Tongues have been wagging in Formula 1 circles about 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel's talent and his temperament after his red-mist moment in Baku at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. He had then deliberately crashed into race leader Lewis Hamilton while tailing behind the safety car as he thought Hamilton had brake-tested him. His 2017 campaign derailed in Singapore with another spectacular crash involving Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen. Last season, it was different. And worse. Vettel had the best car for a majority of the races and still blew it in a seemingly unending series of mistakes which were further magnified by the sublime car control and qualifying speed of Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton.
Coming into 2019 and into his fifth year with Ferrari, the German is under more pressure to deliver a title than ever before. However, this is the first time that his talent has been questioned and by an ex-Ferrari driver - Eddie Irvine. The Northern Irishman lost a closely fought (74-76) world championship in 1999 to Mika Hakkinen in his McLaren-Mercedes by a mere two points in a decider in Suzuka, Japan.
In an exclusive interview to BBC Sport Northern Ireland, where talked about a range of issues to Andy Gray, he was particularly scathing of the Ferrari driver and his reputation.
"I think Vettel is good if he is at the front and doesn't have anybody to race. When you watch Lewis race, he's focused on racing and Lewis is really focused on getting ahead of the other guy. When he is racing someone, is focused as much on the other guy as he is on where he is going and inevitably crashes into the other guy, which happens nearly all the time. I think Vettel is a good driver, but as a four-times world champion, I just don't see it. I think he is massively overrated, he's a one-trick pony and Lewis has a much broader talent."
To play devil's advocate, Sebastian Vettel has now more wins (52) than Formula 1 legend Alain Prost. However, Irvine has teared into Vettel for also not being competitive enough allowing Hamilton to surge forward on a record-breaking spree, getting within touching distance of his Ferrari team-mate (from 1996-99) Michael Schumacher's all time record of 91 Grand Prix wins. There's a statistic that backs up Irvine's claim - Sebastian Vettel has never won a race when he has started below third on the grid. Vettel can expect more sharp criticism if he unable to mount a consistently brilliant and sustained title tilt this year. After all, the tifosi and Maranello have been waiting for a driver's champion since 2008. They have had the car for the last two seasons, can the driver step up?
Follow Sportskeeda for the latest F1 News, Calendar, Standings, and Results.Published 24 Jan 2019, 15:07 IST