Sebastian Vettel has shown all the symptoms of a man under pressure of late, but his Red Bull team rallied to his cause yesterday and insisted that he is still a contender for the World Championship despite disasters in the last two races.
In the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday the young German took out rival Jenson Button after a controversial collision at the chicane on the 16th lap, was given another drive-through, and later split a tyre after colliding with Force India's Tonio Liuzzi, finishing a lapped 15th. That followed Hungary, where Vettel admitted that he "fell asleep" behind the safety car, thus earning a drive-through penalty for holding up Fernando Alonso.
As team-mate Mark Webber won the Hungarian Grand Prix after a brilliant drive and finished a fighting second in the Belgian behind fellow title contender Lewis Hamilton of McLaren, earning 43 points, Vettel came away with just 15. The Australian is second in the chase on 179 points to Hamilton's 182; Vettel is third with 151.
But the Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, insisted yesterday that Vettel would learn from his recent mistakes, so long as he kept his head up. "I think Sebastian, without a shadow of a doubt, is a very, very talented driver," Horner said. "Here was one of those races where it just did not go his way. He needs to stay calm and focused – and eventually it will come his way.
"You have to make split-second decisions and he made one mistake when he was racing Jenson. Jenson, braking where he did, just took him completely by surprise. In trying to avoid him he got himself into a spin that ultimately collected Jenson in very difficult conditions. He is a great racing driver, he is still a very young guy and it's easy to be very critical on somebody who is relatively inexperienced. But for sure he will learn a lot from what happened."
McLaren believe Webber is their toughest opponent, but their team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, said: "I think [Red Bull] quite like their younger driver, so I doubt they will put their weight behind Mark."