I've held off posting in this topic for a while now, but I am glad people have moved on from simply bashing Vettel.
I am not a fan of Vettel. Yes, he has made many mistakes this year. Certainly compared to Hamilton he has, but Hamilton has been in a very very good position AND environment these last few years. It hasn't always been like that, mind you. I remember quite well when I was admiring Button and his 'bubble' at McLaren compared to Lewis becoming the outsider.
I see certain similarities with Vettel too. I think the biggest advantage Hamilton enjoys and biggest factor Ferrari lacks is Toto Wolff. I got to hand it to him, but what he has built up at the Mercedes team is extraordinary. One might criticize him/Mercedes for how things developed during the Rosberg-Hamilton years, but in such times, he displayed 'strength' in making the hard decisions. He threatened severe punishment to the point they'd sit out a driver if they can't race together and he has taken the liberty to change around the engineers when rivalry and hostility was building. In other words, time and time again, Mercedes has shown to be very much in control over what happens at their team. Yes, mistakes have been made, but you see their people come out and taking responsibility for them.
Meanwhile, Ferrari have built an exceptional car, but I do sometimes think the team is running like a loose canon. Perhaps I am extrapolating things here, but watching Vettel and listening to his radio messages, one seems to get the impression that Vettel not only has to drive the car, he also has to battle his team and lead them.
I remember back to Monza 2017 when Ferrari suffered a crushing loss to Mercedes on their home turf. Vettel somehow made it to the podium and while Arrivabene was the one who was publicly criticizing the team, Vettel had a very energetic speech on the podium, building up the team. There are numerous examples this year too where I feel the team acted against their own best interests and perhaps set in motion events that later turned to costly driver mistakes. One of the more memorable ones was at Hockenheim, one of the defining races of the season.
So Vettel is leading the race in a comfortable position while Hamilton is coming through the field from 14th position. In order to control the pace and protect his stint, they pit Kimi to bring him in as a road-block in front of Hamilton. Fair game. But then later they pit Vettel for his next stint and because of the later stop, he ends up being behind Kimi. Obviously, dirty air and all, Vettel soon gets stuck behind Kimi and what follows are repeated team-radio messages where Vettel is getting worked-up about his tires increased temperature from following Kimi and that this was slowly compromizing his stint and race. It took more than a couple of laps for Ferrari to get on the radio to Kimi and tell him to move aside. What in gods-name were Ferrari doing or thinking? They played the perfect chess game so far, using Kimi as a pawn against Hamilton, but then forgot to move the pawn out of the way for the driver who was supposed to win the race unchallenged.
This of course led to Hamilton making up more time vs. the leaders and one could also argue that it also put Vettels tires in a worse state than what they could have been when the shower came. Now, Vettel made that mistake that crashed him out yes - but one really has to wonder what was going on before that. Simply listening to those messages, one doesn't get the impression of a stable and working environment...
There other instances too that IMO put a question mark over what has been going on behind the scenes. At Monza, Kimi had the tow in qualifying and I severely question why Vettel felt the need to battle his team-mate in the first 4 corners of the race. Do they not plan these things before the race? The 1-2 was crucial. It just seems absolutely stupid to see both drivers battling each other on the first few corners that then led to subsequent mistakes.
Vettel may not be many things, but I do think he is clearly one of the most intelligent. Time and time again he shows how well he knows the rules (Australia 2018 comes to mind with the VSC timing). I wouldn't put it past him to have a very clear mind about what is happening around him during the race. Meanwhile, Hamilton doesn't need to, because he has full confidence in his team (most of the time). Surely he is smart enough to have felt the need to battle for that position the first few corners. But why? What has been going on behind the scenes at Ferrari?
So yes, Vettel has made his mistakes that he contributed to. But my point is, Vettel seems to be having to do more work at Ferrari than Hamilton has. Perhaps when criticizing Vettel and his mistakes, there's more to things than simply looking at those incidents in complete isolation. Hamilton has a very strong team behind him. I'd argue Vettel does not and not having that while feeling the pressure of the upper management to perform and win, frustrations are building and this is leading to mistakes. Costly mistakes.
It's always a team-sport. A team-sport means optimizing each and every component too. But most importantly, working together, building trust. That trust seems to have gone missing...
Not for nothing, Rosberg's Championship is the only thing that lends credibility to Hamilton's recent success. Otherwise, he'd just be the guy who's had the best car. — bhall II