Sebastian Vettel has questioned whether Lewis Hamilton is still excited by Formula One following the seven-time world champion’s downturn in results.
In an interview with the PA news agency ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Aston Martin’s Vettel also admitted he was scared by the prospect of retiring from F1 and believes the sport is “missing” sacked race director Michael Masi.
Hamilton arrives in Baku 75 points adrift of championship leader Max Verstappen – the equivalent of three race victories – after finishing third, 10th, fourth, 13th, sixth, fifth and eighth in the opening seven rounds.
“When you get to know the sport in the way I have done, and Lewis has done, winning and being at the top is what you strive for,” said Vettel, who claimed four consecutive titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013.
“Does it excite you to finish eighth, or 12th or 13th? No it doesn’t, when you know you have been first so many times – and in Lewis’ case more than any other guy.
“George (Russell) comes in. He spent three years at Williams suffering to death at the rear of the field, scoring the odd point, and then suddenly he is eighth or 12th and life for him is amazing.
“Everybody is different, but you need to be fair from the outside and say, look, is Lewis naturally going to be as fired up about finishing eighth as George probably is? No, and I would be surprised if he was.”
Vettel finished runner-up to Hamilton in 2017 and 2018 before he was dropped by Ferrari and then signed for Aston Martin in 2020.
The 34-year-old German was 12th in the standings last year and has scored just five points this term.
It is almost three years since Vettel took the last of his 53 wins – a tally which puts him behind only Hamilton and Michael Schumacher in the list of F1 winners – and he says his future on the grid depends on whether Aston Martin’s fortunes improve.
But is he scared by the thought of retirement?
“Yes,” said Vettel, speaking at the launch of ‘IL PITSTOP’ – a new multi-sensory experience from Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%.
“I have done motor racing for my whole life and it gives you security, in terms of the schedule being made by other people.
“I don’t know what life after Formula One looks like and I don’t think any sportsperson knows what the next life looks like. You can have certain things lined up but you don’t know and that is the truth.
“I don’t expect to find something tomorrow which I am really good at because I have found something in my life that I am really good at and it is hard to find that again. How many times can you win the lottery?
“I enjoy driving the car but there are other things I don’t like. After so many years the usual stuff comes up that you don’t understand at the beginning, like the travel. It is very time consuming and I have kids at home and a family so it equals time away from them.
“The future depends on this year and the races that I have coming up. I have not decided yet. The summer is the usual time when you start to talk so we will see.”
F1’s governing body the FIA is under scrutiny for its handling of the rain-delayed Monaco Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
The role of F1 referee has so far been shared between Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas since Masi was removed.
But respected pundit Martin Brundle recently called for “root and branch” change at the FIA with a “fully dedicated and empowered race director”.
Vettel, director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, added: “What we are missing now is the experience that Michael had and brought to the job because he did it for so long and grew up with it.
“It is not an easy position now because there is more focus and more spotlight on what is happening at race control.
“But I hope things calm down and we find a way to work together, as in the drivers and the FIA. You cannot make everybody happy but we need to try and make both sides more happy.”
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