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Ecclestone: “Vettel is the best driver on the grid”
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Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Sep 2011   |  10:57 am GMT  |  201 comments

Today on F1.com there is a transcript of a chat between F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone and Red Bull racing supremo Christian Horner.

There are two eye catching quotes in here, the first is Ecclestone’s blunt assessment that championship leader Sebastian Vettel has now grown into the best driver on the F1 grid and is still improving and the second is a swipe at FOTA, which Horner, a FOTA member, seems to endorse.

“In my view Sebastian is the best driver on the grid right now…” says Ecclestone, who has always taken a close interest in the young German’s career. Horner argues that Vettel is “getting better with every bit of experience that he gains… and Ecclestone adds, “and there is no end in sight to that curve. There is still a lot to come from him.”

“Sebastian has an absolute will to succeed but has stayed very grounded,” continues the 80 year old impressario. “No win, however big, will stop him being grounded. That is immensely important in this business. Seb is relaxed and will always remain true to himself – that is why things come easy.”

There is a swipe at Ferrari when the conversation turns to whether Vettel should switch to drive for Ferarri at some point in his career, should he really consider this, Ecclestone is asked?

“Well, seeing the situation as it is now it would be an appropriate means to slow him down…”

But the biggest swipe is at FOTA, the teams’ association, which is evolving, three years after its formation and has just taken on a new General Secretary, Oliver Weingarten, replacing Simone Perillo, who has gone into Italian politics with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo’s Italia Futura movement.

Ecclestone says that FOTA “is an unnecessary association of people who should put their sole emphasis on getting competitive cars on the grid. It’s just more of what they don’t have to think of. I look after that so there are enough financial resources.”

Interestingly Horner in the same passage of conversation, says of FOTA, “I also don’t spend too much time thinking in that direction.”

Although Horner has always stayed quite close to Ecclestone through all F1′s twists and turns and has served on FOTA working groups, this is the first time I can recall when he has publicly distanced himself from the Association.

It’s an interesting development in a multi-layered jigsaw puzzle, which we will not see as a finished picture for some time.

To read the full conversation click HERE

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201 Comments
  1. Jonathan Kelk says:

    Despite the incredible season Vettel is having, I still believe Alonso is the best all round driver. I guess in reality comparisons are never 1-dimensional.

    Interesting Mr E talks about being well grounded, considering he thinks Formula One can afford to lose millions of very dedicated fans in exchange for a few extra Sky dollars. Maybe he can learn a few things from Seb.

    1. azac21 says:

      Ecclestone – predictable as always.
      Alonso’s the man and not Vettel. FOTA does make a valuable contribution to F1.

      Will he tell us what his projections about viewing numbers are for next year? Not revenues. Viewers!

      1. ETM says:

        In the entertainment business there are many ways to enhance revenues and not all include increasing viewers. In the short run PPV may make more money. In the long run maybe the ex-BBC viewers will find a way to enfluence free TV to pay even more to win the rights back.

        Bottom line is that F1 is a business and in business winning is measured in revenue, not in viewers.

      2. Miguel Gonzalez says:

        More Viewers ==> More Business ==> More Revenue

      3. wayne says:

        R.I.P SPORT

      4. Werewolf says:

        Regrettably, I don’t disagree with the bottom-line, cold-hard-facts-of-life assessment. The question is whether the numbers actually work, ie whether F1 fans in the UK (doubtless being used as guinea pig-type laboratory rodents for the rest of the world) will pay.

        I have found my solution. Having previously disposed of Sky as a waste of money with endless rubbish and repeats of rubbish (Freeview is cheaper for a similar service), I have realised I can get taped F1 within an hour or so of the non-terrestrial races from willing relatives and friends (for whom I am useful in other ways). Mutual benefit – that’s what makes the world go around.

        I urge others to find the same mutual benefit and prevent Sky from gaining new subscriptions. It is irrelevant to them whether existing subsribers watch F1 or some other Sky programme.

      5. James Allen says:

        How can you record Sky programmes to watch elsewhere. Doesn’t the Sky digital box prevent external recording for just this reason?

      6. Blade Runner says:

        James,

        I have not tried it with sky but it works with DVDS etc playing in the machine. You put a digital recording device, I have an Archos, in line between the dvd/sky signal output and where it plugs into the back of the TV input(you need some cable adaptors to fit it).

        It captures the flow of digital signal onto a HDD for later viewing. Overrides any copy protection etc. I would think it would work fine with Sky like it does with DVDs.

      7. wayne says:

        You can pick up your SKY box and take it anywhere and plug it in though. The SKY box is not tied to an address. So you can SKY+ the race and then take the box to your mates house I believe.

    2. wayne says:

      Nice, I agree on every point Jonathan.

    3. Stephen Dearsley says:

      Even though in the past I have thought Alonso wasn’t good for the sport with mclarengate and Singapore (he must have known!!) etc…… I think you’re right !!

      I think vettel is great, but there is something about Vettel I can’t get my head around….. I think he’s too nice lol :-)

      1. cjf says:

        I think it’s possible that Alonso may have known about Singapore although it ultimately was planned in one meeting he may/may not have been at so who knows. If the team wanted to make it look convincing then they may have kept him out of the loop.

        I find it odd everyone assumes that Hamilton was not in on mclarengate since that occured over months of testing/development, as if Lewis entered the garage and they all went “shh shh Lewis is coming don’t say anything”. I find it hard to believe he didn’t know.

    4. unococCC says:

      Life would be a lot easier for him and better for his job purposes and wallet purposes if the teams stopped acting together and would just sit alone and be diding for easy conquering.

      Hey, Ferrari, we’ll give you 100 million if you sign. We don’t need anyone else, but you can sign for a lesser deal now???

      Worked before and will work again.

      As for Vettel, Vettel is leading and is the eassy answer. People aren’t going to awtch F1 if you say here’s Vettel, he’s leading the championship but isn’t as good as Alonso who is doing far worse but is better for many reasons especially when he doesn’t have a top car he still car pull results like last year while Vettel is still questionable.

      No one will watch. Vettel is leading, by a lot, ergo he is to the average punter and those who aren’t interested, the best.

      Statements are made to be heard. Eccelstone isn’t a gossip and doesn’t talk about things to entertain, he makes money and what he says is to be heard, whether its directed and nonfans, fans, or trakcs that aren’t getting a fast enough move on for making a GP track in time.

    5. Bevan says:

      Even though LH was the equivalent of FA in his debut F1 year no less folks still can’t find it in their hearts to acknowledge him eh,”it was all a big fluke for Lewis & a bad year for the Spanish stool pigeon etc etc”.
      F1 will survive 10 Bernie’s,its bigger than anyone one man & his money,& his money doesn’t make his opinion anymore than,well,his opinion.
      IMO put Lewis in that other Redbull & then we’ll see how cool & calm Mr Vettel really is,the bungling for 2011 M Webber is by no means a yardstick worth measuring him against.
      Any news on your retirement Bernie ?,Fota’s going nowhere soon (“I hope’)…

      1. Bru72 says:

        I’d choose Button before Hamilton every day of the week. Far superior race-craft.

      2. Piphunter says:

        There is an African saying that goes “success has many fathers but failure is an orphan”.Of course vettel is the best because he has had an amazing season and by comparison Hamilton is rubbish because his season has been awful.if the tables turn next season, these same people praising vettel will be the first to put him down.

    6. Conal says:

      I didn’t bother watching last 2 gps. Might as well get used to sky and give up now.

  2. MSta says:

    Vettel thoroughly deserves the title this year and is clearly outperforming Webber at almost every opportunity. He is definately rising up to the status of Alonso and Kimi in terms of being able to extract extra speed from their cars. While I agree with Bernie’s assessment, I’d love to see a championship year with Alonso, Vettel and Kimi each in a Red Bull or Ferrari. Clearly Dreaming!

    1. G.C. says:

      Perhaps LH too.

      1. unococCC says:

        The cleanup bill would be massive with Vettel and Hamilton. Especially if the car is anything but the fastest.

    2. Frank gerloff says:

      For past two years RBR was and still is simply
      untaouchable, manly due to the briliance of one
      man ” Newely ” with out him which ever you slice it would be just ordinary, the guy is
      simply the best.

  3. Bec says:

    FOTA is an irrelevance, look how they’ve ignored several key findings in their own ‘Fan Survey’.

    And failed to even publish certain parts of it, obviously parts that don’t fit in with the direction they want to move in, which would be in the opposite direction to the majority of fans.

    1. wayne says:

      This is what BE does every time there is something to be negotiated. He separates the teams by ‘divide and conquer’. It’s embarrassing for the teams that they allow BE to get away with this blunt yet painfully effective (in this case) ploy. It used to be Ferrari; BE would get them to disagree on a fundamental point with the others and use that as leverage to break the alliance – in my opinion he has achieved this in the past by effectively ‘buying’ Ferrari via the utterly unfair and reprehensible agreement which sees them earn more money from the pot than any other team. That alone distances and separates Ferrari from the rest – a clever but shamefully transparent tactic.

      Horner should look across and down from the rarefied air of running the current ‘top dog’ team and concentrate on what is good for them all. RBR will not be at the top forever and then he might wish he had spent a little more time ‘thinking in that direction’. Really, it is utterly ridiculous all of it. FIFA, FOTA, FIA, IAC – they’re all the same.

