2017 review: Ferrari fumbles best chance yet of titles

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Brazilian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel

Coming into the 2017 season, there were question marks about how long Sebastian Vettel would stick with Ferrari. He'd ended the previous season without a win, particularly galling for a four-time world champion. If Ferrari couldn't give him a car capable of winning the title, would he walk away at the end of the year?

Fortunately the SF70H proved just the tonic that Vettel needed. A win straight out of the box at Melbourne startled everyone - except perhaps Vettel and Ferrari themselves. He then went on to trade punches with Lewis Hamilton at every race that followed. By the summer break he was still ahead, although a 14 point margin was clearly too close for comfort.

Unfortunately Vettel's title challenge was eventually undone by technical issues at Ferrari, including a 52 euro spark plug that forced him into retirement at Suzuka. But we also saw chinks in Vettel's mental armour as well, beginning with the astonishing hot-headed moment when he banged wheels with Hamilton behind the safety car. He got away with that one, but his rash defence of the lead into turn 1 at Singapore proved to be a killer blow for his title hopes.

Even so, five wins in 2017 and 13 podiums (the same as Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas) is a remarkable upturn for Vettel compared with last year. While it might feel like an opportunity lost, it could equally prove to be a dress rehearsal for an even more successful 2018 now that he's signed a three-year contract extension to stay at Maranello.

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