Let’s begin with a quote:
“We were closer than ever. I think sometimes it’s a bit surreal. We are an Italian team. I think Ferrari stands for great passion and a lot of values in Italy and sometimes it seems like the Italian press is our biggest opponent.” -Sebastian Vettel-
Memo to Sebastian Vettel: Yes, of course the Italian press is your biggest opponent. And my title is not a dig at you and Ferrari, because ideally when striving for greatness, you are your own harshest critics. Does it seem like the Italian press have it out for you all of a sudden? Welcome to Ferrari, welcome to the Italians, welcome to this is how it feels when you get on the wrong side of the pen is mightier than the sword.
You are not experiencing anything new. The press and its sharp tongue have been part of F1 since the beginning. This particular relationship between journos and F1’s most beloved team has always been there and always will, since the official start of the FIA sanctioned series. Every Ferrari driver that I can remember has had a love/hate thing going with the Italian press. When you are winning it is oh so good and when things don’t go as planned … let the bloodletting begin, regardless of the driver’s or team’s actual culpability.
Look, they’re a passionate lot, the Italians. They’re widely regarded as the most passionate of the Europeans by far. So is it really any surprise that when errors are made or expectations aren’t met they become a bit cranky, slightly irate or just plain nasty?
The Michael Schumacher era delivered an unprecedented FIVE Drivers Championships (in a row, more if you count Constructors Championships) to Ferrari but that did not stop the press from scathing headlines and salt-in-the-wound one-liners whenever they felt the team and its drivers deserved it.
Vettel, you’re in good company, the Italian press notwithstanding. Let’s see, Prost, Mansell, Schumacher, Alonso. Going back a bit further, Lauda, and then going back even further, Fangio and Ascari. Who did I miss? Of course there is Kimi, the American Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorne, and the driver who scored the Scuderias’ last and final championship prior to the great drought, Jody Schechter. All champions for Ferrari or otherwise.
I’ve got news for you Seb; you’re just going to have to deal with it. It comes with the job. You have to sit and listen to the continuous cacophony of insults and lack of confidence when the race inexplicably ends without you or Kimi on the top step, it is just as simple as that. They can’t accept it as due course. You’re a four-time world champion and oddly enough they expect greatness. Go figure.
Canada is a great case in point. Your first mistake was going out in front at the start. From there, anything less than first place was not going to be acceptable. From the outside it did look as though the team made a bad call to bring you in early. It also looked like you made a couple of costly errors in the final charge to catch Lewis Hamilton and overworked your tires. And therein lies the rub. How the hell could you, the team, or anyone else for that matter have known the Mercedes driver and chassis could nurse a set of tires for so many laps and dispense with the second tour through pit lane. I doubt they were letting people in on that little secret.
Truth be known, I thought your early stop under the safety car was a good move. I thought when you were catching Hamilton on fresh rubber in the final stint, it was a master stroke, the car was surely quick enough, but your tires had a different idea and for that matter Hamilton’s tires had a far different idea which in the end was the difference.
Enter the Italian press and the one-liners. I don’t speak Italian so I can only imagine what the headlines were saying on Monday morning or even worse, the Sunday evening editions. Even Gerhard Berger was getting into the act, ironically a driver that also drove under the scrutiny of the Italian press. What did he say, something along the lines of “Italian confusion”?
For this blogger, Ferrari did everything correctly over the weekend. A very good qualifying session to ensure the tires were in the proper operating temp – the gap back to Vettel was only .172. A brilliant start (what the hell kind of clutch do they have anyway?) and a fairly good strategy or at the very least the only one that was fairly good. After seeing Vettel’s tires in the last stint it was clear they could not make it to the checkered flag with just one stop, and Vettel drove as hard as he possibly could, what more is there to say?
So to the Italian press I say, put a sock in it for a once and let the team and the drivers do their jobs. Seb is sensitive and he’s not used to you yet. Cut him some slack. And while you’re at it, I am still waiting for a few words of apology for some of the things you wrote about a Spaniard that shall remain nameless, at the end of his tenure driving a red car as well…