A Race-By-Race Comparison Of Ferrari's Formula One Teammates

Image for article titled A Race-By-Race Comparison Of Ferrari's Formula One Teammates
Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

2020 was a very bad year for Ferrari’s Formula One team, the kind that borders on embarrassing. And while neither driver had it easy, one had a significantly worse experience. In his final year with the team, Sebastian Vettel suffered mishap after mishap, be it a problem with technology, a bad strategy, or just plain shitty luck.

Advertisement

Last year, we wrote a story that detailed, in Ferrari’s own words, how to lose all hope of a championship. This year, we’re going to do something similar: We’re going to give a side-by-side comparison of how Sebastian Vettel’s year went compared to his teammate Charles Leclerc.

Why? Well, any time a championship-winning driver—especially one as dominant as Vettel was during the Red Bull years—struggles, there are countless people that say that either Vettel has lost his talent or that he never had it to begin with because it was all down to the car. You also have Ferrari claiming that they aren’t picking sides, which seems weird when one of its drivers—one who we know has had talent in the past—is struggling so bad.

We’ll let you glean from this article what you will, whether that will confirm or challenge the assumptions you’ve held this year. Now, let’s dive in.

Pre-season testing

  • Overall: Ferrari showed significant loss of time on the straights. Pundits wonder whether Ferrari is sandbagging or if it genuinely doesn’t have pace. (F1)
  • Vettel: Misses first part of the first day of testing with flu-like symptoms, then suffers a power unit failure in the afternoon. Spins the second day but also sets the fastest time.
  • Leclerc: No issues; Leclerc completed the most laps of any driver in a single day.

Austrian Grand Prix

  • Overall: Kicked off the season with an old aero package, neither driver particularly satisfied with SF1000 performance (Sky Sports F1)
  • Vettel: Lacked balance and speed (Ferrari), spins, calls his car ‘undriveable’ and ‘unrecognizable’ (Formula One)
  • Leclerc: Finishes second, saying it feels like a victory (Formula One)

Finishing Position: Leclerc 2nd, Vettel 10th

Styrian Grand Prix

  • Overall: Leclerc and Vettel collide on first lap

Finishing Position: Both retire

Hungarian Grand Prix

  • Overall: Both Ferraris make it to Q3 but neither feel the car is fixed
  • Vettel: Vettel disagrees with Ferrari tire strategy and makes his own (Essentially Sports). Gets trapped in pit box as everyone else pits (F1)
  • Leclerc: Leclerc notes back ache due to uncomfortable seat, says he was “really struggling with the car overall” (Essentially Sports)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 6th, Leclerc 11th

British Grand Prix

  • Overall: Vettel notes that both cars are similar setup-wise but that something is giving Leclerc more pace. Ferrari conspiracy theories start popping up, knowing that Vettel will be swapping teams next season (Essentially Sports)
  • Vettel: Sits out during practice due to car problems and suffers bad pace during the race. Claims that “something doesn’t stack up” and that “the car didn’t allow me to do what I like” (F1)
  • Leclerc: Leclerc makes a podium but admits that he was “lucky” (F1)

Finishing Position: Vettel 10th, Leclerc 3rd

70th Anniversary Grand Prix

  • Overall: Ferrari accused of sacrificing Vettel’s race in order to help Leclerc’s strategy (F1)
  • Vettel: Ferrari pits Vettel at a bad time, releasing him into the midst of traffic (F1). Vettel says the strategy ‘didn’t make any sense” (F1)
  • Leclerc: One-stop pit strategy gamble allows Leclerc to stay out on track longer than his competitors, nabbing him fourth place (F1)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 12th, Leclerc 4th

Spanish Grand Prix

  • Overall: Both drivers suffer poor qualifying but rally for race day
  • Vettel: Receives new chassis but struggles with confusing strategy during the race, with the team telling him to push but also save tires for a one-stop strategy (ESPN)
  • Leclerc: Electrical problem causes Leclerc to spin, DNF (Autosport)

Finishing Position: Vettel 7th, Leclerc retired

Advertisement

Belgian Grand Prix

  • Overall: Neither Ferrari has pace, with both drivers battling backmarkers (Autoweek) after a bad qualifying session that sees both drivers out in Q2
  • Vettel: Broke his own personal record: he finished outside the top five in seven consecutive races, his most ever since 2007 (Essentially Sports)
  • Leclerc: Suffered a power unit pneumatic valve issue that delayed his pit stop during a safety car period (Autosport)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 13th, Leclerc 14th

Italian Grand Prix

  • Overall: Both Ferraris suffer disastrous races at the team’s home track
  • Vettel: Vettel suffered a brake problem that caused him to retire (Ferrari)
  • Leclerc: Leclerc crashed heavily at the Parabolica, bringing out a red flag period (Ferrari)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Both retire

Tuscan Grand Prix

  • Overall: Ferrari’s 1000th race in F1.
  • Vettel: Suffered front wing damage running into Carlos Sainz Jr. on lap one. Vettel maintained decent pace but struggled with several restarts due to red flag periods
  • Leclerc: Started well but suffered as a result of Ferrari’s tire strategy, which Ferrari claimed was due to having little information about the track (Essentially Sports)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 10th, Leclerc 8th