      And I will ask for the hundredth time where is FOTA’s response to the BBC SKY deal? I’ve never seen them so quiet on any subject before. Cowardly and hypocritical in the extreme. And why? Money.

      1. Markdartj says:

        You forgot ACO, IMSA, NASCAR, IICS, UCI, WADA, and YADDA YADDA YADDA.

    2. Marty McSuperfly says:

      I missed that, what did they leave out of the report?

    3. Andy C says:

      FOTA do not hold the commercial rights to the sport, so whilst they are powered to influence, they cannot dictate terms to Bernie and CVC.

      In reality Bernie sees them as an inconvenience and does not understand why they are needed.

      Well Mr E, they are needed such that they can benefit from the great riches of the sport they actually provide entertainment and racing for. There is no doubting he is shrewd and a great negotiator. But he is entirely interested in things that would benefit him.

      FOTA at least try to engage with the fans. bernie continually neglects his obligations. After all, what made him rich was the global appeal and commercial deals driven by our demand. He did not (i suggest) create the demand in the first place.

  4. Dave C says:

    Well Vettel is without a doubt the fastest most complete driver now in F1, it’s funny how James you tried to devalue Bernie’s comments there, anyone can see you will support Hamilton to the end if the world no matter what he does but the fact is Seb will be the number 1 driver for years to come and as long as he’s in F1 Alonso and Hamilton will find it hard to win another title.

    1. MrPie says:

      At what point does James devalue Bernie’s comments or be pro-Hamilton (who’s not even mentioned in the piece)? It’s a fairly simple fact driven article with little, if any opinion.

      Alongside Joe Saward, James is one of the most professional & unbiased reporter/blogger connected to the sport.

      As an aside, your final point regarding future champions somewhat devalues Adrian Newey and Red Bull’s contribution to Seb’s success…

      1. Justin Bieber says:

        I agree that James is one of the most professional & unbiased reporter/blogger connected to the sport. As for Joe Saward, its quite a different story, he is a true British McLaren fan. He goes out of his way to defend all British drivers whenever somethings happen and he especially has a soft spot for Hamilton. He is also a big fan a Tonio Luizzi. What is also obvious is his dislike for Ferrari/Alonso. He is well informed about the business side of F1 but his comment about drivers are clouded with like/dislike of certain drivers.

      2. Phil R says:

        Joe Saward unbiased? He acknowledges that his blog is his opinion and that if you dont like it don’t read it. Fortunately I’m ambivalent about Liuzzi so still enjoy his blog…Almost as good as this one.

      3. Curro says:

        Joe Saward unbiased? So he is a changed man this days huh? Don’t make me laugh!

    2. Col says:

      Is there another version of this article that I’m not seeing?
      Care to share the version you read where James devalued Bernie’s comments? I think it’s fair to say that if James does have a favourite driver he has never shown that in any of his articles.

      1. Sebee says:

        To me it’s cristal clear after reading content here for a long time I think James’ favorite is Webbber.

        James is neutral in his content. Sometimes I wish he would “nail his flag to a post” and pick a side, but more often than not he feeds the info and we get to debate. Hard core fans of one driver will always be hard core. I’m not sure as many of us would visit here if this was a biast blog about James’ fanboy obsession with a particular driver.

      2. James Allen says:

        Wrong, but thanks for playing…

    3. RDS Motorsport says:

      As long as Vettel has the best car in the grid, he will continue to win, Alonso has shown in 2010 that he is more than a match for Vettel.

      Let Hamilton get his personal issues resolved and Ferrari their technical issues, they will show Vettel the way, his head will be spinning with flashes of red and silver passing him from either side. The boys only real talent is putting the car on pole, in my eyes he is an overhyped and glorified Trulli.

      Up until the Italian GP everyone questions his racecraft then he pulls a move on Alonso in superior RB7, let him start 18th and work his way through the pack as Schumi, Senna and all other greats have done, then he will get my respect.

      Take away Vettel’s car and he is nothing, he also has had no involvement in development it all Newey, even Mika and Damon with Newey cars still could climb through the field, have not seen that of Vettel.

      Vettel gifted WDC 2011

      1. Jumpedupjoe says:

        You can only judge a driver in F1 based on how he performs against his team mate, right? Webber is fast and Vettel is destroying him, not just beating him a little on points… He’s absolutely crushing him in every single aspect. You mention the greats like Senna and Schumi… What you’re seeing now with Vettel surpasses what we saw with both of them.

        And I’m a Button fan.

      2. OzEye says:

        IMHO Webber is doing a mighty job keeping his car in the top 3 or 4 … when he is clearlt have many nore issues with things like KERS NEVER working 100% of the time (SVs seems to work fine most of the tiem)…mysterious issues with launches – almost like his launch maps are consistantly 100rpm below SVs (throttle position and RPM are handled by by the engine map…not the drivers foot… he just holds it flat and expects it to go) Webber has been hamstrung this year… to prove it…watch him win enough races from now on to come second in the WDC…again. KERS will make a remarkable turn around in his car and the drs will open…and more particually close..instantly like its ment to…and the sticky wheel nuts/slow jack lifts or drops and release hesitation will magically disappear.

        Vettel has proved he can win… i am still not convinced he can actually race.

      3. Dave A says:

        @ OzEye – Vettel has proven time and time again this year that he CAN race. Look at Spa and Monza for example. You say Webber will finish second in the WDC “again”, well, despite suffering from far less issues than Vettel did last year, he didn’t even finish first or second. Sebastian has convincingly outclassed Mark, like it or lump it.

      4. Sebee says:

        Come on RDS, that’s rough. Everyone on the grid is nothing without a good car.

        It’s great to fight from back end to 9th, but while we recognize that drive on occasion, reality is it’s quickly forgotten. You need the car in F1. IT’S NEARLY ALL ABOUT THE CAR.

        Schumi should tie Vettel up behind the building, show up for Friday P1 in his ebay purchased Red Bull overalls into RBR garage, helmet on – tinted visor down and give that thing a shot. Now that would be a Stig move!

      5. Rodger says:

        That’s a great idea, but I think they’d figure it out before he ever got to the car seeing as Micheal is about a foot taller than Seb. :-)

      6. Jeff says:

        I don’t think we can really judge Sebastian’s true talent yet. Give it a couple of seasons where he isn’t running a clearly superior car, and then we’ll see.

        I do think, however, that it’s unfair to call him ‘an overhyped and glorified Trulli’. Notwithstanding my suspicion that Mark Webber isn’t getting equal support and/or machinery to Sebastian, he has matched or outperformed his teammate in all of his full seasons in F1 (though then teammate Paul DiResta beat him in the 2006 F3 Euroseries).

        He’s obviously one of the top drivers, but the car can make such a huge difference that it can flatter a driver who is in the top 1% of racing drivers and make a driver who is in the top 0.5% look rather sluggish.

        Jenson showed earler in this season that he can be pressured into a mistake, and I agree that he hasn’t had much chance to show whether he can charge through the pack. He is faster than his teammate in the fastest car on the grid. I think that is all you can say at the moment (either positive or negative). In 10 years, we can make a more definitive judgement.

        Taking a review of a few of the current crop of drivers,

        Jenson is rising in my estimation at every race.

        Lewis needs to get his head sorted out. Incredibly fast but temperamentally weak.

        Fernando is doing very well with an arguably mediocre car.

        Felipe is failing to stay with his team leader. He’s not as quick as Fernando, though I think at least 50% of the gap is due to the lower level of support he gets from the team.

        Nico has been rather unlucky lately, but has been quicker than Michael for most of this season.

        Michael is improving, but he gets away with a lot more rule infractions than Lewis ever will.

        Paul DiResta has been a revelation in his rookie season. I always thought Adrian was quick, but Paul is beating him at most races.

        Adrian is going well, but is in danger of being eclipsed by Paul.

        Who’s the outright best driver? We’ll never know, because they’ll never all be in identical F1 cars.

      7. ESLKid75 says:

        I agree 100% with your take on drivers. Wow! Thanks for that, I was feeling lonely before reading it! :-)

      8. Nick says:

        Totally agree. He’s not had to struggle all year because the car is so good. If drivers scored for overtakes, he’d be behind the Williams drivers!

        My only disappointment is Mark Webber going right off the boil.

      9. Dave A says:

        He’s not had to struggle because he’s not made himself struggle.

      10. JD says:

        Out of curiosity, at what point will you acknowledge Vettel’s abilities as a driver? He has scored points and/or won in everything he’s driven in F1: BMW Sauber, Toro Rosso, and Red Bull. He’s also dominated his teammates, including his incredible run to win the 2010 championship. To not put him at least in the same category as his contemporary, Lewis Hamilton, seems grossly unjustified.

      11. wayne says:

        Mostly agree but his run to the 2010 title was far from incredible. He squeaked the WDC having never led it all year, against an ‘older’ team-mate in a superior car (with a fair bit of bias from his team).

        Vetell was not impressive at all in 2010, his car took him to the title just. This year, however, great car or not, he has been a great DRIVER.

      12. JD says:

        Yes, on the whole, 2010 was not incredible for Vettel. However, what was incredible is the last four races of 2010, when Vettel made up a nearly impossible deficit and was the most relaxed of all the drivers in contention. He became incredibly strong mentally from the experience and that laid the foundation for his dominance in 2011.

      13. Dave A says:

        @ wayne – Vettel had to overcome 60+ points that he lost through car failures- i.e. No fault of his own.

