SINGAPORE: Sebastian Vettel was “let down” by his emotions in his title fight with Lewis Hamilton in 2017, according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
The German Ferrari driver appears “calm”, but “is very emotional and passionate under the skin”.
Wolff added: “This has made him win championships in the past. This year, it has let him down.
“Lewis, by contrast, has grown as a personality and as a driver and outside the car and that made him very strong.”
Wolff’s remarks, in an exclusive interview for the BBC 5 live Formula 1 review show, were a reference to two key incidents that affected Vettel’s championship campaign.
The first was in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix when Vettel deliberately drove into Hamilton’s car in a red-mist moment provoked by his erroneous belief that Hamilton had given him a ‘brake test’.
The second was the start-line crash in Singapore when Vettel’s aggressive swerve across the track precipitated a multi-car pileup that took out both Ferraris, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
The incidents cost Vettel at least 30 points in what had been until Singapore a tight battle with Hamilton.
On Baku, Wolff said: “We immediately looked at the data to see whether you could see something like a brake test and we couldn’t see any of that.
“But Sebastian’s emotion and anger just ran away with him in that moment. He would be the first one to acknowledge if he could turn back time, he wouldn’t do it again.”
And about Singapore Wolff said: “I don’t know whether it was pressure or not. Sebastian knew that in order to score 25 points (for a win) in Singapore, he needs to lead the race after the start. And he tried to come in strong and with the lack of visibility in these cars he just triggered a chain reaction.”
Wolff’s remarks were echoed by Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, who said: “Why (was Vettel) always moaning and bitching? He is getting nastier all the time and why is he so emotional? He was never that bad before.
“Emotions in his way distracted – this is my opinion – him from really driving quick and focusing on the real battles.”
Vettel said: “The one that stands out that I messed up was probably the Baku thing, which wasn’t necessary. We lost some points there.
“Did it make a difference? I don’t think it matters. Looking back it is the fact I let the team down, and it didn’t gain us anything but other than that we had a very strong year.
“Things, to be fair, here and there didn’t come together.
“Stuff like Singapore cost us massively but that sort of stuff happens. If you stop racing you might as well quit. The intention was never to not finish the race but sometimes these things happen. The other races overall we got more or less what was in the car.”