Some say he’s going to win as many titles as Schumacher, others say he’s still improving as a driver, while others say it’s all the car and Vettel cannot overtake.
No 24 year old driver has achieved more – two world titles, 19 wins, 27 pole positions.
And now Fernando Alonso has challenged him to a contest to see who can be the youngest ever three times world champion – one of them is likely to beat Ayrton Senna’s record of 31 years of age. Alonso has been waiting five years for his third title..
Whatever the hype, the hyperbole or the criticisms swirling around this morning, the fact of the matter is that Sebastian Vettel is now a two times world champion, the youngest of the nine drivers who have achieved that feat.
And he thoroughly deserves it. He wanted to clinch it in style yesterday with victory in Suzuka, but when it became clear that the Red Bull’s tyre wear was going to make that impossible and Jenson Button had him covered, pragmatism took over and he settled for a place on the podium and a smaller trophy to clutch as he celebrated his historic achievement.
Many F1 fans don’t like Vettel; they don’t like the finger he waves around when he comes first in a qualifying session or race, they don’t like the fact that he has the fastest car when he hasn’t struggled enough in his early life to deserve it – the dreaded “entitlement” argument so regularly trotted out against Lewis Hamilton. And they don’t like some of the things he does on the track like the chop on Button at the start yesterday, or the whirly finger “loony” gesture after he’d collided with team mate Mark Webber in Turkey last year.
I do like Vettel. I like him very much as a person and as a racing driver and I respect him, because he is true to his craft. He’s the perfect combination of fast, intelligent, focused and hard working. Apply those criteria to the other drivers on the grid and see how many tick four boxes. Chances are the ones that do will be the most successful, because that’s the way it’s always been at the top level of F1.
This season has gone pretty much as expected. Coming off the back of last season, the signs were all there that the confidence which that unlikely title win in Abu Dhabi gave to both Vettel and the technical team at Red Bull, would mean that they would come flying out of the traps in 2011. The fast car they produced gave them pole position at every race, but winning the races has proved more difficult, as McLaren and Ferrari were able to challenge them at most places on race day, with a few exceptions. The rivals beat them six times, but it could easily have been more.
I don’t think he’ll match Schumacher’s seven titles, because he’s around at the same time as some formidable talents and the likelihood is that McLaren and Ferrari will get their act together soon and build a car which can fight for the title. When they do, both teams have the drivers to take on Vettel.
It may be next year, it may be 2013, but it will happen.
Some fans believe he would not beat Alonso or Hamilton if they were his team mate. Maybe, but it’s a moot point; we’ll never know because it makes no sense for a team to try an experiment like that when F1 history shows how counterproductive it is to employ two drivers with a voracious appetite to win.
In the meantime, it’s time for fans of every persuasion to set aside any partisan feelings and accept that this year Vettel has been superb. He’s hardly put a foot wrong all year; a few crashes in practice sessions, the spin on the last lap in Montreal.
But he’s also given us some great moments; several perfect laps in qualifying, the pass on Alonso in Monza among them.
F1 is about the best of the best, in every department, “competing to win”, as Senna used to put it. And few people have a real understanding of what it takes to win in F1.
While rivals have missed opportunities, missed a trick on car design or botched pit stops, the fact of the matter is that this year, Vettel and his Red Bull team have given a text book example of how it should be done.