      14. F1 Sight says:

        When you speak of gifted does that include Button WDC in a Brawn?

      15. wayne says:

        Any driver on the grid would have been WDC in that car. Either Reubens or Button were always going to win, the car was THAT fast. Bit like this year. Button actually made it look harder than it was with his awful qualy performance. All drivers in F1 are brilliant at what they do, give them a second performance advantage over the field and they WILL win. Maybe a couple of the ‘pay’ drivers might struggle a bit.

      16. Michael S says:

        You forget Alonso was gifted 3 wins in 2010, Vettel was gifted nothinh

        2 times Vettel’s car died and Alonso won

        1 time Alonso asked Ferrari to make Mr. Massa move over “Felipe, Alonso is faster, do you copy?”

    4. ayo says:

      thats a bit unfair, seeing bernie and vettel have close relationship. and James’ comments on lewis are unbiased .
      vettel has been the standout driver all season, very few people can dispute that.

    5. DaveF says:

      Where does James devalue any comments and support Hamilton?

    6. wayne says:

      This entire comment is madness. I have a sneaking suspicion from reading hundreds of JA posts that he is not a particular fan of Hamilton at all (which is fine by the way). However, even more irritating than your unfounded accusations of bias is your ‘without doubt’ statement. ‘Without doubt’ why? How? Based on what? Ridiculous from start to finish. How onn earth do you know how well Alonso has driven this year, look at his team mate – maybe Alosno has been driving out of his skin all year in a dog of a car. And Hamilton, awful season with way to many errors but it’s much easier to make a mistake when you have to fight through the field (as Vettel proved over and over last year) rather than sweep poll in all but every race and run for the flag.

      1. wayne says:

        And by the way, Bernie doesn’t need anyone to devlaue his comments in most people’s eyes. Have you actually heard some of the things this guy has said over the years?

        Additionally, if I wanted Horner onside on the eve of some of the most important negociations in F1 history – I would start by telling him how amazing he and his ‘assets’ are as well.

      2. Martin says:

        +1

        Re Bernie comments – yes. Some are a man speaking with a forked tongue, so to speak (write).

        Cheers,

        Martin

    7. Ant says:

      Mmmmmm – Vettel is without doubt the driver of the moment and it’s because of the following:

      Talent
      Good/hungry team
      Best car

      Providing you’ve got those elements you’ll always succeed. It was the same for Schumacher from 2000 to 2004.

      Talent alone doesn’t mean you’ll be a champion, it will bring you close, but as Alonso has displayed this year and Button too if you don’t have the car you’ll only ever be just behind.

      What we need is the rest to come to the party and then we’ll see how good Vettel is. I think in with right equipment Alonso would edge simply because he’s got what appears to be an absolute burning desire to win and also isn’t scarred to put his foot in so to speak. . .

    8. James Allen says:

      Not sure what I’ve done to deserve this…how do I try to devalue them? I’m just reporting them. I describe it as a blunt assessment, which it is, he’s making a very clear statement. I’m not judging his comments or disagreeing.

      1. Jumpedupjoe says:

        Some people read an article and read between lines that aren’t there. I don’t know why you bothered to respond to be honest – The intelligent and knowledgable of your readers which amounts to something like 99% of them know that such posts that claim you are biased toward this or judging that are complete nonsense.

      2. Peter says:

        Agree James. And I have followed your posts for many years and your comments are insightful, informative and unbiased. I don’t know where F1 analysis would be without you. Some people are just parochial and cannot look past their own passions.

      3. CGM says:

        Yup, agreed, have read it three times trying to find any content that could be perceived that way and have failed all three times.

      4. James Allen says:

        Incredible what some people see in things..

      5. Bevan says:

        Fair enough to James,every fan who writes to this blog or follows any sport has a favourite driver/athlete who they will to win,its just the way it is,& it is your/our right,without explanation.
        True impartiality would make the show utterly boring for any sane human being.

    9. PNWBrit says:

      “Well Vettel is without a doubt the fastest most complete driver now in F1″

      Have to disagree with this. He has shown he is able to drive by far the fastest car in the field (eventually) faster than his (somewhat) journeyman team mate.

      Alonso and (old)Schumacher have each shown far great depths to their talent. I am convinced that Alonso in a Red Bull would absolutely destroy Vettel. Hamilton would too probably, well at least not 2011 Hamilton, a previous iteration would though.

      1. Michael S says:

        How on earth can you say “Alonso in a RB would absolutely destroy Vettel”… Just curious. What exactly would you be basing that on? You essentially are saying Alonso could do to Vettel what Vettel is doing to Webber. You are saying Alonso could get .5 to .8 per lap more out of the Red Bull than Vettel is….

        I wonder if anyone F1 journalist or team boss would agree with that… Perhaps James might take a stab at it

      2. James Allen says:

        I actually think SV might qualify ahead of FA in equal cars but it would be a hell of a race from there. Both very intelligent racers

      3. wayne says:

        I actually think that Hamilton would qualify ahead of both of them in the same car more often than not…but the race…. that’s a different story. I’d still bet my house on Alonso all things being equal.

        About the only thing that would make me pay for SKY TV would be to have these three all in the same car!

      4. Richard Mee says:

        Careful Wayne – Murdock is probably reading this and has already emailed Bernie!

      5. Jack Flash says:

        MW a somewhat Journeyman?

        Webber:
        Minardi 2002 – Jaguar (pre RBR) – Williams – RedBull Racing

        Alonso:
        Minardi 2001 – RenaultF1 – McLaren – RenaultF1 – Ferrari

        Button:
        Williams 2000 – Benneton/RenaultF1 – BAR/Honda/Brawn – McLaren

        Who hasn’t been a pilot for more than a single team, if you have been firmly in F1 for a decade or more? JF

      6. G.C. says:

        I think that LH would not crash so often if he would start from the front row, and would perform superb. However this year apparently showed that SV put F1 in more high level. Not only talent, speed, and fast car in combination, but there comes cleverness and wit, in which SV performs in “German scrupulousness”, like the character of MS in his red era. Think, one example was quite significant, as at Monza, SV’s choice of gearing ratio proved brilliantly. The question comes, what the rivals have to oppose to this storming force; – Just to match that benchmark.

      7. PNWBrit says:

        jour·ney·man (jûrn-mn)
        n.
        1. One who has fully served an apprenticeship in a trade or craft and is a qualified worker in another’s employ.
        2. An experienced and competent but undistinguished worker.

  5. Mingojo says:

    The best driver on the grid is Fernando Alonso, when both drivers will be in similar equipment, we can judge it. Seb has got the best car and there’s the big difference with other drivers like Fernando, Lewis and Jenson.

    1. Michael S says:

      I hear a ton of people echo your feelings on Alonso but I just don’t see it. He has never been as dominant as Vettel even when he has had the fastest car. He has countless times had teammates pull over for him. He could not beat Hamilton his rookie year and yet Button is crushing Hamilton this year. Alonso also won a ton of races by the leaders falling out, in ’05 Kimi’s car was a mess mechanically and last year Alonso won 2 races when Vettel’s car died and 1 when Massa had to move over.

      I am not saying Alonso is not top shelf, but he is not Vettel as history is showing…

      1. AndyFov says:

        They’re very different drivers.

        Alonso thinks, seeing the big picture during a race. He knows when to push and when to save fuel. He’s very fast, plus he’s ruthless and experienced. He’s complete.

        Seb began to dominate Webber at the back end of last year. We all thought it was the shoulder injury MW had kep quiet about that opened up the gap between the two RB drivers, but with hindsight I think it’s fairly clear that Seb raised his game.

        I think Seb’s presently driving better than any of the other drivers, but in the same team would Fernando beat him? I think he’d find a way somehow. By hook or by crook he’d nudge it.

      2. NotBlind says:

        I agree with the observations that Alonso thinks and is ruthless–making him, in many ways in my mind, the younger generation’s Michael Schumacher.

        Vettel seems to me to have definitely improved this year. Would Fernando on the same team beat Seb? By hook or by crook, perhaps. By driving? Not so sure.

      3. Justin Bieber says:

        I only recall one instance last year of his teammate pull over for him. Can you list the other countless times it happened?

      4. Michael S says:

        3 times at Renault they came on to tell Fisi “Alonso is faster than you” and at Macca he threw a fit at Indy when they did not make Lewis move over for him. In fact I was at that race when he swerved on the long straight to show his anger at the team….

      5. mekanikal_grip says:

        they switched lewis’ strategy in Monaco in 2007 to keep him behind alonso. well documented

      6. Xysion says:

        Is it Alonso’s fault that others drivers car’s fail and drop out? What is he supposed to do? Drop out and not take the win?!!! Alonso is the best driver on the grid. He has never had the best car over the course of a season but still won two World Championships. That is what seperates the good from the great. The ability to win in cars that should not win. If you want a clear indication of how good Fernando Alonso is then I highly reccommend watching the first lap of the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.

        When was the last time Vettel did a barnstorming race coming from well down the field and passing other drivers? Never. Every race Vettel has won he has been first in the first corner except for two when Alonso beat him to the first corner but then later he would get overtaken because the Ferrari is seriously off the pace. Vettel has had the fastest car all season and he did the same last season. It is more easier to dominate if you have the dominant car.

      7. F1 Sight says:

        Button is having a great year only because Lewis is beating Lewis. Button does not belong in the conversation with Alonso, Vettle, and Hamilton. Those 3 are in a league by there own. If you are going to look back, look back at Button against his team mates. He didn’t beat a team mate until Villeneuve.

