Two-time Formula One world champion Mika Hakkinen comments on Scuderia Ferrari’s result at the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix, in his post-race column for Unibet. The former McLaren driver also analyzed Sebastian Vettel‘s attempt to overtake Max Verstappen in the early stages of the race:
“Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari have had a tough time since July, but especially since the summer break. Their attack on the World Championship has faded, and everyone is talking about whether it is Sebastian making too many mistakes, the team making poor decisions, or some problems with the car’s performance.
It will be a little bit of everything. In the same way that you become a winner by paying attention to detail and making a small improvement in lots of areas, the reverse is also true; if you make small errors they quickly add up until it looks like you have a huge problem. I do not think Ferrari has a huge problem, nor do I think Sebastian has forgotten how to win. The team has created a very strong car this year and, together, Sebastian and Kimi Raikkonen have been able to push Mercedes extremely hard for the first half of the season.
There is a lot of talk about Sebastian’s driving mistakes. He has not made many, but when you are fighting for the World Championship every mistake is magnified. In Japan the team made a mistake with their tyre choice in qualifying and, starting 8th on the grid, Sebastian knew that he had to go for it. When he collided with Max Verstappen at Spoon Curve, it ended any chance he had of attacking the Valtteri and Lewis, and it probably ended any hope he had of this year’s World Championship.
Was it a mistake to try and overtake Max? No, it wasn’t. Sebastian knew that he had to push hard, and when you are trying to make up positions early in the race you have to take some chances. There was a real sense of urgency for him to try and get his car into a fighting position with Mercedes, so when he saw a gap to the left of Max’s car, he went for it.
As we know, it didn’t work out. Max tightened his racing line, which he is entitled to do, and the cars touched. If Sebastian had successfully overtaken Max, he would have been a hero, and he might have been able to push Mercedes in the race. It just didn’t work out, but you cannot blame him for trying.
A lot of people ask me about my overtaking manoeuvre on Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2000, when I went to the right of Ricardo Zonta’s BAR at 300kph. It worked out, and I won the race. If Ricardo had moved 50cms to the right we could have crashed, and instead of everyone thinking I was a superstar things might have been very different.
To win a World Championship you take risks, it’s the nature of Formula One. Some you win, some you lose, but it’s only when you stop taking risks that you have a problem. Sebastian has not reached that point yet and we should appreciate the fact that he is still pushing hard and prepared to take risks, even when they don’t work out.”