Russian Grand Prix

  • Overall: Ferrari brought tons of small upgrades to Russia that team boss Mattia Binotto claimed were not the reason for Leclerc’s solid finish; that came down to track characteristics (F1). Both drivers failed to reach Q3 in qualifying.
  • Vettel: Crashed in qualifying. During the race, Ferrari issues Vettel team orders to allow Leclerc to pass him, many of which Vettel ignores until Leclerc is within passing range. Then suffers a MGU-K failure (ESPN)
  • Leclerc: Clipped Lance Stroll during race start but was able to capitalize on Ferrari’s pit stop strategy for a top-10 finish (The Race)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 13th, Leclerc 6th

Eifel Grand Prix

  • Overall: Phase two of Ferrari’s upgrades package introduced. Binotto admits “we were not expecting a lot of difference from these changes in isolation” (F1)
  • Vettel: Nearly jumped the start, struggled to pass an Alfa Romeo, then slid off track. Pinned his performance on the inability to overtake (Essentially Sports)
  • Leclerc: Suffered a disastrous first stint that saw him struggle on soft tires and fall back through the grid. Eventually managed to finish in the top 10 (F1)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 11th, Leclerc 7th

Portuguese Grand Prix

  • Overall: Despite a decent overall performance, Binotto warns Ferrari fans not to be too hopeful. (GP Fans)
  • Vettel: Finally states that he feels Leclerc’s Ferrari is “much faster” than his own, claiming that “an idiot” could perform on par with Leclerc if given Leclerc’s car (Essentially Sports)
  • Leclerc: Responds to Vettel’s criticism by noting that Vettel is complaining of balance while his car feels just fine (Essentially Sports)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 10th, Leclerc 4th

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

  • Overall: Ferrari claims that the SF1000 is making steady progress, even if finishing positions do not reflect that (Ferrari)
  • Vettel: A pit stop problem causes Vettel to lose several positions and finish outside of the points (Ferrari). Despite that, Vettel notes that he’s “reasonably happy” after struggling “less” in qualifying (Essentially Sports)
  • Leclerc: Leclerc, however, was “not completely satisfied” with his performance, especially after locking up behind Daniel Ricciardo when fighting for position (F1)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 12th, Leclerc 5th

Turkish Grand Prix

  • Overall: Both Ferraris perform admirably during a difficult year, finishing within the top five for the first time all season
  • Vettel: Able to capitalize on his teammate’s mistake to pass two cars and secure a podium position
  • Leclerc: Leclerc was set to score a podium until he messed up his braking trying to pass Sergio Perez, leaving his teammate to take the spot
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 3rd, Leclerc 4th

Bahrain Grand Prix

  • Overall: Miserable weekend for Ferrari. Both cars struggled with balance (F1). At the start of the race, Leclerc made a risky move on his teammate, leaving Vettel to feel he didn’t have enough room on the track (Autosport)
  • Vettel: Chastises his teammate’s “ruthless” behavior, also noting that hard tires made his Ferrari “undriveable.” He never recovered from the ground lost at the start (F1i)
  • Leclerc: Leclerc lacked his “usual confidence” in the car but did not elaborate on the problem (Autosport)
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 13th, Leclerc 10th

Advertisement

Sakhir Grand Prix

  • Overall: Leclerc’s great qualifying position is sullied by his retirement and a series of bad pit stops for Vettel
  • Vettel: Two slow pit stops saw Vettel finish outside of the points; he places the blame on the pit equipment, not the crew (F1). That said, his SF1000 was outfitted with a replacement engine and presumed it had left him down on power
  • Leclerc: Crashed on the opening lap and was forced to retire.

Finishing Position: Vettel 12th, Leclerc retires

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

  • Overall: Ferrari struggled for pace all weekend with both cars; neither of them finished the season scoring points
  • Vettel: Despite a difficult season, Vettel ends his tenure with Ferrari by serenading them over the radio
  • Leclerc: Started the race with a three-place grid penalty for starting a collision at the Sakhir GP and struggled to find pace during the entire event
Advertisement

Finishing Position: Vettel 14th, Leclerc 15th

Championship Standings

Ferrari: 6th overall with 131 points

Vettel: 13th overall with 33 points

Leclerc: 8th overall with 98 points

DISCUSSION

By
dieseldub

Vettel to me seems to struggle when the car simply doesn’t suit him. When Red Bull had a car that did suit him, he was near unstoppable. When things changed drastically for 2014, he struggled to adapt and did poorly most of the season while his brand new teammate rattled off 3 wins (Ricciardo).

Vettel has made a number of bone-headed mistakes in recent years when under pressure as well. He more and more has seemingly lost the plot. Leclerc has been solidly outperforming him the last two seasons. Their first season together there seemed to be more parity, but as time goes on Leclerc seems to be doing better with a less than perfect car.

Seems to be the trend. If the car doesn’t suit him, he doesn’t seem to be able to drive around it like current and past teammates have been able to, and that’s the difference.

If the car is working well and is at the sharp end of the field, he can he hard to beat. He just doesn’t seem to be very adaptable to a car he isn’t personally happy with like some drivers can. He also seems to crack under pressure as well, as evidenced by a few spins in recent years and that insane swerving into Hamilton under yellow a few years back.

Where other drivers seem to be able to wrestle and will an underperforming car further up the field than it has any business being, Vettel only seems to be able to win when everything is just going his way.

Hamilton, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Russell, Verstappen and even Perez all seem to be drivers that can will an underpeforming car to higher positions than it deserves. Sainz and Norris have had great showings as well. Norris impressed with a number of late race overtakes in a couple races early to mid season. Vettel, notsomuch these days.