By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Motorsports Tribune reviews the top 10 Formula 1 drivers of 2017. Our list continues with second-place finisher Sebastian Vettel.
Sebastian Vettel, No. 5 Scuderia Ferrari
- 2017: 2nd in the championship, 317 points
- Wins: 5, Podiums: 13, Top 5: 17, Top 10: 18, Poles: 3, Laps Led: 286, Fastest Laps: 5
- Best Finish: 1st – Five times (Australia, Bahrain, Monaco, Hungary, Brazil)
Sebastian Vettel had a dream start to the 2017 season, and a nightmare finish. His season of two halves saw Ferrari come closest to the Drivers and Constructors titles in nearly a decade, but ultimately fell short.
Vettel opened up the season in supreme fashion, a win in Australia was followed by second or first place finishes in the next five Grands Prix. In fact it was the best start to a season any driver has had in years. Yet despite the strong finish, personal mistakes, technical failures on the car and a resurgent Lewis Hamilton kept the German’s quest for a fifth world title just out of reach.
Azerbaijan was the low point of the season. Frustrated at race leader Hamilton for backing the field up under the safety car, Vettel rear ended and then deliberately banged wheels with his championship rival. It was a conspicuous loss of cool for the normally level headed Vettel and it cost him dearly as the subsequent penalty took what would have been a comfortable win off the table.
Singapore and Japan ultimately put the title out of reach. In order to cover Max Verstappen at the start in Marina Bay, Vettel moved left to squeeze his rival, unaware that team mate Kimi Raikkonen had a lightning start and was closing on Verstappen’s left side. Three cars into one didn’t work and all involved had to retire from the race. As shocking as Singapore was, it was ultimately a racing incident. Japan was an all together different sort of pain; a spark plug failure caused Vettel to retire from the race after just four laps. Hamilton went on to win and at that point the championship was effectively over.
A win in Brazil and a podium in Abu Dhabi ended the season on as high of a note as possible as Ferrari goes back to the drawing board in search of their first titles since 2008.
The most tragic thing is that Vettel performed brilliantly for most of the year, even as the team began to unravel in the face of adversity he never wavered in his leadership, ability or belief in himself and the organization. It was the kind of mature effort befitting of a four time world champion. If he can iron out the small wrinkles in his performance and the team can deliver a slightly more competitive car for 2018, he will be able to go head to head against Hamilton again and the race for Formula One’s third 5 time champion will be on.