Vet­tel not feel­ing pres­sure de­spite 15 races with­out a win

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS -

By Jerome Pug­mire LE CASTELLET, FRANCE >> De­spite 15 For­mula One races with­out a win, four-time world cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel says he is not bur­dened by his lack of form head­ing into this week­end’s French Grand Prix.

The Fer­rari driver, whose last of four world ti­tles came in 2013, al­ready trails cham­pi­onship leader Lewis Hamil­ton by 62 points. He has not won since the Bel­gian GP last Au­gust, with a best of two sec­ond-place fin­ishes af­ter seven races so far this season. Hamil­ton has won five of them, in­clud­ing the last three.

“I’m not frus­trated. Do I look frus­trated?” Vet­tel said dur­ing an oc­ca­sion­ally terse me­dia ses­sion at Fer­rari’s mo­torhome on Thurs­day. “It’s not like we had 15 races to win and we didn’t win, then I’d be frus­trated.”

He added: “It’s not that we’ve dom­i­nated the last 15 races.”

That doesn’t say much for Fer­rari’s form, or his own.

Since his last win, Vet­tel has looked in­creas­ingly vul­ner­a­ble when un­der pres­sure from Hamil­ton — as was the case in the two pre­vi­ous sea­sons won by Hamil­ton.

At the Bahrain GP in late March, he span his car with Hamil­ton be­hind him about 20 laps from the end. Then, two weeks ago, Vet­tel looked on course to win the Cana­dian GP only to fin­ish in sec­ond place af­ter be­ing given a five-sec­ond time penalty for an in­ci­dent — again with some 20 laps to go.

With Hamil­ton pres­sur­ing be­hind him, Vet­tel went off into the grass com­ing into a turn and then swerved back onto the track, forc­ing Hamil­ton to brake sud­denly to avoid a crash.

Vet­tel was fu­ri­ous at a de­ci­sion he con­sid­ered grossly un­fair, and the Ger­man let his feelings be known by swap­ping the No. 1 and No. 2 signs in front of the cars parked on the pos­trace grid to sig­nify he was the moral win­ner, if not the ac­tual one.

“I still have the same view,” Vet­tel said Thurs­day. “Once I was told (about the penalty) I didn’t un­der­stand why, and when I was told why I still didn’t un­der­stand.”

On Fri­day, Vet­tel will learn the con­clu­sions of a fur­ther re­view from the Mon­treal race-day stew­ards into the in­ci­dent.

“We will see what hap­pens,” Vet­tel said. “First of all it’s to open the case and have an­other look. We’ll bring some in­for­ma­tion that maybe the stew­ards didn’t have at the time.”

Even if Vet­tel were to get seven points ex­tra for a win he thinks he should have had, it would make lit­tle im­pact on the con­sid­er­able lead Hamil­ton has es­tab­lished in the F1 stand­ings.

Hamil­ton is look­ing in strong form to win a sixth world ti­tle and leads Mercedes team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas by 29 points, hav­ing trailed him early in the cam­paign. Bot­tas has won the other two races, giv­ing de­fend­ing con­struc­tors cham­pion Mercedes a stun­ning seven out of seven.

Vet­tel, who won his world ti­tles con­sec­u­tively with Red Bull dur­ing its dom­i­nant era from 2010-13, is 33 points be­hind Bot­tas in third place.

“The next races will be very im­por­tant be­cause once you reach race 10, which is al­most half­time (in the season), then there’s only 10 or 11 races left,” Vet­tel said. “At some point we need to start turn­ing things around.”

Vet­tel fin­ished only fifth in last year’s French GP, with Hamil­ton win­ning it.

Still, Vet­tel is op­ti­mistic the lay­out of the 5.84-kilo­me­ter (3.62-mile) track with sev­eral straights will con­firm Fer­rari’s ad­van­tage over Mercedes in terms of straight-line speed. The Cir­cuit Paul Ri­card’s de­sign, with its var­ied cor­ner­ing speeds, also of­fers driv­ers sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties for over­tak­ing.

LUCA BRUNO — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this file photo dated Thurs­day Fer­rari driver Se­bas­tian Vet­tel of Ger­many dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion at the Monaco race­track, in Monaco. De­spite 15 For­mula One races with­out a win, four-time world cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel on Thurs­day claims he is not bur­dened by his lack of form head­ing into this week­end’s French Grand Prix.

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