeeded in converting only one of those qualifying advantages into race day victory is evidence, contends triple world champion Lauda, that the Heppenheim native is trying too hard and should adopt a more cautious approach as the campaign speeds towards its conclusion.
“You're an absolute super-talent but you've taken excessive risks,” Lauda told German newspaper Bild
, when asked what he would say to Vettel. “One more mistake and your world championship will be over. Then you will have to drive for your team-mate, which would be the ultimate penalty. The pressure can be paralysing, because everyone expects you to be in front and everything else is a disappointment.”
“I see a young man who is suffering from his first spell of growing pains,” countered 13-time grand prix-winner and RBR consultant David Coulthard, in his column for The Daily Telegraph
. “I am not excusing [the mistakes] –as I have said before, F1 is no finishing school – I'm just saying they are understandable.”