Did Sebastian Vettel Make The Correct Decision To Overtake Max Verstappen At Suzuka?
Yes, he did. It was perhaps yet another turning point for Sebastian Vettel’s 2018 F1 campaign. Maybe the final nail in the coffin for his challenge to claim a 5th drivers title. The Ferrari driver had the fastest car for much of the season, but since the Italian Grand Prix, the Scuderia’s pace has fallen. There are various rumors doing the rounds as to why. But Ferrari and Vettel, together, have made mistakes. That’s entirely normal throughout an F1 season. The mistakes were underscored at the Japanese Grand Prix. Vettel and Ferrari decided to opt for intermediates during quali-Q3 believing a sudden downpour was imminent. It didn’t happen and Vettel was stranded in 9th.
Mercedes and Hamilton have also made mistakes, but fewer and less costly. Vettel could have won in Baku had he not made a do or dare lunge at Bottas. He out-braked himself, went wide and slipped down the order in the closing stages of the race.
But Vettel was doing what comes naturally to the very best of F1 drivers, using instinct. When an opportunity presents itself you don’t ask for seconds.
Ayrton Senna always said if you don’t go for the gap then you are no longer a racing driver.
So fast forward to Japan. Vettel starting from 9th, quickly makes his way up to 4th, a safety car period is over, Max Verstappen is his next target.
Heading into the fast left hand “spoon” curve Vettel and Verstappen collide as Vettel attempts an overtake. Vettel spins off, Verstappen motors on.
The question is, was it correct for Vettel to have made the overtake attempt? Yes absolutely yes. Verstappen’s Red Bull was recharging it’s hybrid batteries, presumably to use on the straight just after exiting Spoon.
The Ferrari’s batteries were fully charged, it had a speed advantage. The Spoon Curve is a very tricky fast left-hand corner, at one point becomes a high-speed chicane. It’s like two corners in one. It’s always tricky to judge the braking zone and point of entry.
The Ferrari not only had the speed advantage but the overtake was prepared and judged methodically as much as instinctively. To overtake at the spoon corner you need that speed advantage. If you do not have the speed advantage then it’s going to end with a collision.
But he judged everything to perfection right? Yes, he did. But to overtake at spoon with that speed advantage you need the other driver to be aware and also have enough racing etiquette to know they have been beaten.
Max Verstappen doesn’t have racing etiquette and that’s why the collision happened. Verstappen should have ceded the corner even though he was slightly ahead, to avoid a potential collision.
Verstappen said he didn’t initially see Vettel but then tried to give him room at the last moment. It’s a contradictory statement. A good racing driver will look in their mirrors.
Verstappen is way better than good, he almost certainly knew where Vettel was. Having said all that the collision between Vettel and Verstappen was a racing incident. Vettel’s only judgment call here was that with any other driver he would have made the daring move stick.