Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has come out in the defence of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and expects the four-time Formula 1 world champion to fight back after an error-strewn Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel endured the frustration of missing out in qualifying at Monza during the Q3 farce, meaning he started down in fourth place with Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc on pole position, before spinning off in the opening laps and hitting Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.

The errors landed him a 10-second stop and go penalty which effectively ended his hopes at Ferrari’s home race, finishing a lowly 13th place one lap down on the leaders, as Leclerc fended off the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to claim the Scuderia’s first home win since 2010.

With Vettel slipping down to fifth place in the F1 standings, Mercedes boss Wolff has come to the defence of the German driver and expects him to recover from his nightmare Italian GP.

“I am just saying don’t write him off as he is a four-time world champion and the difference between the great and the good is the great ones can get back up again,” Wolff said. “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 is a bad day for him.”

Former Ferrari and Mercedes boss Ross Brawn has echoed Wolff’s sentiments while comparing Vettel’s current situation to his final year at Red Bull which he faced similar challenges from Daniel Ricciardo in 2014.

“In qualifying, he felt he’d been let down by his team-mate at the end of Q3 and so was unable to take a shot at getting pole. However, what happened in the race was down to him alone,” Brawn said. “Sebastian made two mistakes on lap seven, spinning and then hitting Stroll and the errors look even worse in light of Leclerc’s double victory in Spa and Monza.

“It’s an unavoidable fact that no matter who the driver is and regardless of how good things are in the team, your first rival is always your team-mate. To a certain extent, Sebastian is experiencing what he felt at Red Bull in his final year there, in 2014, when he found himself up against Daniel Ricciardo, a youngster setting incredible pace.

“Vettel is clearly one of the greats of our sport (you don't win four titles without being so), but at this tough time he really needs the support of the team to regain the confidence he seems to be lacking at the moment.”



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