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Vettel’s Monaco win fires up Ferrari fans

By Reuters - May 30,2017 - Last updated at May 30,2017

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in action during the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday (Reuters photo by Max Rossi)

LONDON — Sebastian Vettel has won plenty of races in his career, some more emotional than others, but the German’s one-two victory in Monaco was of special significance for Ferrari fans starved of success in recent years.

The last time the Italian team won in the Mediterranean principality was 16 years ago — in 2001 with Vettel’s compatriot Michael Schumacher leading a one-two.

Schumacher, the eventual seven-times world champion, ended a similar 16-year Ferrari drought in Monaco in 1997 with a victory that followed fan favourite Gilles Villeneuve’s 1981 triumph.

Villeneuve, Schumacher, Vettel. The roll call is spine-tingling but results are what really matter and a quick comparison of Schumacher’s first six races of 2001 and Vettel’s current performance will really get the heart racing at Maranello.

Schumacher — who ended the season with his fourth title — won the opener in Australia that year, as did Vettel this. He then took two more wins and two second places with one retirement.

Vettel is doing better, by comparison, with three wins and three second places, and makes a plausible argument when he says Ferrari could have won every race this year had everything gone to plan.

What happened in Australia, far from being a one-off, has become a sequence of success that has rearranged the Formula One landscape with champions Mercedes already presenting themselves as underdogs.

The contrast between last season, when the oldest and most successful team in Formula One history failed to win a race and a frustrated Vettel was making headlines with radio rants, is marked.

The German is now 25 points clear of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, the British three-times world champion who has won twice but struggled to get performance into his car’s Pirelli tyres while the Ferrari has seemed good everywhere. 

“We are walking on a lovely beach of white sand after having run barefoot over sharp and jagged rocks,” wrote columnist Umberto Zapelloni in Monday’s Gazzetta dello Sport.

“These first six races of the season are worth as much as the arrival of an airplane for someone shipwrecked on a deserted island.”

The front page headline of the national sports daily was “Potere Rosso” (Red Power).

The German’s podium celebrations in Monaco were reminiscent of the glory years of the turn of the century when Schumacher dominated the Italian team and had everyone back at base singing to his tune.

Vettel was the conductor as the Ferrari mechanics and engineers sang the Italian anthem. Kimi Raikkonen, rather like Schumacher’s old team mate Rubens Barrichello, looked a lot less happy.

“We got a lot of hard times last year and this year everything seems to be upside down — but the team is the same, the people are the same,” Vettel told reporters.

“I guess in these small moments you just realise that it’s a special group of people.

“I think you can see when the guys are singing the Italian anthem. I think it’s impossible not to get goosebumps and feel very special standing up there representing them.” 

 

‘Mercedes now the underdogs’

 

Once-dominant Mercedes are now the underdogs in the Formula One title race, team boss Toto Wolff said on Sunday.

“They deserved to win, they had the quickest car out there,” Wolff told reporters.

“I like the notion of underdog,” added the Austrian. “Because the underdog is the one that people want to see win. As a matter of fact, I think we have been that since the beginning of the season.

“We have been dropping in and out of the tyre window, never had two drivers or two cars over the whole course of a weekend within that window.”

Mercedes, winners of the last three drivers’ and constructors’ titles and 54 of 64 races before the Monaco weekend, have also won half of this season’s races, but with both of their drivers tasting victory rather than just one.

“That inconsistency has been following us through the season, and on the opposite side Ferrari put the car on track in Barcelona and they were quick from the get-go,” said Wolff.

“So yes, we are the underdog and we need to catch up. This is the new reality at the moment.”

Hamilton has won twice in Monaco, including last year’s race, and Mercedes had won the last four races in the Mediterranean principality.

But the champions were never in contention on Sunday.

“Trust me, I will be pushing, and the guys will be pushing, to fully understand it because we don’t want to be in this position again,” said Briton Hamilton, adding that to be 25 points behind was quite a gap to make up.

“One more race like this and we will be much further behind.

 

“It is hard just to get to six points and be within firing range. But bit-by-bit we will try and chip away at it.”

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