    2. PeterC81 says:

      Like 2007 when Alonso and a Rookie were in the same equipment! Still think Alonso is the best driver on the grid?

      1. Justin Bieber says:

        Lewis had a fantastic rookie season but lets not forget that 2007 was a battle between Alonso VS McLaren. 4 years later, which driver has evolved the most?

        Nobody is saying that Alonso was the best driver in 2007. But as of 2010, he has been the most outstanding driver considering the equipment he had. He was voted best driver by the team principals, but who are they to know!

  6. AndyFov says:

    I think Christian was quite clever with what he said there. “I don’t spend too much time” roughly translates into “We’ve got the balance right.” He’s not really being dismissive of FOTA.

    What you can say about Red Bull is they’re certainly delivering the fastest car. Other teams I suspect have begun to focus too much on the business and the politics side of F1, perhaps to the detriment of their race day performances – Ferrari and Williams are the first two teams that spring to mind there.

  7. Dave says:

    Vettel is certainly a class act. But Ecclestone and Vettel are known to be close, so I take his praise with a pinch of salt.

    The question is, would Vettel have run away with this championship if, say, Alonso or Hamilton were in the Red Bull. We cannot say for sure, but I would expect not.

    1. Michael S says:

      The same Hamilton who is getting beat by Button? the same Alonso who insist his teammates pull over for him?

      Yes, I am quite sure Vettel would still be winning it

      no one asked if Schumi or Kimi could have won titles in the bullett proof Renault of ’05 and ’06 they just accepted it was Alonso….

      1. Dave says:

        Yes, that is the Hamilton and the Alonso I am referring to.

        I have no idea what relevance 2005 and 2006 has to do with my comment. I can’t possibly comment on what people were saying about Alonso some 5 or 6 years ago.

        To reiterate – Ecclestone is saying that his close friend Vettel is the best driver on the grid. My point is that we’ll never know, because Formula 1 never gives us the opportunity to compare drivers like for like. The Red Bull is an incredible machine. Sure, sometimes the McLarens look like they have the edge, but all in all I think most people would agree that the Red Bull is the car to be in this season.

        If Alonso and Hamilton were in a Red Bull, I am sure the season would have panned out differently. I am not saying Vettel would suddenly become a second rate driver – I’ll refer you to my opening comment where I state he is a class act – but I don’t think he’d be as far ahead as he is now if he had that kind of competition in the same car.

    2. Me says:

      You really believe Hamilton that has been driving around like a accident-hunting rookie would have beaten Vettel?

      Last time I checked, Button is beating Hamilton in the same car and Hamilton confessed himself Button is better in 2011 than him in the same car.

      Vettel is the best at the moment, no one would beat him in he same car. In fact he won Barcelona and Monaco while being in the 2nd (Barcelona) and 3rd (Monaco) fastest car.

      1. Dave says:

        My point is if they had all been in the same car, perhaps Hamilton would not have been making the frustrated mistakes he has done this year.

        Again, I am not suddenly classing Vettel as an amateur – and I don’t really want to turn this into a typical Button vs Hamilton debate that people seem to love having – merely making the point that in my view, Hamilton and Alonso are incredibly talented drivers, and had they had the same machinery the season may not be as one sided as it has been.

        But, like I say, we’ll never know. Chill out.

      2. Uhm says:

        You are not making any sense. So Button is beating Hamilton in the same car, but in another car Hamilton would beat Button/Vettel then?

        How do you know this?

        It’s all the car’s fault? Poor Hamilton can’t cope with a car that was fastest in 6 races?

        Great drivers deal with it and maximize the car, see Button vs. Hamilton.

      3. Dave says:

        Uhm – I don’t know this, hence my comment that “we’ll never know as Formula 1 never gives us the opportunity to compare drivers like for like”. Did you even read the comment or did you just see the word Hamilton and get defensive?

        Are you saying that if Hamilton and Alonso were in a Red Bull, this season would be EXACTLY the same as it is now? No, I think we can all agree there would be differences, and my point is I think that Alonso and Hamilton would be at the sharp end of the table with Vettel if that were the case, and that Vettel would not be 1 point away from being double world champion at this stage in the season.

        I’m not even saying they are the only two drivers who might contest it – I merely used those two as examples. My point is purely that we will never know if Vettel is the best driver because I think most people would agree that the Red Bull is the best car.

        Jeez.

      4. MISTER says:

        The same Monaco when the red flag and the stupid rule to change tires allowed Vettel to finish first?

        Please..

      5. Uhm says:

        And Pirelli said Vettel would have finished first the way he was driving without the red flag.

        Please, your self.

      6. Steve says:

        He made his own luck at Monaco by being in front in the first place.

      7. MISTER says:

        Uhm, I didnt know that Pirelli could guarantee that Alonso and Button would not pass Vettel.

        Great stuff dude..:))

      8. Bevan says:

        Why do some imagine JB has the edge over LH at the moment?
        I clearly saw K Koboyashi take LH out at Spa,what would the WDC point tally be between them if not for the bungling Nipponese.

    3. PeteM says:

      Agreed Dave,

      Vettel is quick but really untested this year as webber has been good but not up to par and that is his only true test his team mate.
      Clearly RBR is the fastest car on the grid by a country mile. What this year has shown to me is not so much the talent of Vettel rather the gap between RBR and the rest. It also highlights the lack of performance by webber and unfortunately after being told he is the number 2 driver it must have given his confidence and reason to win a real hammering.
      The difference between Vettel and the rest is pure car and thats not to take away from his obvious talent but to be 130+ points better then Alonso Hamilton Button at this point in the season proves my point and I think this is missed by alot of commentators and F1 enthusiasts.

      1. frosty1 says:

        “Clearly RBR is the fastest car on the grid by a country mile” – i’m sorry this is pure hyperbole.

        Has Vettel won ever race with minutes to spare, lapping everyone? Has Webber come 2nd in every race? No, because the advantage of that car is not the country mile you would like people to think.

      2. Dave says:

        So you’re saying Red Bull is NOT the fastest car on the grid? Country mile or not, find me a driver who does not wish he had the Red Bull this year.

        It is a supreme machine that all other teams would love to have built. Why do you think Newey is getting so much praise? The Red Bull is the car to beat, no doubt. Combined with a superb driver in Vettel, then it is easy to see why they are so far ahead.

        Note that people are no saying Vettel is not quick or a great driver. We’re just saying that he is also in a great car, so the claim that he is the ‘best on the grid’ is not only impossible to back up, it is also questionable (as is evidenced by the number of people disagreeing with it) and slightly biased considering Ecclestone and Vettel’s close friendship.

      3. Ed says:

        The races in 2012 are no longer about flat out pace. It’s about tyre management – with pace to spare out front and in clean air Vettle has not had to push as hard as some others on the grid. Qualifying is now the only time we can really be sure cars are on the limit and the fact that Red Bull have secured every pole this year suggests they do have the fastest car even if they choose not to max that pace all race long.

        Don’t get me wrong I think Vettle also has a lot to contribute to the success but to say any other car has come close to RB on pure 1 lap pace is laughable.

        This race managent vs pace dynamic is also, I think, why LH has struggled this year. He is undoubtedly a quick driver over a singe lap but when wining means being consistent over a race distance instead he’s not fared so well. JB and FA are masters of this and have both outperformed their cars this year.

      4. bmg says:

        I will be very suprised if Webber had the same equipment as Vettel this year.

        I’m not trying to bag Vettel it’s just a fact.

        Webber is number 2 and thats the way the team wants it.
        Alonso has done an amazing job in a dog of a car this year.
        He is by far the best Driver in my opinion, he would have won the WDC last year had not been for a bad stratagy from the pit wall.

  8. Dave says:

    Oh, as for the FOTA comments, these are very disrespectful and if anything just prove why FOTA is so important. Leaving everything up to Ecclestone is suicide – especially considering some of the crazy ideas he comes up with like track sprinklers and shortcuts round corners to help faster cars get past.

    FOTA simply must be there in order to keep the sport on track. The fact Horner seems to agree with Ecclestone is perhaps worrying, but could just be that he didn’t want to upset the big boss of F1! :P

  9. Sebee says:

    Boy, as much as I like business drama – Bernie is right.
    Keep your eye on the ball FOTA members. It is a united front, but I always felt their power is very limited. They are entertained for politial correctness sake by Bernie – but in the end, Bernie gets his way. Always.

    1. WetCoaster says:

      I agree with you – but I don’t think BE does anything for political correctness sake!! That’s a good chuckle…

  10. Robert McKay says:

    “Ecclestone not liking FOTA” is more or less analagous to “turkeys not liking Christmas”.

  11. Tom in adelaide says:

    Where do people come up with this garbage?

    As an impartial Aussie I have never felt that this blog is biased towards Lewis.

    1. Tom in adelaide says:

      Sorry that should be under post #4. the commets section can be temperamental with iOS.

    2. Andy C says:

      Fully agree. Always impartial in my view. If anything is biased it is certain commentators :-)

      Yet that is the spice of life.

  12. goferet says:

    Vettel is the best driver on the grid???

    [mod]
    It seems in F1 once a driver wins their second title, they automatically become the best or most complete driver there is.

    Bernie is biased for he has always been a Vettel fan but the car advantage Sebi has is ridiculous so I wouldn’t call him the best (at least just yet), but I would instead say the car & the team’s strategists are the best.

