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Is the season already over for Vettel?

NEWS STORY
11/06/2019

Sebastian Vettel has endured an underwhelming start to the 2019 Formula One season, lagging off the pace of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the top of the Drivers' Championship standings.

Mercedes' dominance has allowed Hamilton to win four out of the last five crowns, while the other landed with his former team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016. Vettel broke up the stranglehold over the last two years, putting a semblance of pressure on the Brit, particularly at the start of the campaigns.

However, the German has not been able to compete with his rival this time around and has taken an alarming dip behind Bottas this term, which will concern Ferrari. Vettel and Charles LeClerc have had brief moments on the track, although they've not been able to place higher than second on the podium.

The 31-year-old did take a step in the right direction at the Monaco Grand Prix when he sandwiched himself between Hamilton and Bottas, earning the 18 points to move into third in the Drivers' Championship standings.

Even though Vettel did make progress in Monaco, his odds of 33/1 for the title with Betway highlight the challenge the German has to compete for the crown. There is ample time left in the season for him to make a charge, but he and his team have to make their move sooner rather than later.

Sluggish Start

Vettel enjoyed impressive starts to his campaigns in 2017 and 2018, putting Hamilton under pressure. The German had won the Australian Grand Prix for the last two years before he was beaten out by Bottas in Melbourne this time around. He had claimed the Bahrain Grand Prix last season, narrowly defeating Bottas to continue his outstanding start.

However, on this occasion, Vettel was bumped off the podium. He placed down in fifth well off the pace, despite qualifying for second spot on the grid. The 31-year-old did notch back-to-back third-place finishes in China and Azerbaijan, but he underwhelmed once again in Spain before bouncing back in Monaco.

The German boasted a decent record in Monte Carlo during his career with Ferrari. Vettel produced his best drive of the season, rising from fourth place on the grid to secure second spot behind the Briton, finishing two seconds behind the Mercedes driver. In the past two years, the reason why Vettel has been competitive with Hamilton in his battle for the Drivers' Championship crown has been his fast starts to the campaign, putting the Brit under pressure.

Mercedes have usually been slow out of the gate, while Ferrari have their vehicles in peak shape for the start of the term. It has been a complete contrast this season as the Italian outfit has had issues with their SF90. This does not bode well for the rest of a campaign, which is where Mercedes have grown in strength in the past.

Looking Ahead

Vettel has notoriously struggled towards the end of the season and hasn't enjoyed a run of success in the closing meets of the term since his last title triumph in 2014. This has developed into something of a common theme for the German. Can he change it?

Last year, he endured an eight-race streak without a triumph after winning the Belgian Grand Prix, although the Ferrari driver did place on the podium in Mexico and Abu Dhabi. His form in 2017 was eerily similar, producing a record of one victory in nine races after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Unless Vettel and Ferrari manage to correct their issues on the track, he can forget about even having a notion of competing with the two Mercedes drivers at the top of the standings. Rumours of retirement will not help matters, although the German has insisted that he has no plans to quit the sport yet.

It's clear to see that his move to Ferrari has not yielded the success that he would have predicted back in 2015. Even though Hamilton is on course for another dominant charge towards the crown, it's important that Vettel competes with the Brit, ensuring that their rivalry does not end with a whimper - and that F1 stays interesting for the viewers, too.

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