Sebastian Vettel's Formula 1 season couldn't have started on a worse note. The German began the Bahrain Grand Prix in last place after suffering a grid penalty because of yellow flag infringements during qualifying. He then finished the race in P15 after a late clash with Esteban Ocon. This is not the start Sebastian Vettel would have had in mind when he joined his new team, Aston Martin.
Formula 1 experts are already questioning the four-time world champion's form early in the season. Gerhard Berger, a former race winner, gave his take on the situation.
Berger claims Sebastian Vettel isn't driving in his natural, relaxed style. He also reminded viewers of the German's struggles during the 2014 campaign when facing his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
During a recent appearance on the podcast, 'In the Fast Lane', the 61-year-old said:
"Sebastian Vettel is a four-time world champion so he's one of the outstanding drivers, no question. But he never reacted well under pressure. Remember when Daniel came to Red Bull [he] was very strong and he put pressure on Sebastian Vettel. For Sebastian, it was difficult to cope with it... I just feel when you watch him, you feel he's not free. He's not relaxed enough. He's trying to prove things that, at this moment, aren't possible because the car isn't good enough or his own form isn't good enough."
Berger also questioned Vettel's motivation to take risks:
"When you've done so many races, when you're already a four-time world champion, then comes a point when maybe you're not in a situation where you want to take all the risks, where you fight like you would fight before you won any races."
In the most damning statement of all, Berger downplayed Vettel's ability to perform under pressure:
"He starts to make mistakes and people start to question him. That's just step-by-step more pressure, and, as I said at the beginning, he doesn't like pressure."
However, the 61-year-old did offer a suggestion to the four-time world champion. Berger stated:
"When you're in this situation you need to sit down, take a step back, and say 'well, take it easy and the success is going to come again.'"
For Sebastian Vettel, it is more psychological: Gerhard Berger
Lance Stroll is Sebastian Vettel's teammate at Aston Martin. The Canadian's father also owns the team, creating an uncanny dynamic. Berger focused on the need for Vettel to outperform his teammate, to allow Aston Martin to gravitate towards the four-time world champion.
"It depends on his performance. If you're slower than your teammate, and your teammate is also the owner of the team, things will maybe turn more there. If you're slower than your teammate, teams will naturally concentrate more on the faster one."
The 61-year-old believes that a majority of Sebastian Vettel's issues lie in his psychology:
"At the end of the day, it's more psychological. It's just an uncomfortable situation when you're in a team and your teammate is faster. But that's something you have to deal with."
Berger also spoke about Lance Stroll's showing at the Bahrain Grand Prix, blaming the rear end of the car for the lack of performance.
"And I have to say Lance isn't doing a bad job at all. He's performing. The only thing at the moment, I think he is struggling with the rear end of the car... I think it's not really a driver issue they have at the moment, the car isn't performing the way [Aston Martin] was expecting."
The four-time world champion will look to turn the tables around on his teammate at the next race at Imola. Considering his performances over the last two seasons, it will take a lot of mental fortitude from Vettel to dig himself out of the hole he dug himself. However, if Gerhard Berger's analysis of the German's mindset is correct, we may never see the vintage Sebastian Vettel in Formula 1 again.