Formula 1 chief Ross Brawn believes Sebastian Vettel has been distracted by his impending exit from Ferrari, in the wake of a troubled start to the 2020 season.
It was announced in May that Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the campaign and on Thursday he revealed that it was the team’s choice not to offer him a new contract.
Ferrari struggled for pure pace in Austria and Vettel was eliminated from Q2 in qualifying, while Charles Leclerc lined up seventh.
Leclerc went on to score second in an attrition-filled grand prix but Vettel finished at the foot of the top 10 after a spin midway through.
“Charles showed what a talented driver he is, managing his chances wisely to take an opportunistic second place,” said Brawn in his post-race debrief.
“It is in these difficult races where the determination and talent of a very special drivers come through.
“But Ferrari have got to quickly improve the situation otherwise it they face a very difficult season. They have plans to improve the car for Hungary, which is encouraging, but the start of the year is tougher than they anticipated.
“It was a difficult start to Sebastian’s final season with the team. Everything must be swirling round in his head, after he found out Ferrari did not want to renew his services for next season.
“Sometimes, the things that put off a driver are quite subtle. Sebastian has appeared surprised and shocked by what has happened and it must be a distraction, understandably so.”
Brawn also suggested that a similar scenario could unfold at McLaren, where Vettel’s confirmed 2021 replacement Carlos Sainz Jr. is competing.
“In McLaren, you’ve got a team in transition, who are getting stronger every race and which have a bright future with a Mercedes engine,” he said.
“Carlos is leaving and you can’t help the subconscious effect that will have on him and the team.
“I’ve felt it before during my time working in a Formula 1 team. No matter how professional you are, when someone is leaving, the way you are with a driver who is leaving, versus a driver who is staying, is different. You can’t help it, but it happens.”