    Put under pressure Vettel has shown that he’s far from the best for example in Canada, Germany & Hungary (during the wet part of the race)

    Am so looking forward to the explanations from Bernie & Co next year on why Vettel isn’t winning 9/14 races.

    But one thing I would agree with Bernie is that, the Ferrari horse is lame & definitely not prancing any more so any driver foolish enough to venture in those waters is toast, heck even Jenson doesn’t want the seat.

    Anyway, from what I have seen this season, I finally accept that Fernando Alonso is the most complete driver on the grid for in a car that’s clearly 3rd best (& worse on the hard tyre), he has put in amazing performances & is even threatening to clinch 2nd in the WDC!

    As for Horner, there’s something shady about that bloke. He gives me the shivers, lets just say, I wouldn’t trust him with any of my internet & bank passwords

    *Fun fact*

    Around 2007 when Brundle was going on, on how Vettel is a future star & is destined to win the WDC, I was one of the few souls that was saying, ”Sebi will never win a WDC in his career” Lol

    1. Hammad says:

      I get exactly the same impression of him every time I see him on tv…

  13. Daniel Dinu says:

    The best in the grid is Alonso. Seb has the fastest car by a huge margin and he is not quite at Alonso’s level at the moment. He may get there in the years to come, but not now.
    I am concerned that Alonso may not be able to secure another chiampionship with Ferrari, given the current state of the team, both technically and strategically. They have to transition from “Italian” to more of a “British” approach. Hiring from McLaren and RedBull would be a good start. Replace Domenicalli with Horner and go from there.

  14. Holly says:

    Taking into account the cars they are driving, I don’t think that Vettel is driving better than Alonso this season, so the best drivers is Alonso hands down in my opinion. Alonso has proved to be the best in every way possible, with good cards, with title winning cars, with bad cars, running from the front, fromd the back….

    Anyone with a small knowledge of F1 can’t denied that Vettel improved a lot but how much is because the car?…. that is a question big question mark.

  15. Rob Newman says:

    I agree that currently Vettel is the best on the grid. He has proved it race after race this season and deserves the championship this year.

    I have seen some people say Alonso is better. But if you look at this season, Alonso won only one race and that is also thanks to a bungled pit stop by the Red Bulls and some blown hot air.

    If we go back to last year, Alonso was moaning he was robbed of the world championship. But from the very first race, it was Alonso who benefited from Red Bulls problems and not because he was any better. Australia and Korea are the biggest ones. So I don’t rank him as one of the best. It is not skills but luck.

    Hamilton’s problem is jealousy. He is upset that Vettel is beating him race after race and now his own team mate too has beaten him. He has no respect for fellow drivers and thinks others should move out of his way. That is his downfall. It is not aggressiveness but total disrespect. That is why he can’t be among the best.

  16. Dave Aston says:

    I reckon Berie is right; Alonso was a double WDC, but couldn’t beat Hamilton in equal cars in Hamilton’s debut year. Hamilton is mercurial, but results-wise is pretty closely matched with Button, who I rate highly but don’t consider one of the all time greats. Vettel won that race at Monza in 2008 for Torro Rosso who, as Minardi, were at the rear of the grid for 25 years, and haven’t looked like winning anything since. But, I think the best evidence of Vettel’s status is how the gap between he and Webber has blown out since last season; he smashed him this year, and I reckon he’ll cruise to the championship next year too. I feel this is an objective appraisal; my two clear favourites are Michael Schumacher and Kobayashi!

    1. Carl Craven says:

      The Minardi story no longer works.

      For Torro Rosso read, Adrian Newey’s place to experiment before putting the parts on the ‘real’ car.

      THAT Torro Rosso was no Minardi.

      1. Rodger says:

        Vetted placed 8th in the championship that year. Beating both of the ‘real’ cars, and his teammate.

  17. Tim Parry says:

    Just curious. Was the question worded: ‘should’ Vettel switch to Ferrari? That’s makes it sound like some kind of moral decision he’ll have to face somewhere down the road. Alonso switched to Ferrari because it was a darned sight better place to be that being stuck in a Renault, not because it was the proper thing to do. If Ferrari builds a faster car than Red Bull in the future, then he’ll probably make the switch like any champion with any sense would do.

  18. G.C. says:

    I still believe in pure speed LH is the fastest man, perhaps in this comparison SV and LH are exactly equal, it’s hard to say, but guess FA can’t match their speed (coz of the age); however he has got his unique qualities for sure.

  19. Mr Squiggle says:

    The man is entitled to his views.

    I’m in no real position to question Bernie, but I’d be interested to hear whether he has ever given the title of ‘best driver on the grid’ (BDOtG)to someone other than the current champion.

    If it was Driver + car combo, instead of Driver alone, the question is less subjective. Vettel + RB is the top.

    But Vettel by his own?? IN the current McLaren or Ferrari, would he have won more than nando, or Lewis or Jenson? I doubt it

    However, for my money the BDOtG, its Jenson. He’s the business. Seriously. He seems to have improved even more than his championship year and is at the peak of his powers, its just a shame the Mclaren isn’t.

    1. Jumpedupjoe says:

      I am a massive fan of Jenson’s but he is not the best on the grid, no way. He’s very consistent in races but if you pay attention you’ll see that he’s consistenly a few tenths off Lewis’ pace. The reason he pushes Lewis is he makes hardly any mistakes.

      Can anyone remember the last time Jenson had a DNF through his own fault? I can’t.

    2. PNWBrit says:

      I think (2011) Button & Vettel as team mates would be very, very interesting.

      A quite good chance Button would beat him I think. Especially in a car as good as the RB7.

      Difficult to deny that Button is driving just spectacularly well at the moment – and perhaps better than anyone else on grid.

  20. Tony says:

    FOTA and it’s possible potential to buy F1 is the only hope to change the rates the circuits are charged and therefore the ticket prices we pay. Not to mention the long financial health of F1++++.

  21. terryshep says:

    Not sure how James manages this bias, Dave? I don’t see any editorialising from him on drivers, at all in this piece.

  22. Nigel (USA) says:

    Funny how stating the obvious can become headline news…..

    1. James Allen says:

      Like “Greeks to default shortly”?

      1. CGM says:

        Jeez James, don’t say that, people are now gonna start saying that you’re showing bias against greek people ! :-)

  23. A.B.Normal says:

    Vettel has made strides as a driver this year, and is gradually being better appreciated by stingy F1 fans. Yet, despite his obvious great ability, young people in general don’t deserve great success. Any endeavor worth a damn should require years of humiliation and angst before any measure of success can be achieved. F1 is increasingly becoming a video game for post-pubescent nerds. A steering wheel should steer a car, nothing more. Even the least talented now take Eau Rouge flat out. That used to be reserved for real men with great talent. F1 fans should not know how to post on a website, or online chat.

    1. Rodger says:

      Going by the obvious “Young Frankenstein” reference in your nickname, I’m going to assume that most of that post was done with tounge firmly planted in cheek.

  24. Nando says:

    This season there is no doubt Vettel has been the best driver. It’s far easier to be supreme when you’re always driving the car well within it’s limits.
    The Red Bull can easily go 1+ second quicker when needed but due to tyre degradation Vettel just needs to open that 3-second gap and then on into cruise mode.

  25. georgecowleyci5 says:

    sorry i know this is off topic,but charlie sale in the mail a 2 days ago reported that martin brundle is close to signing a big deal with sky,with crofty being his co commentator,georgie thompson presenting,and lee mckenzie as pitlane reporter,any news james?

    1. James Allen says:

      I have heard the same, yes. Makes sense

      1. HFEVO2 says:

        Where does that leave Ted ?

        I’ve always thought he does a terrific job and would like to see him get more air time.

      2. GaryE says:

        George Thompson? For real? WHY exactly? I have nothing against her or any female working in F1 tbh, but as main presenter? Sorry that just smacks of putting an attractive female as lead presenter in a hope at attracting some more people to watch the race etc.

        Getting Martin in makes perfect sense….but Sky need their heads examined if they DONT get Ted Kravitz signed up as well. Guy does a lot of good work and he should be a priority alongside Martin.

        Frankly Sky will be missing a trick if they dont just try and copy what the BBC currently do IMO. Coverage has never been this good IMO, with great access to the teams/drivers, access to the pitlane, pre/post match, forum etc.

        And yet I doubt Sky will do this. To arrogant to believe that they can learn from the BBC in this. They think their football style coverage will work for F1 and thats just not going to fly.

      3. James Allen says:

        Georgie Thompson.

    2. Charlie says:

      Would that be the same Georgie Thompson who just got a drink driving ban?

      I can think of more suitable people to front F1 on Sky.

      1. wayne says:

        Sounds perfect for SKY TV to me.

    3. wayne says:

      Someone want to explain to me what lee mckenzie adds to anything at all F1 related? What is she, the token female in the boradcasters’ eyes. Don’t get me worng, this sexist view is not my own – but why lee mckenzie exactly? What is her tallent and when will we see it?

      1. wayne says:

        Oh hang on she can ambush drivers fresh from the stress and emotion of a racing incident and bait them into making stupid comments to further her own career – I forgot about that.

  26. r0ssj says:

    Vettel has certainly had a great season, and has made almost no mistakes. But I wouldn’t call him the best driver on the grid. Thats still Alonso in my opinion.

