Sebastian Vettel revealed letters and messages of support from fans helped him keep focus before he broke his long victory drought in Singapore.
The result came in spicy circumstances following Ferrari’s controversial call to undercut Vettel on a fuming Charles Leclerc, but it was a win for Vettel nonetheless — and one that was a long time coming.
Vettel should have won in Canada, but had been monstered by Leclerc at nearly every other race. However, as divisive as the Singapore result may have proved, a four-time world champion is a four-time world champion — and Vettel finally had a chance to demonstrate why.
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It wasn’t a crushing win by Vettel in Singapore, but assured. Once he emerged ahead of Leclerc, all Vettel needed to do was keep his Ferrari straighter and wider than his teammate’s.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto — while under-fire over the pit strategy — summed it best: “Sebastian drove very well on new tyres and simply that’s racing — he was ahead of Charles.”
The 53rd win of Vettel’s career ended a 22-race dry spell dating back to August 2018 at Spa. At every race in between, which included another losing title challenge to Lewis Hamilton, 32-year-old Vettel’s form has been called into question, and rightfully so.
Vettel has made mistakes in combat — think Bahrain and Silverstone — and will be hoping his Monza spin and “dangerous” rejoin will be the nadir.
He came into Singapore on the back foot following Leclerc’s back-to-back wins, but on the podium on Sunday, Vettel let his emotions do the talking for fans who have backed him.
“A lot of little notes, letters — handwritten letters,” he revealed.
“Obviously people make the effort to write something and when you find a little bit of time in the evening to go through, it’s really encouraging I have to say.
“When you start it’s very difficult to imagine people following you and these kind of things but recent years, especially here in Asia, I have a lot of fans that come over and over again.
“I just got a lot of energy in the last couple of weeks just from messages I received from the racing world, from people that I know from a long time ago, but especially fans after Monza and then coming here.
“People sharing their own story of when things are up and when things go down.”
Reflecting on his 2019 struggles, Vettel was adamant his pace wasn’t the issue, but admitted the messages from fans helped keep him grounded.
“For us, everything is centred around racing but it’s really not the most important thing,” he said.
“You read through some of the notes and people struggling in life, some very intimate and private [stories], it gets to you and it gave me a lot of belief and a lot of confidence to just keep trying.
“I messed up in the race in Monza — that’s my mistake. It’s part of the game … I have been around for a long, long time and it’s just how the tide turns sometimes.
“I have the highest expectations to myself and I’m not happy when I’m not delivering what I know I can.
“Certainly, I had moments this year where I was struggling to just get it out. I know that I can improve from there, so I can’t be happy with that, but equally, I know it wasn’t as bad or disastrous as maybe people put it together.
“But if you have been around for such a long time and had so many good moments obviously you get hammered when there are bad moments, but it’s just part of the game.”