Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015, and finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in both 2017 and 2018. He also won 14 races for the team, putting him third in Maranello’s all-time list, behind title winners Michael Schumacher (72) and Niki Lauda (15).
Despite logging respectable statistics over his six years of an era dominated by Mercedes, Vettel says it wasn’t enough, having missed out on the big prize.
“It still doesn’t change anything,” he said. “We’ve still failed. We had the ambition and target to win the championship. And we didn’t, so I think it’s just an honest reflection. I don’t think saying it out loud changes anything.
“Probably we were up against a very strong team/driver combination, one of the strongest we’ve seen so far. But our goal was to be stronger than that. And in this regard, we have failed. Like I’ve said, there are reasons for it.
“We’ve had good races, bad races, we’ve got close, sometimes we’re far away. There’s a lot of reasons why, but in the big picture, I think it’s not unfair, it’s just the truth. Nothing wrong with saying it out loud.”
Vettel downplayed the impact of the pressure of representing Ferrari and living up the expectations of the tifosi.
“I don’t know if I buy into the pressure thing, I think pressure you put on yourself,” he noted. “So as I said, I had the clear mission and target to win.
“I think I have obviously an emotional attachment to the team, growing up seeing Michael win, etcetera. So it was a very special moment when I joined the team.
“But the pressure thing, I think also the fact of the pressure in Italy, the fans and so on, yes, it is there. But ultimately I always set the highest sort of expectations on myself, and I think I was the first and best judge if I didn’t achieve them.
“So rest assured that, when I stuffed the car in the gravel in Germany [in 2018], I wasn’t happy before the tifosi weren’t happy.
“I think it sounds nice, and it adds a little bit of drama to everything. But I’m definitely not holding that as an excuse for coming short here and there. I think if you are ambitious to win, and you have the target to win and to succeed, then you’re the first one to realise that yourself, and it isn’t depending on the pressure from outside.
“But having said that, everybody’s different. But for me it wasn’t the one thing holding us or holding me back.”
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H, walks away from his car after crashing out from the lead
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Vettel insisted that his Hockenheim accident in 2018 wasn’t a turning point in his relationship with the team.
“No, I think it was a pretty much a rollercoaster ride over the years with a lot of things happening. In terms of momentum in that year, it wasn’t helping. The mistake was a little mistake, but a huge outcome, and a huge penalty.
“But there were definitely more things happening I think in the 2018 season. We’ve had the passing of Mr [Sergio] Marchionne, the change in leadership from Maurizio [Arrivabene] to Mattia [Binotto], so maybe the ’18 year was a decisive year for many things.
“But I don’t know if you can really break it down to only one thing. Obviously in 2016 we parted ways with James [Allison], because of personal conflicts at the time. And I think that looking back there were a lot of things that we should have and could have done better.
“But everything that happened happened for a reason. The main thing I think, on my side is to make sure that I learned from it, and I think I have grown with it, somewhere, moments on the track, like you mentioned in Germany or Hockenheim. Other moments were off the track.
“So overall, I think I feel much more comfortable or in a better place now than than those years ago, but certainly at the time, it hasn’t always been been easy and straightforward.”