    Aside from Vettels car’s obvious speed advantage over the rest of the field, Red Bull have just been a better team all season and have not let Vettel down at any race that I can remember.

    Ferrari are third fastest on the grid, and are horrible on tyre warm up. They’re also generally poor on strategy when compared to Red Bull and have let their drivers down during races.

    McLaren on occasion have had the pace to challenge and beat Red Bull, but are generally the 2nd fastest car in the grid. But they to have let their drivers down with poor strategy and silly mistakes during race weekends.

    Red Bull have been far better than their rivals, which gives Vettel a bit of headstart over his competition which he has taken and made the best use of. He is a deserving champion, but not the best driver on the grid just yet.

    1. 69bhp says:

      “Red Bull have just been a better team all season and have not let Vettel down at any race that I can remember”

      i can think of 2 occasions:
      - China (I think) where they put him on the wrong tyre strategy and Lewis passed him with a couple of laps to go
      - Monaco, where they messed up his pit stop and dropped him behind Button. It was only because of Seb’s own decision not to stop again (and his incredible feat of making his option tyres last 50+ laps) that he won the race.

      1. James Allen says:

        Monaco was a blessing in disguise, he had tyres that allowed him to go for the finish

  27. Carl Craven says:

    There is an absolute conflict of interests within F1.

    On the one hand it’s a sport on the other it’s a business.

    Ecclestone rates everything on it’s commercial value. Therefore in terms of his marketability and his ability to make Bernie more money, maybe he is the best in F1.

    There is no doubt that he is a ‘fine’ racing driver.

    But the BEST?

    I don’t think Bernie is qualified to make such a sweeping statement. His judgement is clouded by so many other issues.

  28. Richard says:

    There’s no doubt that Vettel is one of the best drivers on the grid. – I suspect that if you could roll Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastion Vettel into one then you would have the best driver on the grid. – But as we all know it’s not that simple – He has the best car by a country mile. The Red Bull car is so agile such that the other drivers have to try even harder to get anywhere near. Given the car and the successive wins he has been able to achieve with it, Vettel’s confidence must be sky high, but he has not had to really battle for the wins. In most cases he has simply put in a stunning qualifying lap to get pole, and lead the race from there. It’s a totally different ball game starting further down the grid. I think the way to sum it up is that currently he is riding high while driving a dominant car, but if there were three cars of similar capability it would quite different. Also I think the current rules with the Pirelli tyres help a driver in that situation. It has become a tyre strategy and conservation exercise that has not enough latitude to make it possible for drivers to push hard to make up sufficient ground. It is only where conditions combine with tyre strategy that sometimes make it possible for gains to be made.

  29. Justin says:

    Re. Horner’s comments on FOTA. Strikes me that he is just covering bases. Tell Bernie what he wants to hear in an innocuous enough way that he can still advocate being pro-FOTA to the other team principals.
    Personally I’d like to think I would always play these things straight down the wicket, but then I’m not team principal of a multi-million pound racing team who’s words must always be carefully chosen

  30. MJ Sib says:

    At the moment Vettel and Red Bull are the best combination but I think Alonso is by far the best driver. The Ferrari is a bit of a donkey. Massa’s position and points tally is the real performance of the Ferrari. Alonso just seems to get the maximum and more from the car which makes it look better than it actually is

    1. For Sure says:

      If that’s the case, Mark Webers point tally is real performance of Red Bull.

  31. Richard says:

    Perhaps we just discount the years using high degradation tyres until we have proper racing again, not an artificially restricted race where drivers have to pounce around like a pussy on a hot tin roof to make the tyres last.

  32. Johnny Talia says:

    Bernie seems to be confusing “most successful driver recently while driving the best car” with “best driver currently on the grid all things considered”. Some would argue that Schumacher’s longevity, 91 wins, and 7 driver titles with multiple teams makes him the best (I’m not one of them). Anyway, I thought Eccy was supposed to be promoting F1 as a whole instead of playing favorites to one team and one driver while trash-talking the rest of them.

  33. Tyler says:

    Put him in the Renault or the Force India and see how many races he wins.

    1. Jumpedupjoe says:

      He wouldn’t win any but I bet he’d outperform his team mate.

      1. Rodger says:

        Yep. Like 2008 when he finished 8th in the driver standings. Behind only the McLarens, Ferrari, Saubers, and Alonso’s Renault.

        Ahead of both of the RBR drivers, and 9 places ahead of his teammate.

    2. JD says:

      Shades of 2008 when Vettel was driving for an eternally underachieving backfield team.

  34. Harvey says:

    Bernie is all about what he’s always been: Bernie and money. Christian Horner wouldn’t be so smug if Red Bull wasn’t at the top of the heap right now. He may feel differently as more and more universities ban the sale of Red Bull energy drinks because of the danger of mixing the caffeine-laden drinks with alcohol. And Christian, remember this: Formula One is a proving ground for many advances in technology which then are transferred to car manufacturing. Cars, Christian, as in McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus, Mercedes, Renault. Don’t get so full of yourself, dramatic success in Formula One is fleeting indeed. Just ask one M. Schumacher.

  35. kr mclaren says:

    Martin Whitmarsh BBC
    “Jenson’s done some of the most spectacular drives in the history of Formula 1 this year. And I think he’s capable of even more’.

    These men know what they are talking about. No favourtism from BBC or anbody. He produced some of the best drives out of 60 years of racing thats over 900 races.

  36. For Sure says:

    I find it funny that when people say Vettel is not on the same level with Alonso. Good argument but much to back up.
    Yes his car is better than Alonso and that’s why he is winning but how do you actually know who is faster without them being in the team?
    If Alonso is a tenth or two faster than him, that’s mean he will be doing nearly 1 second faster than Webber, that’s too much for one f1 driver to another.
    In my opinion if any of these f1 drivers are consistently half a second faster than their teammates, they are going to be multiple world champion.
    I knew that Vettel will be a champion one day once I saw his win in a torro rosso.
    The interesting thing is that Alonso tried 4 times and won two championships. Lewis did twice and won one championship. Michael tried 10 times and won 7.
    Seb tried twice and won both of them.
    Not to jump to any conclusion just saying.
    James, in your opinion do you think Vettel is not on the same level with Alonso?
    James, in your opinion, is Vettel not on

    1. James Allen says:

      If you read my pre season predictions, SV has done what I thought he would. Once he wins a second title his confidence will increase even further.

      He has done some incredible things this year. So has Alonso and Hamilton (fewer) and Button, but Vettel has been outstanding. It’s hard for fans outside the sport to appreciate how hard it is to win in F1 and these guys are at a very high level

      1. For sure says:

        I totally agree with you, it’s a perception thing isn’t it. If Alonso was driving that Red Bull and won 3 less races than Vettel, people will say “look Alonso is putting the car at the places which it doesn’t belong”.
        But then if Vettel swap position with Alonso, won 2 titles in 05,06 I am sure people will say Alonso is not on the same level with Vettel. How frustrating is that James?

    2. Tom says:

      Saying they tried x times and succeeded y times is irrelevant. In 1995 Schumacher had 2/2. In 2006 Alonso had 2/2. Try making your argument again in another six or seven seasons.

  37. For Sure says:

    And another interesting thing is that, usually when champions won the championship, their teammates won at least a race or two in that season. That is not the case here. Yes Marks starts were one of the many problems he had but it’s hard to argue that the car is the class of the field, like Williams 96.
    Mclaren clearly had the race pace to win many races if Lewis didn’t crash out.

  38. mo kahn says:

    Currently, Redbull made a wonderful car and Vetel is delivering the goods. He could so easily make unforced errors like Hamilton to feed his ego… he is applying all his resources justifiably. The only other drivers that are doing so are Schumacher, Alonso and Button.

    So, by all means… since Vetel is delivering… he deservedly can be called the Best Driver on the Grid till he does so.

    Just like Hamilton can deservedly be called as the most foolish driver on the grid… despite driving a Mclaren :)

    1. MISTER says:

      I think Alonso is the best driver. I am not even sure that Vettel is the seconf best driver on the grid now.
      When I say that is not because Alonso won 2 titles in 05 and 06, is not even because he is so close in this battle for 2nd place in the championship while driving this slow Ferrari.

      I look at his skills over the years, and how he can get the results out. At the fact that he is ruthless (perfect example is that entry to the pitlane when he pushed Massa-his own team-mate out of his way) and also thinks his moves.

      I haven’t yet seen that in Vettel.

      Maybe the best driver on the grid is not even in the top 4 teams. Look at Di Resta. He beat Hamilton and Vettel when they were competing together. None of us know what Di Resta or Hamilton or Alonso would do in a RedBull compared to Vettel.

      For me, the only way to nominate a driver as the best, is to look at his skills over the years.
      And to be honest, if you look at Vettel in 2010 you won’t see much skill. Since Turkey 2010, I started to feel somekind of dislike for Vettel because he could not admit he moved right into MW. To make it worst, he blamed MW for that. I know some of you would say that Vettel got squized by MW or that he didnt get much space, but hey..that’s racing. Vettel put himself in that possition in the first place.

      Anyway, I am hoping next year for the top 4 teams to be closer together in terms of raw speed so we can have a great show, even if for some of us will only be for 10 races.

      cheers!

