Charles Leclerc has already declared he’s not in the game to be his second fiddle. Max Verstappen was seen battling him in China and ultimately losing out on the battle for third in F1’s 1000th race, but only just.
Ferrari are keenly anticipating his first win this season. And above all, the man himself has said that perhaps he’s not driving as well as he should or would’ve expected of himself.
How difficult, it must be said, is it being in Sebastian Vettel’s boots at this time?
Four races down in 2019, Sebastian Vettel seems that intelligent and capable student who seemingly has lost the trick to ace his exams.
Remember, he’s a highly capable and cerebral student, one accustomed to straight A’s in his report card. It’s just that he’s not being able to go higher up on the seventies and eighties.
It, in layman language, is the kind of score that would warrant you a few envious responses from the backbenchers and who knows, a smile from the chick who wants to go out with a noted, scholastic dude of the class.
But it’s not something you’d be proud of or would clench that fist thrillingly, let alone exultation.
Had Sebastian Vettel been a phrase from English literature- then given his performances so far, P4, P5, P3, and P3, respectively- he would’ve been bordering “Agony and Ecstacy” and “Trials and Tribulations.”
So far, there’s been no showing of teeth, not even a remote sign of that infectious very Vettel-esque smile, and above all, no waging of the famous finger.
In a sport that often sides with theatrics; needing occasionally some companionship in the form of press conference banters, rivalries, pre-race digs, and mind-games, Vettel’s finger became the poster-boy image of triumph.
This is long before the bling-adoring, nose-piercing swaggy reign of Lewis Hamilton transpired at the highest level.
It was in those halcyon days of Red Bull where it did seem as if there was just one great chariot meant to topple down any enemy and just one great charioteer that was meant for glory.
And where does Sebastian Vettel- a multiple world champion before it’s ignored in lines with his vapid Ferrari stint– stand now?
On Sunday, Sebastian Vettel has just one goal in front of him
That is to nail down the rest on the grid and quite simply, ace the 66-lap contest, spread over a 4.6km-long race track, punctuated by 16 turns.
But let’s throw in some reality check.
There’s a bit of a catch in there as well.
Sebastian Vettel has not won in 2019 so far, a passage in the world championship battle where as of this time, last year, he’d already secured two race wins.
But above all, he’s not won in Spain since 2011.
Do the math, make the comparisons and ascertain the challenge that really haunts him, if at all it does.
Basically, Vettel last won at Spain when the likes of Charles Leclerc, his teammate wasn’t even out of his teens, Kimi was still on a sabbatical, Fernando Alonso had never driven outside of F1, the likes of Jenson, Massa, and Webber were all around in the highest-level of the sport.
This feat is worthy of being called one of F1’s Jurassic occurrence, given it was almost 10 years ago in time.
A lot has happened since then- hasn’t it?
In nearly a decade of competing here at a sassy race-track, one nestled in history as much as one on whom F1 counts to gauge its cars’ exact conditions (even before the season’s start) Vettel’s kitty runs dry.
This is both telling and ironical.
After all, it is here in Spain where eagles like the Red Baron “Michael Schumacher” have dared and won on 6 separate occasions.
Michael, of course, is Vettel’s great hero as he is of hundreds and thousands of fans worldwide.
But it doesn’t make one an astute thinker like Martin Brundle or a charming observant like David Croft to note that Vettel’s about as desperate for a win now, this being round-five of 2019, as is that kid hungry for scoring full grades in his forthcoming examinations.
So as the Formula 1 entourage settles down in the European leg of its spine-bending run, Vettel’s needs to win back what he’s sort of lost.
It’s the equivalent of a loss you feel when your passport is snatched away unfriendlily at an airport where you neither speak the local language nor have any friends to speak to.
What lies ahead for Sebastian Vettel
The great opportunity for him is that his team have carried out upgrades( as have most others) for Barcelona that seemingly add more reliability and strength to the SF 90s’ functionality. That’s a big plus, is it not?
The only problem though is that his arch-rival, rather makes that antithesis, Lewis Hamilton, is in top form, as is his teammate, Valtteri Bottas.
From the mental side of things, how well would Vettel interact with the realization that his numero-uno front-runner rival has already clinched the Spanish GP on 3 separate occasions?