Sebastian Vettel trails Lewis Hamilton by 30 points in the drivers standings.
As Sebastian Vettel drove down the home straight at Monza to finish a disappointing fourth, there was no doubt that under his helmet the German knew he had blown another opportunity in the title race.
A touch of understeer on the opening lap saw the 31-year-old clip Lewis Hamilton and fall from second place to 18th. The stewards deemed neither he nor Hamilton was at fault for the collision and it effectively ended all hope of a Ferrari win in front of their home fans.
A late P4 finish thanks to Max Verstappen’s penalty would have given him a hint of respite, but the reality is 30 points now separates him from Hamilton in the title race, and it looks like time is running out for the four-time champion with just seven races remaining.
For all the talk of a two-horse challenge this year, Vettel’s consistency and ability to lose his composure in the heat of battle has cost him dearly.
It’s his fifth race error this season, which includes his grid penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz in qualifying in Austria, his clash Max Verstappen in China, his lap one collision with Valtteri Bottas in France and his crash while leading the German GP in July.
With the gap widening in standings, Sunday’s result looks to be a decisive moment in the championship, especially with Ferrari failing to capitalise on the front-row advantage coming into race day.
Vettel and Hamilton are both chasing a fifth title to move level with Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio and go two behind Michael Schumacher.
Small errors are bound to happen for every driver, but the reality is the team and driver who makes least mistakes, and has the best strategy and best development on the engines, will prevail this season.
It’s clear Vettel has absolute faith in his car, with Ferrari upping the intensity, with pace, strong balance on the corners and a serious reliability in their engine. All this potential world championship winning car is missing is consistency from their maestro.
With seven races remaining, Vettel will not want a repeat of last year when he lost his firm grip on the crown, retiring in Singapore and Japan, and showing a lack of composure and confidence behind the wheel in Mexico.
In contrast, Hamilton would win five out of six races between Belgium and America to effectively seal his fourth world title. Now, after his triumph in Italy, the Briton looks in pole position to successfully defend his title, benefiting once again from Vettel’s blunders.
Sunday’s mistake will be frustrating when the Ferrari star reflects on the weekend’s race at his home Switzerland this week, but now he must move on, and redeem himself in Singapore in 11 days time.
His talent is unquestionable, but with the pressure firmly on, Vettel needs to step up and show why he is considered one of the greatest drivers of the era.