HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - If Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is feeling the pressure ahead of his home German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, then he knows who to blame.
That, the four times Formula One world champion recognised on Thursday, is because he has always been his own harshest critic.
“If I get something wrong and do a mistake, I can’t be happy with that,” the 32-year-old told reporters ahead of Sunday’s race at Hockenheim.
“The pressure I put on myself after that is bigger than any external factors. (It’s been) the same as long as I can remember.”
Vettel’s lacklustre form has been under intense scrutiny this season, with his on-form 21-year-old Monegasque team mate Charles Leclerc providing hot competition, and the pressure is mounting.
Last year at Hockenheim Vettel started on pole position only to crash out while leading on a track made slippery by rain.
That turned out to be the costliest of a series of mistakes in 2018 that undid his title charge, handing Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton — who won in Germany — a lead that the Briton never relinquished.
Hamilton is now a five times champion and well on his way to a sixth title, winning seven of the 10 races so far.
Vettel, who won four titles in a row between 2010-13 with Red Bull, has meanwhile looked a shadow of his former self since that mistake.
The German has won just once since his Hockenheim heartbreak, at the Belgian Grand Prix last August.
Ferrari have been unable to produce a car to match dominant Mercedes this season with the Italian team without a win since now-departed Kimi Raikkonen triumphed in Texas last October.
In his fifth season with the glamour team, Vettel is already 100 points behind championship leader Hamilton with no realistic hope of challenging for the title.
However, he said the dream of following in boyhood idol Michael Schumacher’s footsteps by becoming a champion for the sport’s oldest and most successful team remained very much alive.
Driving for Ferrari despite the weight of expectation that goes with it, he said, was a privilege and not a burden.
“I think we all know that Formula One is a world where people are very short sighted which is also fair and part of the game,” said Vettel.
“Obviously this year hasn’t gone the way we wanted after the last two years.
“Still, I think things are progressing in the right direction in the big picture.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin/Toby Davis