By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Sebastian Vettel will have gone a year without a win by the time Formula One regroups in Belgium at the end of the month, and the Ferrari driver will have plenty to chew on over the August break.
The German, a four-times world champion, last won at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug. 26 last year, and this year’s race is on Sept 1.
Vettel has had longer droughts with Ferrari — the Italian team failed to win a race in 2016 — but this year has been particularly disappointing because they looked so quick in testing.
Instead of challenging for a first title of any sort in 11 years, Ferrari have yet to triumph in 2019 and go into the second half of the season at risk of being overtaken by a resurgent Red Bull.
Vettel, the highest-placed Ferrari driver, is 94 points behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the championship and fourth overall.
“The summer break has probably come at just the right time because I’m well aware of how the pressure can build on Ferrari when things aren’t going well,” said former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, now Formula One’s managing director for motorsport.
“It won’t do any harm to take a breather and recharge the batteries,” added the Briton, who worked with seven times champion Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.
Brawn said a win for Ferrari was important more as a morale booster than to press any championship aspirations at this stage.
The next two high-speed races at Spa and Monza, Ferrari’s home circuit with its passionate fans, could see a change of fortunes with the car better suited aerodynamically to the long, fast straights.
Vettel knows, however, that more is needed.
“Spa and Monza might be better for us, but in the end our ambition is to really force things to happen, be in control of the race,” he said after finishing third in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
“Where we are now, we’re quite far away from that.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has scored more points from his last two races than Vettel in four and is now 25 clear of the German.
On Sunday, the battle was between Mercedes and Red Bull, with Vettel finishing more than a minute behind Hamilton, who celebrated his eighth win in 12. Ferrari never looked to be in the same race.
They know they need to improve through the corners to make the most of their straight line speed. But Vettel, who has made some costly errors, admitted he had also struggled to get on top of the car.
“It will be a busy break for us. I don’t think anyone’s mind can rest in the two weeks, so maybe we come up with some good ideas for the second half,” he suggested.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)