Struggling Vettel can get back on track, says Wolff of Ferrari ace

It seems incredulous to dismiss Sebastian Vettel’s chances at this week’s Singapore Grand Prix. Not only is the German a four-time world champion, but he has won four times on the Marina Bay Street Circuit, tied for most with Lewis Hamilton.

But Vettel’s form this season has been dreadful – his collision into Lance Stroll’s Racing Point car when re-joining the circuit at the Italian GP earlier this month and eventual 13th-place finish sums up his struggles – and it has been 388 days since the Ferrari driver’s last win, at last year’s Belgium GP.

Yet, few in the sport are willing to label Vettel a washout and cite his talent and mental strength as reasons why he will bounce back.

Among them is Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, who refuses to write Vettel off in Singapore.

“He’s a four-time world champion, and the difference between the great ones and the good ones is that the great ones are able to get up again,” he told autosport.com recently.

“And I have no doubt that he can do that. He’s had a spell of bad races, and now it will be about the ability to get himself back into where he deserves to be.”

Former Mercedes pilot and fellow German Nico Rosberg added: “Vettel is one of those guys who has a lot of self-confidence, so that’s going to help him a lot through this. And in F1, it’s so short-lived that it just takes one race, one really powerful race, and you’re back.

“We shouldn’t write him off because he can come back very quick – but it’s not an easy one.”

PASSING THE MANTLE?

IN FIRST SEVEN RACES

Vettel earned

28

more points than Leclerc.

FOR NEXT SEVEN RACES

Leclerc collected

41

more points than his teammate.

Vettel, a winner of 52 grands prix, was defiant and took comfort from how the team’s SF90 car responded well to the power-unit upgrade in Monza. “The speed is there, so I’m not worried,” he said. “It’s honestly just a matter of putting things together. We have a lot of races and a lot of time.”

His future, though, is uncertain. Vettel’s contract ends next year and his position within the storied outfit is in doubt with the rise of teammate Charles Leclerc.

The Monegasque turns 22 next month and is 10 years younger than Vettel. He has also won the last two races and climbed to fourth in the drivers’ standings, pushing his older colleague to fifth.

Vettel has a disappointing six podium finishes out of 14 races this campaign while Leclerc has seven. The former has secured pole just once while the protege has topped qualifying four times.

Of the races both men have both completed, Leclerc has finished ahead in five of the last six.

The 2016 world champion Rosberg painted a bleak picture after Monza and said: “This moment must be so dark for him (Vettel). His teammate just became an absolute Ferrari legend and has taken the No. 1 status in the team, probably, from him.”

The reversal in fortunes is dramatic to say the least. From the first seven races, Vettel earned 100 points to Leclerc’s 72. The next seven saw the former collect 69 to Leclerc’s 110, second only to championship leader Hamilton’s 122 in the same period.

Put simply, Leclerc is in title-challenging form while Vettel is driving like a mid-table racer.

Vettel has played down talk of friction within the Prancing Horses.

In an interview with Crash.net published on Monday, he said: “From a team point of view, it is important that we work together, not against each other… otherwise it would be a waste of energy.

“We don’t have the car or ability to win every race so that is our objective so it serves both of us if we push in the right direction. I believe one day we will have that car and then we can fight it out.”

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