      1. James Allen says:

        JA is pretty over the whole “my fave driver is better than yours” debate on here. Exception made for this post as it’s about Ecclestone’s judgement on this subject. Please note however in future posts where the subject does not revolve around who’s the best driver, we will moderate out any “empty” comments which add nothing – Mod

  39. David Ryan says:

    Vettel has certainly improved considerably compared with 2009 and 2010, but as with any other season claims of one driver or another being the best on the grid are highly subjective. Unless you get every driver in identical cars, and remove every other variable, you’re never going to get an answer. Hence why it’s better to identify groups of drivers and class them according to form and ability.

    On another note, considering how much he damaged F1′s reputation with the Bahrain debacle and the amount of money both he and CVC cream off the sport, I’d be inclined to say the unnecessary one is Bernie himself. The day is fast approaching when the sport outgrows him, and I suspect that has something to do with this particularly barbed attempt at reasserting authority. That and the upcoming negotiations for a possible new Concorde Agreement, of course.

  40. John H. says:

    Vettel is the best and will become the greatest. He is grounded, has great technical skills, and will only get better with more experience and challenges. I don’t often agree with Bernie E. but in this case I have to say he is on target in his assessment of Vettel. I would argue that Schumacher was the best in the sport. Vettel has every chance of being as great.

  41. cjf says:

    Classic politic from Bernie trying to devalue the bargaining position of the “traditional” big teams by cosying up with Redbull. Sadly Christian seems to be lapping it up, weakening the position of FOTA.

    That said, Vettel has been superb this year (even accounting for the dominance of his car) and seems to be a nice guy. He almosts seems to be everything Bernie hoped Lewis would become but did not. I really hope Bernie is not trying to orchestrate another “schumi era”.

  42. Grabyrdy says:

    Horner : “I also don’t spend too much time thinking in that direction.”

    Which, being translated, means : “Carry on talking Bernie. When do we get the the really interesting bit ?”

  43. Ben says:

    I never thoughts I would say this but I do think that Vettel is currently the best driver on the grid. He is the driver who has got the most out of his package this season, his team mate has only beaten him in a single race and only one of his second places was lost due to an error He is driving as fast as he needs to and it was only in Canada where he misjudged this. He has the highest discipline of any of the drivers on the grid and while he might not be the outright fastest (I would put him second to Hamilton) and may not be the most astute tactical thinker (Alonso and Button are better in this regard) he has learned from the mistakes he made in the previous two years and probably has the best working relationship with his race engineer of the five front running drivers.

    There is, though, a BIG but.

    The situation is very fluid, and Vettel has only been able to get to the level he is out due to having a reliable and fast car. Had he had regular troubles with either speed or reliability he may not have got in that mental zone.

    At the start of the year I would have ranked the drivers: 1= Hamilton and Alonso 3 Button 4 Vettel

    Now I would rank them: 1. Vettel, 2 Alonso, 3 Button, 4 Hamilton – and they could change just as dramatically in twelve months

    (Please note, the low ranking of Hamilton is purely down to his mental discipline, in terms of natural talent and speed I believe he is top of the current field)

    It was interesting to note that Vettel was the only driver to visit Pirelli prior to the start of the season. While I doubt that he got any significant insight that allowed him to be a step ahead of everyone it is an interesting observation on his state of mind compared to his competitors.

  44. JohnBt says:

    I recalled when Vettel scored his first point (youngest in F1) in the Indy track fans were singing praises, even more when he nailed his Monza win in STR. How things have changed now that he’ll clinch the youngest back to back double world championship. Many doubted his ability until his overtaking move on Alonso recently at Monza and his worthiness shot up again. But there’s a huge group who feel it’s not enough.

    Am impressed with Vettel’s maturity in just a year, how can one not be. Vettel is a great driver and will be even greater in years to come.

    Bernie as usual in a luxury sailboat, where the wind blows that’s the direction to go, what’s new. It’s business per normal. FOTA is obviously a huge threat to Bernie. Am sure there are hidden agendas we will never know.

  45. Glenn says:

    Vettel may very well be the ‘best’ driver on the grid but we have no way of knowing that at this time. He needs to show everyone how he can perform in an underperforming team, not just a top-shelf outfit like Red Bull is at the moment. The same is true for lewis. The pair of them may be the best but who can say? There is no basis for comparison. Had he said Seb was the ‘fastest’ driver on the grid, i couldnt really argue.
    Several other great drivers on the grid have paid their dues in mediocre cars before enjoying success. Schumi, Jenson, Webber, Alonso, Rubens etc. These are the guys you would want to be in a trench with you if the situation arose. Proven performers at both ends of the grid.
    I particularly like the tongue in cheek comment by Bernie regarding cheating. Christian didn’t seem to deny anything either.

    1. StallionGP F1 says:

      Vettel was in a torro Rosso before Rbr

  46. Arya says:

    I am not a bit surprised to hear it from Bernie, having known the history of him always endorsing the winners.
    When Fernando blasted into the picture, he was going all out to tell that FA was the best driver on planet. Result- we have two Spanish GPs on calendar 3 years running. Is there anything more he can achieve by appreciating Fernando?? Hell no, job well done!!
    We saw similar story when Lewis came in gave the double world champion one hell of a run. When LH became champion, he turned into Ecclestone’s golden boy. Result is a renewed interest and cash flow from English speaking market of the world, especially from Great Britain.
    Now that Vettel is the driver on a roll, Bernie has shifted his allegiance once more.

    Bottom Line: Where there is money, there is Bernie.

  47. While Mr. E’s been busy talking, WRC’s new commercial rights holders have been busy walking: rally stages from the French round will be shown live on the internet via wrc.com (official website). Maybe formula1.com should follow the example – sorry, I forgot we must pay first to watch Mr. E’s big white wig on the starting grid. What a mighty privilege!

    Vettel is doing OK this year and he deserves it 100% but all’s not rosy when it comes to commercial side of the sport and the way fans are treated. Power to the people.

  48. dude says:

    yeah, vettel is the best because he’s got the most confidence, and he’s relaxed, so he doesn’t stuff up.

    problem with webber is that he was driving in crap teams for most of his career, so he probably is used to out-performing the car and putting it where it shouldn’t be occasionally (that’s what got him to where he is now). and i suspect this is not the same pressure as the expectation of winning (still pressure, but at least you’ve got an excuse for not winning).

    so now he’s got one of the best cars, i suspect he may be struggling to deal with this new pressure and expectation of winning. whereas vettel has spent his whole career in lower formulae in the best cars, and is used to the pressure of winning, and takes it in his stride.

    and if you’ve ever taken part in organised motorsport yourself, you’ve probably noticed the first few times you get into the lead, you don’t drive as well as you do when you’re following a driver. you realise you’re winning, you get nervous and you start making mistakes!

    confidence is oh so important. and i think that’s the difference here.

  49. For sure says:

    I am a Schumacher fan, but even Schumacher performance in 2004 isn’t as scary as Vettel’s this season. In 2004, his teammate was able to finish right behind him in a lot of races which meant the car was marginally better. That is not the case here. Mark couldn’t catch Jenson last race and didn’t do very well in general. So surely, it is not just the car, if anything it is the tyres.

    1. G.C. says:

      In some point this statement isn’t incorrect, but consider MW’s problematic starts (of course this is the part of the game too), if not this issue he (MW) would be much closer to SV.

  50. Peter Freeman says:

    Consider how focused Vettel has been. Look at his season long final lap Q3 performance for instance, or his number of unforced errors on track, or his strategy/tire management, all season.

    In this new era of ultra long seasons, consistent focus, race weekend after race weekend is now an absolute requirement. Hamilton’s 5th place in the standings vs his team mate Button’s 2nd place is an example of what happens when you do not have this focus. I doubt too many people will claim Button is outright faster and more talented than Hamilton, but he has been able to bring his talent to bare on race day in a manner Hamilton is failing to do! And when you compare Vettel to Webber in the same fashion, you get a perspective of just how far ahead Vettel is in this regard. Who would say Webber has had a worse mistake record than Hamilton this season? Yet look at the point difference between Vettle/Webber and Button/Hamilton.

    Focus. Vettle’s big advantage, never mind the ability, speed, good car etc, those things only count when they are translated into results. Who is doing this better than Vettel?

    1. jumpedupjoe says:

      +1

  51. G.C. says:

    How Flavio Briatore was right at the start of the season for advising Ferrari to switch already to the next year’s car, he said: advantage of RBR is so big (that was 0.5 sec at that time) that there is no point for Ferrari to push and squander in this year.

  52. Pawel says:

    That’s correct till Kubica is back :)

  53. dan w says:

    i have to admit i think James’ article is pretty fair and unbiased and i think he does a good job of appraising each driver fairly.
    as for vettel in inferior machinery, anyone remmeber monza in the torro rosso ? His peers all said he was amazing that day, the wet is a great leveller of a cars abilities and allows a driver to shine, Vettel is a fine driver and his wet abilities show this, hamilton too, you only have to look at massa for a driver who shows his true abilities in the wet!

  54. Qiang says:

    The margin the Bulls have this year over others is quite honestly very big, and they can always up the speed if they need to. I already lost the interest to watch on Sunday because I know thare would be no chance for McLarens and Alonso to catch them. There are two things I found most puzzling: why Webber is so far off the pace of Vettel? Will this a trend for next season because I don’t believe engineers of other teams will suddenly get smarter than Adrian Newey. How depressing is this! Maybe it’s time for everyone to use the Bulls and just race like hell.

