Smedley claims 2019 was Vettel's best year as he considers F1 future

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Former Ferrari and Williams engineer, Rob Smedley thinks 2019 was Sebastian Vettel's best year in Formula 1.

There's no doubt last season was one of toughest for the four-time world champion during his career as he struggled to respond to the impressive performances of new teammate Charles Leclerc.

Indeed, by season's end, it was the Monegasque who finished ahead in the championship, but Smedley has a different perspective beyond the headline figures and instead, points to the resolve the German showed in the second half of the year.

“I think his best year in Formula 1 is, I’m going to get hammered for this, was last year, it was 2019,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.

“I think he faced the biggest challenge of his career that year, and everybody kind of wrote him off because it was the easy thing to do.

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“But I think we saw the real Sebastian Vettel towards the end of the year.

"Sebastian had been a little bit lost, and I’m sure he’d freely admit that he wasn’t where he wanted to be, both within the team and with his teammate at the start of the year, but then he actually got his head down, and that’s the sign of a true champion, he came back."

Smedley, who was famously the man in the ear of Felipe Massa at the Scuderia, also believes Leclerc's arrival put extra demands on Vettel.

“Sebastian had all the pressure, there’s no doubt about it…I think that’s the most pressure he’s probably ever had in his career, and he’s been against good drivers, he’s been against world champions," he stated.

"So for him to cope with that, and to come back and kind of stamp his authority after a shaky start, I personally think we saw something special.”

Despite all that, Vettel won't be staying at Ferrari beyond 2020 and opinions continue to fly on his next move.

One option could be Renault, by Haas team boss Guenther Steiner doesn't think a midfield seat would interest him.

"I think Sebastian, being a four-time world champion, I wouldn't say he'd want to go to the midfield anymore," he told Sky Sports.

"If you have a successful career, what you don't want to do is to take too many risks.

"I've got a good relationship with him but I haven't offered him a seat [at Haas]," Steiner added. "I think somebody else with a lot deeper pockets than me will do that!"

Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has his own advice for close friend Vettel though...

"I’ve been talking to him quite a bit and maybe he should take a year off," the Briton told the Evening Standard. "So, come back in 2022 with the rule changes.

"It gives him a chance to wait and see how F1 is going to change. But I think what he’d like to do is drive for Mercedes against Lewis."