MONTREAL - Watching Sebastian Vettel lose concentration and then lose the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix in the last lap of a race that he had led every lap to that point was way too reminiscent of rookie JR Hildebrand and his blunder on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago.
Okay, so Hildebrand hadn’t led the whole race the way that Vettel did in the Red Bull Renault.
But both made a mistake that could be chalked up to youth. Only in Hildebrand’s case it was his first visit to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it was the biggest — by a country mile — race of his life.
Vettel, on the other hand, while hardly a wizened veteran at just 23 years of age, should have been able to draw on his three seasons in F1 and his past experience at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to keep Mark Webber behind him as he went into Turn 3 in Montreal.
To give Vettel credit, however, he confessed to making what was essentially a rookie mistake — dropping his guard for just a fraction of a second and allowing his Red Bull machine to veer into the wet side of the track.
I, for one, found it quite refreshing, especially in this age where professional athletes far too often want to point at others for their own shortcomings.
Just check out Lewis Hamilton’s reaction to his gaffe only eight laps into the Montreal race where he clipped Button — his own McLaren Mercedes teammate — and ended up taking himself out of the race.
“Jenson outbraked himself into the final chicane and got a poor exit, so I was able to get a good run on him,” Hamilton said about the incident. “It felt to me like I was halfway alongside him down the pits straight — but, as he probably hadn’t spotted me, he continued moving across on the racing line. There was no room for me, so I hit the wall.”
There he was blaming Button for the bump that wrecked his day.
It must be said that later — I’m sure after McLaren bosses sat him down for a talk — that Hamilton sort of tried to make amends.
“Of course, I don’t think it was intentional,” he said. “I know Jenson well enough and I know he wouldn’t do that. He’s a good guy.”
Hamilton went on to throw his team under the bus for calling for him to get out of the car after he crashed. Hamilton claimed that all he had was a flat tire as a result of his tussle with Button, but the team saw that he had damaged the rear suspension making the car undriveable.
Compare all of that to Vettel’s reaction to his mistake, which in the end was far greater than the one Hamilton made as it cost him a win within sight of the finish line.
He took the blame right off.
“I was probably too conservative after the last safety car,” Vettel told the media in the race aftermath. “To lead and then give it away is not the sweetest feeling.
“We did the best we could. It was important to finish, especially in race like that, but to make my only mistake on the last lap is not very sweet at the moment.”
It was even more agonizing for the young German, considering how skillfully he had handled the wet track over the 69 laps that preceded his error.
Vettel talked about what was happening inside the cockpit when he was going into Turn 3 with Button all of a sudden pressuring him from behind.
“I saw Jenson coming through. I was pushing and thought it would be enough to the end, but obviously it wasn’t, as I made a mistake,” he said. “It’s down to me, I locked up the rear a little bit and what you have to do then is open up the car and go a bit straighter, there’s only one line and I ended up in the wet, so it was quite easy for him to pass.”
That, Lewis Hamilton, is a lesson on how to act after making a mistake.