  55. CGM says:

    If JA did a survey asking “Which is the best car on the grid?”, the answer would (I think) be overwhelmingly in favour of RBR. Many of us might not be happy about it due to our team preferences, but I think we’d all generally agree on it.
    Why? Well, it’s obvious to all of us :
    Always on pole.
    Almost-always leading the races.
    Almost-always winning the races.
    Yet, when the same question is asked about the driver, the criteria suddenly changes….

  56. Name Required says:

    [Mod]
    Only recently found this fabulous site: have there been any articles about the likely impact on the ban on exhaust blowing next year? Would it be fair to say that RBR may be affected the most? I am assuming that they are the most reliant on this soon-to-be outlawed tech.

    1. James Allen says:

      I have one in the pipeline..

    2. Graham Reeds says:

      I think Lotus-Renault-Genii-Identity-Crisis will be most affected by those changes, and put down their ‘increasing’ lack of performance over their necessary switch to work on the 2012 car.

    3. jumpedupjoe says:

      I think McLaren could be in real trouble based on this years car… They were really hurt in Silverstone this year, RB & Ferrari were still fast.

  57. F1Fan4Life says:

    I do trust James’opinion, but Bernie’s less so, because Bernie is a promoter, and he’s just saying what works for his multi billion dollar brand. Have to be honest, I’ve grown tired of listening to many people that seem to adopt a bandwagon mentality,the same thing happens in many sports, but I guess in F1 this irritates me a little more, simply because it is so clear that the fastest package is a huge advantage. When this season started I immediately was mentioning that Ferrari were way off in terms of stationary pit stop times, to basically show that they are off their game in general. Mercedes and Renault had faster pit stop times at the start, as did Mclaren and Red Bull, which were miles ahead.

    At the end of last year my opinion was that Alonso was the best driver, followed by Hamilton who had a slim lead over Vettel. After this year, I believe the only change is that Vettel has eclipsed Hamilton. I do not believe he is better than Alonso, and yet there are many people using his amazing run this season as evidence. Rather than point out that he has the fastest car this season by a mile (including his team mates car, whom I believe has had issues in at least 7 race weekends), I’d like to compare Vettel’s current season to Alonso’s season in 2006.

    After the first 9 races in 2006, the FIA took the decision to ban the mass damper system on the Renault, a system that was run past the FIA at the start of the season, was suddenly banned, and the team lost pace immediately. In the first 9 races of the 2006 season, Alonso had 6 wins, and 3 2nd places. In the first 9 seasons of 2011, Vettel has had 6 wins, and 3 2nd places. Am i that impressed with Vettel’s performance this year? No, because I’ve seen it before, and I’m sure other long term F1 fans have too in the past. I’ll let the armchair groupies scream Vettel’s praise now, but some of us do look at the past also…

    1. jumpedupjoe says:

      It’s not so much the win streak that has made me change my mind about Vettel, more his consistency. His car hasn’t always been the fastest in the races he’s won btw… And the way he’s completely destroying Webber this season is just ridiculous given that Webber is pretty handy himself, I mean last year they were around a tenth apart but this year it’s more like half a second or more at practically every race.

      I’ve watched F1 for my whole life and I can remember the last 20 or so years… I really don’t remember a driver dominating like this when paired with what most consider a fast team mate.

  58. musshan says:

    dear james, This is off topic but bear with me and hope you reply me. Is my email grshankarnarayanan@gmail.com banned from posting comments here? because none of my comments seem to make it here.

    If it is so it is a shame because I very much appreciate your articles and the comments they receive with the quality community here. And without a way to share my thoughts it is frustrating and frankly wouldnt be as interesting to read i guess.

    thanks.

    1. James Allen says:

      This one got through. No sign of others in Spam folder

  59. A.B.Normal says:

    Most of it Rodger. But it is too bad that older drivers, or those from another less technologically advanced series, are at a distinct disadvantage even if their skills are equal. I miss the days when a Mario Andretti or Mark Donohue could do a one-off drive and be competitive. (Yeah, I’m old.) It would have been fun to see a S. Loeb get in an F1 car.

  60. Richard says:

    Yes so Vettel gets his back to back driver championships, and Red Bull get back to back constructors. As a team they deserve it as they are doing almost everything right. If however next year for some unforseen reason roles were reversed with say McLaren having a really dominant car its possible Vettel would become a bit desperate rather like Hamilton because suddenly he can’t win anymore and that must be quite a dent to anyones ego. After succesive years of an under performing car at McLaren Hamilton has become disillusioned.

    1. Peter Freeman says:

      I don’t think Mclaren are underperforming as much as Lewis is… Yes he is frustrated, but to be behind the other drivers in 5th place is not a reflection on his car, even if 1st has been unattainable.

      1. Richard says:

        Well the last time McLaren had a car capable of winning the championship was in 2008 with some uneven cars by their standards in between. The 2011 car has probably been the best since that time, but with Hamilton I think the rot had already set in. To be fair McLaren have made some fairly basic mistakes that have cost Hamilton some potential wins along with his own. He didn’t drive badly at Singapore and even his contact with Massa was hardly any more than a racing incident. Un fortunately anything concerning Hamilton is jumped on by the media, and while Hamilton has made mistakes he certainly has been most unfortunate as well. Let’s also not forget other drivers such as Button have benefitted from his misfortune. He’ll be back for sure. While the current regulations and tyres may improve the spectacle for TV we are not watching proper F1 racing as it is so artifical when drivers are so easily overtaken when their tyres go off. – Farcicle actually!

      2. James Allen says:

        His peaks have been high, eg Germany but a lot of missed opportunities this year

  61. Richard says:

    There is no doubt that Vettel is able to acheive the fastest times in his Red Bull this year, and so many times this year this had gained him pole position and from there he has stayed in front. But does that make hime the “best driver”? I think not; put him back in the pack where he has to race and he is far from the best. As to who is the best the candidates include Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Schumacar. Alonso and Hamilton score highly on flair, while Button’s race craft can deliever results from nothing. Schumacer is probably yhe most complete driver, but he is just a littel past his best – maybe it was a mistake to make a comeback.

  62. AlexD says:

    Ecclestone is spending holidays with Vettel, I have seen them together in Croatia. He was and is Vettel’s great supporter. Above everything, Ecclestone doesn’t care…only about money he cares. He will manipulate, change opinion, change things only to add more interest to the show.

    Vettel or Alonso? I think Alonso today….but in 2-3 years…it will be hard to pick one of them. I think Vettel is becoming a phenomenal driver that will be remembered….
    I wish Alonso could win at least one more title….but it willmnot be easy…well maybe he will in the next 5 years…

  63. Tim Parry says:

    Leave it to Bernie Ecclestone to state common knowledge like it went directly from God’s lips to his ear.

  64. Sergio says:

    Ecclestone is not a man, is an Enterprise. In this line, Bernie always talks thinking in business and the winner is the best of course. Say that, Fernando is the best driver of the grid. The Spaniard has been able to resist Lewis Hamilton & Ron Dennis & McLaren & Anthony Hamilton & Tony Scott Andrews – Charlie Whiting surrounded by “loving” Mosley & English Press maneouvres, all together in one whole season. Imagine his potential and try to compare other drivers in same situation. Now, Button could invite to his mechanichs to dinner, one thing so simple… Fernando couldn’t. Too many secrets on English papers to raise up one driver, one hope, one share, one product: the “Schumacher successor”, a spoiled kid with a big potential but many bad advisers and too many parents as well. For example, you can see now how the “lobby” is more interested to focussed on Massa outbursts before than Lewis driving style. Logical psycho war media. You can imagine why McLaren & Fernando has lost their chances to be dominator team thanks by Dennis dream. About Vettel, he is a good example of German attittude: everything under control & good concentration. In this operational Webber did his role as Marko would have”guessed”.

  65. Really says:

    I think most of you are aware that you are fooling yourself when it comes to Vettel. I saw his raw potential when he was stepping in for BMW. I was amazed when he won for Torro Rosso and stunned when he finished the 2010 season the way he did. But I still had questions, some great results and a good season doesn`t necessarily make a great driver.

    But Vettel has put all my doubts to rest this year. The way he is able to extract that great qualifying lap every single time and the way he is able to pull away from the rest every singel time shows his dedication and ability. It makes me wonder whether he has more to bring if hew has to..

    He now reminds me of a combination of Senna and Prost. He`s got the raw one-lap speed of Senna mixed with the ability to analyse a race and take care of the car that Prost had. A combination like that is indeed bad news for his competitors. I actually think he`s allready now more calculated and tactically skilled than Alonso when it comes to races. And he`s only 24..
    I also think he`s very capable in the mechanical department when it comes down to give input when developing a car. You have to remember that Torro Rosso never won a race before Vettel, or since.. Red Bull also started their winning ways with the arrival of Vettel..

    I think it`s gonna take a massive effort and dedication on behalf of Vetttel`s competitors to prevent hin from becoming dominant in the sport for years to come. We must also remember that the competitors we are talking about for the time being are older than Vettel..

    But what do i know, in a couple of years there might come a new “wonder-child” that`s gonna make the present crop look like dinosaurs. That`s the name of the game..

  66. Andy H says:

    More [mod] from a man who is full of his own importance. If it wasnt for Fota this man would have a free reign, we know what that means and who benefits at cost of all other parties who provide the show whilst the select greedy few get richer.
    Ecclestone has done his bidding, made his fortune and should now depart leaving others to run the sport as a sport, rather than a get rich scheme, for the benefit of all concerned parties, not just the commercial rights holder.

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