Sebastian Vettel has launched a robust defence of Ferrari’s under-pressure team boss Maurizio Arrivabene.
The Scuderia chief has been heavily criticised in the wake of the team’s recent sharp slump in form, which culminated in Mercedes wrapping up the Constructors’ Championship at last week’s United States GP.
But echoing the sentiments of Sergio Marchionne, who assured reporters in Texas that Arrivabene’s position wasn’t under threat, Vettel has pledged his full support to his boss.
The endorsement is significant because Arrivabene wasn’t at Ferrari when Vettel joined – the four-time world champion was lured out of Red Bull in September 2014 by Marco Mattiaci, who was replaced by Arrivabene at Marchionne’s instigation just two months later.
Asked to reflect on Arrivabene’s reign by Sky F1’s Simon Lazenby, Vettel responded: “What are his strengths? Look at his results. Look at where Ferrari was after 2014 and how competitive Ferrari was in 2014.”
The Scuderia finished fourth in the standings in 2014, behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams.
According to the German, who was the reigning world champion when he elected to leave Red Bull for Ferrari, the team were in “miserable shape” prior to Arrivabene’s appointment.
“He is the key person for bringing most of that back and making the team grow,” added Vettel.
“He is innovative and creative, and a strong leader. Absolutely I am a fan.
“We are still growing and we are still on that journey.”
All of Vettel’s 2017 results
Hamilton v Vettel: The title race so far
Vettel’s own 2017 journey has, however, appeared to run up a cul de sac. Having led the world championship at the summer break, the Ferrari driver is likely to see title rival Lewis Hamilton claim a fourth title of his own this weekend in Mexico.
Since May, Vettel has won just a single race – Hungary – and claimed two pole positions.
How the title tide has turned against Vettel Race Vettel’s finishing position Gap to Hamilton Hungary 1st + 14 Belgium 2nd + 7 Italy 3rd – 3 Singapore Retired – 28 Malaysia Fourth – 34 Japan Retired – 59 United States 2nd – 66
Nevertheless, Vettel is adamant that 2017 has been a positive year for the Scuderia.
“Overall, the team have done incredibly and proven everybody wrong,” said Vettel. “There was a lot of talk in the winter about Mercedes and Red Bull but not so much about Ferrari.
“Nobody expected us to be this strong.”
Drivers’ Championship title permutations in Mexico Result Hamilton fifth or higher Hamilton is champion Vettel second Hamilton is champion if he finishes ninth or higher Vettel third or lower Hamilton is champion
Ferrari are expected to be particularly competitive this weekend in Mexico although it’s unlikely that will be sufficient to prevent Hamilton from claiming the crown.
With the Scuderia facing up to a decade-long title drought, a winter of serious soul-searching awaits at Maranello and it was perhaps significant that Vettel opted against ducking a question over whether he would like to see Daniel Ricciardo, the Red Bull driver who is out of contract at the end of next year and who partnered Vettel in 2014, become his team-mate again.
“I don’t mind, l like Daniel,” said Vettel.
“In the end, it’s not my choice, it’s the team’s. But if you are not prepared to race whoever it is, then what is the point of racing.”
And with the title all-but gone, all Vettel wants between now and the chequered flag at the season-concluding Abu Dhabi is three more battles with Hamilton and Mercedes.
“They have got away from us when we were on the sidelines,” he rued. “I had some races when l had no chance to fight and that was bitter.
“Hopefully we get three more fights.”
See if Lewis Hamilton can clinch his fourth world championship at the Mexican GP exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. Sunday’s race begins at 7pm. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!