Sebastian Vettel has not “checked out”, rather he has been released from the immense Ferrari pressure, that’s according to Johnny Herbert.
This year’s championship, which will begin this Friday at the Red Bull Ring, will be Vettel’s last as a Ferrari driver.
The four-time World Champion announced earlier this year that he would be leaving Ferrari as the two no longer have a “common desire” to work together.
It could also be Vettel’s last in Formula 1.
The German has yet to announce his 2020 plans with some reports saying he could be heading to Renault or Aston Martin while others believe he will retire.
But whatever he decides to do, former driver turned commentator Herbert is adamant Vettel will continue to give his all this season.
“Has he already checked out?” Herbert told Sky Sports. “The Sebastian I know hasn’t.
“When he was leading the team, he had the might of tifosi on his shoulder, Italy on his shoulder, and all the pressure from Ferrari as well.
“It didn’t really help him. When you look at the garage at Mercedes, Lewis doesn’t have as anywhere near as much pressure.
“Has that now been released, and are we going to see the Sebastian Vettel of old? I hope so.
“He’s not a four-time champion just because he had the best car, and it’s not a given that Leclerc is going to go to Austria and be the quickest Ferrari driver.”
But while Vettel will be racing without an ounce of pressure on his shoulders, the same cannot be said of Charles Leclerc.
The Monégasque driver is now Ferrari’s defacto number one, the man expected to carry their hopes this season and for the next four years.
This year is also Leclerc’s final opportunity to grab the record of youngest ever World Champion from Vettel.
“I think what’s good for us going to Austria is that Charles Leclerc has grown over the last season,” said Herbert.
“We saw that brilliant battle last year with Max [Verstappen] there in the latter part of the race they were battling side-by-side.
“That released a new Charles Leclerc, a very aggressive Charles Leclerc who decided: Right, if that’s how you’re going to play this game, I’m up for that.”
But, as Herbert points out, the driver cannot do it without the team and the car being onboard.
“Of course Ferrari have got to give him that opportunity,” he added.
“I hope they’ve had that time to analyse what they’ve done and now put themselves in a better position, because at testing they weren’t up to speed at all.”