SILVERSTONE – Instead of challenging Lewis Hamilton for the Formula One world title, Sebastian Vettel finds himself 100 points back ahead of his German home race in a fortnight.
Ferrari's Vettel reached a new season low when he crashed into the Red Bull of Max Verstappen on Sunday as they battled for third place in a thrilling British Grand Prix.
Race stewards imposed a 10-second penalty on the German and he limped home in 16th place – remaining on 123 points after 10 of 21 season races and now exactly 100 points (or four victories) behind the rampant Mercedes star Hamilton.
"It was my mistake," Vettel admitted when it was all over and he had apologised to Verstappen who finished fifth.
"Of course it is annoying. Of course I am not satisfied. But much more than fourth place would have not been possible."
It was the second penalty the four-time world champion received this season, the first five-second penalty in Canada costing him what would have been a first season win.
Vettel could not even profit from the fact that the safety helped him climb from sixth to third midway through the turbulent race – as yet another error cost him dearly and the Ferrari remains inferior ahead of the JUly 28 race in Hockenheim.
Ferrari were tipped to challenge Mercedes after being impressive in pre-season training, as Vettel hoped to emulate the legendary Michael Schumacher by getting the title in his fifth season at the Scuderia.
But it never materialised as Mercedes have dominated almost at will, and Vettel is also upstaged more often than not by his young Monegasque team-mate Charles Leclerc who came close to winning two season races and with Sunday's third place has four podiums in a row.
The youngsters Leclerc and Verstappen had earlier battled impressively and in a fair manner wheel-to-wheel, and the Monegasque was more than pleased with all of it two weeks after being denied victory by the Dutchman in Austria in a borderline manoeuvre which went unpunished.
"It's probably the race I enjoyed the most in my Formula One career. It's great to finish third but today was very difficult," Leclerc said.
"I think the last race was an eye opener for me showing me how far we can go. It's great for Formula One to fight on the limit in that way and I'm happy that this race has gone that way."DPA