Four-time F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel Getting the Last Laugh on Ferrari

As the legendary Ferrari team continues its march to mediocrity, or at least the back half of the Formula 1 grid, a lot of folks are smiling.

Many sports fans, after all, just like seeing Goliath take a tumble now and then. Ferrari’s current stretch is like watching the New York Yankees go 11 seasons since winning their last World Series (incredibly, the San Francisco Giants have won three championships and even the small-market Kansas City Royals one title since then).

Ferrari’s issues rival that of another team wearing red—baseball’s Boston Red Sox—currently last place in the American League East after winning the World Series themselves in 2013 and 2018.

Ferrari, while not last place, is falling to depths the team hasn’t experienced since the early 1980s. The last time the team finished below fourth in the Formula 1 Constructor’s Championship when it finished sixth in 1981.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto had less-than-encouraging words for the Ferrari Tifosi (that’s superfans, folks) following this past Sunday’s F1 Tuscan Grand Prix. That race saw Charles LeClerc finish second and Sebastian Vettel 10th for Ferrari. Decent enough, one might say, until you factor in that only 12 cars we running at the end because of all the carnage that resulted from not only an incident on the first lap of the race but also from three re-starts—one from behind the Safety Car and two standing re-starts following red flags for crashes.

The only two cars that finished the race on the track but out of the points and behind Vettel at Mugello were hapless Williams and Haas.

It was not exactly the 1,000th Ferrari race in Formula 1 party that team principal Binotto (or frankly, F1) envisioned when everything lined up (thanks, coronavirus) for the 1,000th race to land at Ferrari’s home track in Mugello.

“A very disappointing result brings to an end an historic weekend for Scuderia Ferrari at our home track, Mugello, with our 1,000th Formula 1 Grand Prix,” Binotto said on the Ferrari F1 website this week. “(In qualifying) at least with Charles we managed to get a result in line with our expectations, (on race day) we didn’t have the pace to allow our drivers to fight with their nearest rivals, suffering especially with tire degradation.”

Now the bad news for Ferrari fans. Even the team boss isn’t expecting much in terms of any kind of turnaround for the rest of the season. And with no major regulation changes planned until 2022 in F1, it might be time to keep the red shirts in the closet for a little while.

“Both Charles and Sebastian did the best they could, given the performance level of the car,” Binotto said. “We are working hard to try and correct its basic faults, but it’s not something that can be done in a short space of time, nor with a few updates.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t be bringing new solutions between now and the end of the season, but we have to be realistic with ourselves and with our fans.”

If there is anyone smiling underneath the face mask in the Ferrari garage these days, it just might be Vettel. After all, he’s out of there at the end of the season. It wasn’t too long ago that the F1 world was wondering if Vettel would be willing to move down the grid and race for a mid-pack team just to stay in the sport after he leaves Ferrari.

Turns out, Vettel is moving on up. While Ferrari is languishing in sixth place in the team standings, Vettel’s 2021 outfit over at Racing Point (next year it’s Aston Martin) is fourth and breathing down McLaren’s neck for third in F1’s battle for “best of the rest” behind what is now just a two-team club of Mercedes and Red Bull.

“The positive thing is that we were able to finish in the points, but of course we can’t be happy with our position,” Vettel said on Sunday.

No, the positive thing is at least you, Mr. Vettel, get a true fresh start next year. We know you’re smiling behind that face mask.

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