Will Gray

Gray Matter: Has Vettel thrown it away?

Will Gray

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Sebastian Vettel's collision with Jenson Button last weekend proved costly for both title contenders - but how will the Red Bull driver's latest mistake really affect his season?

It's been a tough year for Vettel. With the Red Bull car ahead of the field in many races, few expected the experienced young German, who out-classed his team-mate Mark Webber last year, to do anything other than cruise to the title. And in truth, he really should have.

So far this season Vettel has claimed seven pole positions from 13 races - yet he has only converted one of those into victory (14%). He has gained places in just two races and on average has dropped a total of 2.38 positions per race (32 position drops and just 3 gains in 13 races).

In comparison, Webber has converted two from five (40%) and has lost an average of 1.3 places per race. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, the only other pole sitter and the main non Red Bull title contender, has not qualified so well, securing just one pole position from 13, but he converted his one chance into victory and has a net position gain of 1.5 places per race.

So with such a large number chances to get a good start and cruise into the distance, how come Vettel has failed to do so on so many occasions - and was Jenson Button right to pick up on his rival's mistakes?

If Vettel had been able to convert all his grid positions perfectly he would be on 268 points, not 151. But the important thing for him to consider is how that has come about.

He has had just three untroubled races - his victories in Malaysia and Valencia and second in Monaco - and he has been let down by his equipment or his team five times, all early in the season. But on the other five occasions, he has been responsible for his own race outcome.

First there was the collision with Webber in Turkey, then the frenetic start at Silverstone, the Schumacher-style start in Germany, which cost him two places, the inexcusable safety car alertness failure in Hungary and, finally, the big mistake with Button in Belgium.

Those five incidents have come in the last six races, including an incident in each of the last four events, during which time Vettel has claimed just 36 points compared to Webber's 76 and Hamilton's 55.

Webber has already hinted at the need for Red Bull to favour his side of the garage but that hit a brick wall. They have not given up on Vettel yet - and they will do all they can to help.

They would be well advised, then, to seek out a bit of driver coaching for their young superstar.

If Schumacher wasn't on the grid, no doubt he would lend some advice to the man following in his footsteps on how to deal with a close title battle. Realistically, though, Red Bull would have to turn to David Coulthard...

Even though the Scot was never in a true title battle, his words of wisdom would not hurt. So if Vettel can accept some advice, then as Christian Horner said in Belgium: "It would be foolish to write him off..."

VETTEL'S RACES SO FAR

Bahrain: Pole ----> 4th (-3)

An exhaust problem dropped him down the field

Australia: Pole ----> DNF (n/a)

A brake problem pitched him off the track

Malaysia: 3rd ----> Win (+2)

Stormed to first in the first corner and stayed there

China: Pole ----> 6th (-5)

The wrong call on tyres wrecked his race

Spain: 2nd ----> 3rd (-1)

Another brake and wheel problem cost him time

Monaco: 3rd ----> 2nd (+1)

Took second off the start and held position

Turkey: 3rd ----> DNF (n/a)

Collided with team-mate Mark Webber

Canada: 2nd ----> 4th (-2)

Car unsuited to circuit, also strategy mistakes and a gearbox problem

Europe: Pole ----> Win (=)

Held his head and took a composed win in a dramatic race

Grt Britain: Pole ----> 7th (-6)

Lost tough fight with Webber at start then suffered a puncture

Germany: Pole ----> 3rd (-2)

Passed by two Ferraris at start after nudging Alonso towards the wall

Hungary: Pole ----> 3rd (-2)

Passed by Webber in pits, penalty for "falling asleep" during SC period

Belgium: 4th ----> 15th (-11)

Collided with Button while running third, then suffered puncture

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