Under-fire Red Bull Racing star Sebastian Vettel has spoken out to defend his performances in F1 2010, insisting that he is happy with the form he has shown thus far, adamant that 'there is no need to panic' with regard to his world championship chances and brushing off his recent lapses by asserting that 'everybody makes mistakes'.
Vettel was widely vilified and rather uncharitably dubbed a 'crash kid' by McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh after losing control of his RB6 and spearing into the side of defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button as the pair disputed second place a third of the way through the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps two weeks ago.
The incident – allied to a drive-through penalty for his misdemeanour and a subsequent coming-together with Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi – dealt a blow to Vettel's hopes of clinching the title this season, leaving the young German as it did some 31 points adrift of new world championship leader Lewis Hamilton and 28 behind his own Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, who claimed the runner-up spoils in the Ardennes.
Worse still, the error compounded those previously made in Hungary – where the 23-year-old had earned himself a penalty for falling too far behind Webber at the safety car re-start – and in Turkey, where a catastrophic misjudgement saw him clatter into the sister RBR as the duo lay first and second, with many suggesting that in the heat of the moment, the pressure gets too much for him and the Heppenheim native loses his head.
Such weaknesses, observers argue, could well end up costing Vettel dear, with a common school of thought being that the fastest driver in the field in F1 2010 – witness an impressive seven pole positions from 13 grands prix to-date – with the fastest car underneath him to-boot will miss out on the ultimate prize due to his own impetuosity. Far from it, he fires back, as he rubbishes notions that he is now under pressure to play catch-up and refuses to dwell on what has gone, instead focussing all of his efforts on reigniting his bid for glory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend.
“What happened at Spa is what happened at Spa,” he is quoted as having said by ITV-F1
. “Within a fraction of a second, I lost the car and could not catch it anymore. Obviously it destroyed my race and unfortunately Jenson's race – but then you see other people making mistakes as well. Fernando [Alonso] threw the car away at Spa when he was also in the points, and Lewis nearly lost the lead when he touched the barrier, but he got away with it. At Spa I tried to overtake but it didn't work – full-stop.
“I think I can be happy with my performance [in 2010]. Obviously we could have scored more points here and there as a team; sometimes the car was not good enough and not reliable enough, other times in the last few races I have made some mistakes, and I think it's normal, it's something you go through. It is a long season with some ups-and-downs, and everybody makes mistakes. In the end you have to make sure you are the one who makes the least mistakes.
“Monza is a new race and the next step. There are still six races to go, so we'll see what we can do. Obviously Lewis and Mark are a bit ahead in the championship, so it's up to them to keep their gap in points alive and it is up to the rest – like Fernando, Jenson and myself – to trim the gap and come back. We've seen a lot of different leaders at different stages of the season, so anything can happen.
“For us, we have to focus on ourselves more than anything else, and of course we have to score points if we want to keep the championship alive. I think that's the same situation as for everyone – if Lewis doesn't score from now onwards, then his chances are pretty high that he doesn't win.
“Obviously those who are a little bit behind need to catch up, [but] there is no reason to panic or rush. Around 30 points now sounds more than it is – we have seen bigger gaps this year. Look at Fernando before Hockenheim – with his gap everyone wrote him off already, and within two races he came back very quickly, so anything can happen.”