Former Formula 1 driver Mark Webber believes a ‘few own goals’ from Ferrari cost the Italian team its chance of victory in this year’s world championship.
Now a pundit for Channel 4 television in the UK, the 12-time grand prix winner has offered his views on why Sebastian Vettel’s title hopes fell short in an intense battle against Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
The Australian, who was team-mate to Vettel as the German claimed four consecutive world titles with Red Bull, believes a combination of mistakes on track, on the pit wall, and in the factory, conspired to end Ferrari’s title ambitions.
“It (the championship) had all the ingredients, particularly from Sebastian and Lewis (Hamilton) to go on the drivers side anyway, to go pretty deep, but obviously it didn’t turn out that way,” Webber told Speedcafe.com.
“Lewis and Mercedes are just too, too resilient and too consistent to have a good battle going on there.
“Obviously Ferrari had a few own goals, to say the least, from the cockpit and the pit-wall and lots of different things which fed the fuel on Mercedes’ side in what was probably Lewis’ best season personally.”
Having been neck and neck through the first half of the season, Webber says the critical moment of the season came at the German Grand Prix when Vettel crashed out of the lead.
It handed victory to Hamilton who went on to win six of the next seven events to stamp his authority on the driver’s world crown as Vettel could manage just one more win for the remainder of the season.
“Ferrari certainly didn’t help their cause, they lost their way a little bit in the middle of the year,” Webber added.
“Sebastian was certainly shouldering as much as he could on that front with the red team. I’m not sticking up for Seb, it’s a known fact that Ferrari does come with it’s headaches for the drivers.
“Merc did what they did because Ferrari started to capitulate and struggled under the pressure.
“I think Seb in Hockenheim was a mistake which really did hurt him,” he added.
“Sebastian knows that there is certainly one corner you should run wide at in Hockenheim, that’s Sachscurve- it’s gravel and it’s sort of cambers off on the edge so you can’t get out of that.
“So a lot of points lost, in front of his own people, and that was huge for the championship at that time.
“It’s very easy to talk about all the racing incidents he had – I think Suzuka with Max (Verstappen) and Austin with Daniel (Ricciardo) – but all of those were brought out by struggles on Saturday or whether it was shit tyre in terms of what the team did in qualifying for him to be out of position.”
The difference, Webber reasons, was Mercedes’ ability to qualify consistently at the front and avoid the panic and chaos in the pack.
At times during the year Ferrari looked to have the upper hand, only for Hamilton to again assert his dominance in the back half of the season.
“It sort of swung during the year and I think the whole qualifying first lap situation, with so called party modes when Ferrari came back with that,” Webber suggested.
“I think Lewis was probably half of that, in terms of if you got three tenths or whatever up your sleeve, an engine, then Lewis can do that extra tenth and a half sometimes.
“So the arms race on Saturday afternoon was very intense and then having to try, if you can, to manipulate the first part of the race at certain venues.
“I think Mercedes didn’t really have too many weak tracks at all, which they have had in the past, for example Singapore.
“So, that really put a lot of pressure on Ferrari, where they lost their way a little bit, with upgrades around that pivotal time.”