Ex-Formula 1 driver David Coulthard has defended the criticism he has levelled at Sebastian Vettel in recent seasons, making clear that he simply says what he sees in his role as a pundit and commentator.
After bursting onto the scene in the mid-2000s, Vettel won four successive F1 titles with Red Bull from 2010 to 2013, racking up a host of records along the way.
However, a move to Ferrari early in the sport's turbo-hybrid power unit era proved to be less successful; despite claiming several victories with the team, they were unable to put together a sustained title challenge across six seasons.
Vettel failed to win a race in his final season at Ferrari, which chose to replace him with Carlos Sainz, and the German has been closely matched by the relatively inexperienced Lance Stroll since joining Aston Martin for 2021.
In an interview with Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Coulthard said: "Seb's record is exceptional. Seb in his, let's say, first part of his career, was winning World Championships on merit, on speed – on all of those things.
"Seb has looked not the same [at] Ferrari and during his time at Aston Martin.
"He's never spoken to me about it, but Britta [Roeske], his press officer, has a couple of times – because I knew her from Red Bull – come to me and said, 'Oh, you're not nice to Sebastian'. And I'm like, 'Britta, what are you seeing that I'm not seeing?'.
"I just say what I see. He was behind his teammate at Ferrari and he's there or thereabouts with his teammate at Aston.
"When he was winning, I was going, 'Wow, this is incredible, this guy's a winning machine'. When he's losing I go, 'Well, that's disappointing'."
Coulthard, who spent 15 seasons in F1, added that criticism comes with the job of being a racing driver.
"I get it, having been a Grand Prix driver, people don't mind when you say positive things, and people mind when you say something that's less positive," commented the 13-time F1 race winner.
He concluded: "I don't really know what to say about Sebastian. He's racing in Formula 1. He's off-track telling us all to pick up litter and ride a bicycle. I don't need Sebastian to tell me to pick up litter and ride a bicycle – I do both!"
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