Sebastian Vettel has reflected on 2018 as being his most difficult year in Formula 1.
The Ferrari driver has been beaten by Lewis Hamilton in a season shaped by their battle to become a five-time world champion.
“I need to think about it but in some regards, definitely yes,” Vettel said when asked if 2018 represented his most challenging season in the sport.
In a series of classy gestures, a sporting Vettel congratulated both Hamilton and, entering the team’s post-race debrief, Mercedes after their triumph in Mexico.
Vettel: Hamilton deserves the title
All of Vettel’s 2018 results
“Ultimately it was a true showing of great sportsmanship and respect between us, as I think has been there all year long,” said an appreciative Hamilton. “Even though he’s had some difficult times, he’s still bounced back, and that’s the true showing of a champion.”
But behind the smiles and sportsmanship, Vettel’s hurt in defeat was palpable.
“It’s a horrible moment,” said Vettel. “I’ve had three times now in my life that sort of disappointment, where you realise that you can’t win the championship any more and those are not happy days. You reflect not on one moment but the whole year: the work that goes in, the effort that goes in from the end of the last year until now.
“We had our chances. We used most of them, some we did not. But in the end we were not good enough.”
Vettel identifies Singapore as critical turning point
Interspersed with several commanding victories, Vettel’s season has been pockmarked by a number of high-profile and costly mistakes.
Those errors have included crashing out of the lead in Germany and spinning to the back of the field in Italy after clashing with Hamilton.
But Vettel believes the title slipped decisively out of his grasp in Singapore when Hamilton claimed an unlikely victory and Ferrari introduced a suite of car upgrades which actually harmed performance.
“For me it was more Singapore,” Vettel highlighted as his defining point of the campaign. “From Singapore onwards we just didn’t have the pace to keep up with Mercedes for a couple of races and then obviously some other things happened on top that didn’t help and we couldn’t score the points due to mistakes that we did, mistakes that I did.”
Elaborating on his crash at Hockenheim, Vettel continued: “I can’t be too hard on myself with what happened in Germany because I’ve done much bigger mistakes this year but obviously it was the most costly one. Unfortunately it’s part of racing: when you push you might be sometimes pushing a little bit too hard. I chose the wrong corner as well. But anyway, it’s behind me and I’m not really thinking about that too much. I consider it part of racing and it happens to others as well.”
He added: “The struggle in the last couple of weeks, just for pace and speed, was probably more defining than that.”
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