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Smedley: 2019 was Vettel's best season in F1

  • Published on 29 May 2020 15:24
  • comments 4
  • By: Fergal Walsh

Former Ferrari race engineer Rob Smedley believes 2019 was Sebastian Vettel's strongest season in Formula 1.

The four-time world champion was joined by Charles Leclerc at the Scuderia outfit, with the latter coming out on top in the drivers' championship, pipping Vettel to fourth place by 24 points.

Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season, bringing an end to his six-year stay at the Italian squad, where he has so far amassed 14 grand prix wins.


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Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Smedley, who currently occupies the role of Director of Data Systems for Formula 1, was asked if Vettel's departure from F1 altogether would be a loss for the sport. 

“I think it would be because I think we’ve got a really good driver there, a really wonderful driver,” Smedley said. “And do you know what I think his best year in Formula 1 is – and I’m going to get hammered for this – his best year in Formula 1 was last year, it was 2019.

“I think he faced the biggest challenge of his career that year, and everybody kind of wrote him off because it was the easy thing to do, that Charles is just going to get better and better and it’s the end of Sebastian if you like.”

'Real Vettel' emerged later in the 2019 season

Vettel didn't win his one and only race of the 2019 season until the second half of the campaign, and Smedley believes that the “real” Vettel appeared in the final events of the season.

“I think we saw the real Sebastian Vettel towards the end of the year, [which] Sebastian had a little bit lost.,” he said.

“I’m sure he’d freely admit that, that he wasn’t where he wanted to be, both within the team and with his teammate at the start of the year. But then he actually got his head down, and that’s the sign of a true champion, he came back.”

Smedley impressed by Vettel's ability to deal with pressure

Smedley added that Vettel arguably felt the most pressure he ever had in his career last year and was impressed by how he dealt with it. 

“Sebastian had all the pressure, there’s no doubt about it. I think that’s the most pressure he’s probably ever had in his career. And he’s been against good drivers, he’s been against world champions,” Smedley commented.

“He dominated Kimi [Raikkonen], with Mark [Webber] at Red Bull, who’s absolutely no slouch, Mark’s a really fast driver, and [Vettel] managed to always come out on top.

“But I’m just not sure that he’s ever had the challenge that he had in 2019, so for him to cope with that, and to come back and kind of stamp his authority after a shaky start, I personally think we saw something special.”

Replies (4)

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  • hhmmm - the fact hit took him half a season to 'react' is something that bothers me - but I agree with Smedley - he was class in the second half and showed his racing character - we WANT to see people with flaws, we want to see triumph from adversity and Vettel has all of that. I'm a fan of course, but I do wonder why he 'allowed' half a season to pass before getting the mettle back...... if it were boxing they would be saying he's lost the eye of the tiger......

    • + 0
    • May 29 2020 - 17:42
  • I dunno, was it really? Yeah, he had a decent 2nd half, but a year consist of 2 halves. If one is negative, and the other is positive, the net-result is neutral. I'd venture saying he's had better seasons. But 2019 wasn't overall a bad year for him, because, again, he was trying his best at Ferrari, a team what has doomed itself to not win another title in a long time to come.

    • + 0
    • May 29 2020 - 21:34
  • Singapore GP 2019 perhaps was the Vettel's best race in career may be. But, terming 2019 as his best-ever season? I very strongly disagree. What about the 4 championship years? How about coming back from the back of the grid to clinch the title on the last race of the season?

    • + 1
    • May 29 2020 - 22:04
  • Kokoro

    Posts: 14

    Smeddley's opinion says allot.

    In 2019 Vettel continually made mistakes and dropped the ball when he was placed under pressure from both Hamilton and Leclerc, and that was not Ferrari's fault!! ........ Ferrari was 'the problem' only insofar as it remained loyal to Vettel and didn't get behind Leclerc sooner during the 2019 season.

    Leclerc well and truly had his measure during 2019, Hamilton has always been in his head and more often came out on top, and even Ricciardo out drove him in 2014. If it were not for the superior downforce of the Redbull resulting from superior engineering from the car's blown diffuser, and his obvious number one status within the Redbull team, it is arguable that he would never have won 4 world championships.

    If 2019 was Vettel's best ever, just goes to show that from 2009 to 2013 he was a guy in the right place at the right time.

    • + 0
    • May 30 2020 - 06:27

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  • Team Ferrari
  • Points 1,368
  • Podiums 54
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  • Country Germany
  • Date of b. Jul 3 1987 (33)
  • Place of b. Heppenheim, Germany
  • Weight 62 kg
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