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Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and the upstart brand in Formula 1
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Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and the upstart brand in Formula 1
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Jun 2011   |  11:48 am GMT  |  321 comments

Although he has started less than half as many races, Sebastian Vettel has now equalled Fernando Alonso’s 20 pole positions, has passed Lewis Hamilton’s pole tally easily and with his win on Sunday he equalled Hamilton’s total of 14 wins.

The events of Monaco weekend showed that this is all rather hard to take for Hamilton, as it was for Alonso before him. The three men stand head and shoulders above the other F1 drivers in terms of their quality and their dominance of the sport.

The man and the message (Red Bull)

This year Vettel has the faster car and has made good use of it so far, but Hamilton and Alonso have challenged when the car has allowed them to. Hamilton won in China and Alonso was lining up to attack in Monaco when the race was stopped. The second half of the season should see both the older men coming back at Vettel. Hamilton had targeted Monaco and even more so this weekend’s race in Montreal as events he could win, given the relative performance of their cars.

It’s all about succession- or rather premature succession. When Ayrton Senna died and Alain Prost retired, there was an obvious candidate to step up and become F1’s reference point: Michael Schumacher.

And he held that role comfortably for over a decade, fending off the likes of Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and even Mika Hakkinen. When Fernando Alonso came along and took two world titles in the mid 2000s, Schumacher knew his time had come.

Alonso was confronted almost immediately by Lewis Hamilton, who in turn now finds himself contemplating a younger man in a team which is on top of its game. Vettel is cutting up F1 and grabbing the headlines, with a world title last year and surely another one this year – with five wins in six races already.

As I stood on the quayside on Saturday night in Monaco, surveying the huge Red Bull floating motorhome with over 1,000sq metres of floor space on three levels plus a swimming pool, it struck me how powerful has become the upstart brand in F1, represented by Vettel, and symbolic of what Red Bull has done generally in Formula 1. They came in as the challenger brand and now they are the benchmark. They are now entitled to put their mouth where their money is.

A few years ago, when they bought the shambolic Jaguar team, based in Milton Keynes, they struggled to get a hand hold on the greasy pole to victory. When they rolled up in Monaco with the floating gin palace it seemed so brash.

But since hiring design genius Adrian Newey and with the arrival of Vettel in 2009, they’ve been a constant factor at the front and now it is established teams like Ferrari which are buckling under the pressure and whose motorhomes seem modest.

Ferrari’s sacking of technical director Aldo Costa was a hugely symbolic moment – it spoke volumes that an energy drink company is doing it better than the doyenne of Formula 1.

The sport embodies the theory of evolution on fast forward; the survival of the fittest and the most fitting. Ferrari have survived over 60 years and their energy and ability to adapt is admirable, but in sport no-one is immune to changes.

Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz has often said that he has no plans to sell his company or float it on the stockmarket. “It’s not a question of money,” he argues. “It’s a question of fun.”

Despite his success and his youth, Vettel looks to me like he’s become far more serious this year. He now has the target on his back, but more than that he’s keen to prove that he’s not just winning because of his car, he’s winning because he’s maturing into Hamilton and Alonso’s equal. Not everyone in F1 buys that yet, but wins like Spain and Monaco, both achieved under intense pressure, are showing a real depth to Vettel’s talent.

The 2011 season is a journey for the young German; a journey away from being the upstart brand towards being the establishment.

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Marty McSuperFly

They kind of seem like a modern Benetton. Sometimes they seem as if they try too hard to be cool though. But, all the best to them, and their deserved success.



On another note, i don't think that Red Bull are the faster can in race trim. Qualy is where they dominate.


"i don’t think that Red Bull are the faster can[sic] in race trim"

Is that why Mark Webber has 4 fastest laps out of the first 6 races? Go figure.


I personally think if you removed Newey this would make a far bigger difference than removing Vettel.

I don't think you can say the same for Alonso at Ferrari or Hamilton at Mclaren in favour of their chief designers.

If Hamilton wants to prove something why doesn't he just sign for RedBull.


Stupid argument.

Why penalise Vettel's ability because he has a better designer?

If Newey was at McLaren or Ferrari then he would be the most important person at those teams too.


I'm not so sure that one can say either Newey or Vettel is more important.

Last year, Alonso beat Webber in the championship. The year before Vettel split the Brawns while Webber was 4th. In '08, Vettel won a race and pole for STR while both Red Bull drivers failed to do either.

Yes, without Newey, Red Bull likely wouldn't have a superior chassis. However, without Vettel, Red Bull wouldn't have a drivers championship and far fewer wins and poles. I'd say they are as equal to the team's success as Brawn and Schumacher were back in their day.


Had Vettel been replaced by someone 2 tenths slower in 2010, Webber would have had pole to flag victories in Australia, Korea, Suzuka and Valencia, as well as Brazil once he was past Hulkenberg.

The RB6 was more important than the drivers last year, though I give full credit to Vettel for winning a championship with a very competitive teammate in Webber, something that can't be said for Hamilton's championship in 2008 or either of Alonso's championships.

Oh and the difference between Alonso and Webber is a simple as Vettel costing Webber 10 points in Turkey and Massa gifting Alonso 7 in Germany.


You can say the same for any successful team. Behind every charismatic champion is a team of unknown, bald-headed, near-sighted geniuses making him look that way.


Why would Red Bull sign him when they've already got Vettel? What would be the point? I doubt they're interested, unless Vettel decides to move elsewhere.


Why wouldn't you, they're the two best drivers not tied into a 5 year contract.


Here we go again "my favorite driver wins because of his skill only, the other drivers because they have the fastest car".

Alonso and Hamilton won their championships because they were driving in the best car that season overall. So did Senna, Schumacher, Prost, Fangio, Stewart, you name them. Period.

When they didn't have the best car, they did not win the championship.

I know it is very boring to state, but F1 is 95% the car, 5% the driver. The best car that season wins the championship, 99% of the time, see the stats. The few times it didn't is because the driver screwed up (see Hamilton 2007) or because it was a very unreliable car (see McLaren 2005).

So because a driver is in the best car is not an argument you can use against him.


In 2008 the Ferari and Mclaren were pretty evenly matched across the season but because of the wet weather advantage Mclaren had I'd even say Mclaren edged it in the overall car stakes that year. Senna had the best cars when he won his titles, the 2 drivers that didn;t have the best cars when they won the title were Schumacher in 1994, 1995, 2000, 2003 and Alonso in 2005 and 2006.

Saying all that surely people ca see Vettel is the best driver in the world slightly ahead of Alonso now.




It is widely believed Ferrari had the best car in 2008 but it was very close.

In 2007 Lewis didnt screw up as many say, if it hadnt been for the "gearbox" problem he would have scored the points required easily in Interlagos. After spygate there was less than no chance of a Mclaren driver winning the title that year.

Even in 2006 and 2005 Alonso arguably had to fight a rearguard action most of the season with a slower car.

Vettel is now on Alonso and Hamilton's level, its just a shame Mclaren and Ferrari cannot make a real fight out of it.


No, simply saying that Newey brings more to RedBull than Vettel on balance and in my opinion.

That doesn’t mean what Vettel brings isn’t immense or more than either Hamilton or Alonso would if they where there.


Yes, but in the past the cars weren't developed so much over the season so the lead driver in the dominant car only had to beat his teammate.

What we've had recently is fortunes (car-based) changing over the course of the season (2007 and 2008 Macca strong with Fezza picking up later in the years, 2009 went from Brawn to RB, 2010 was RB consistent with Macca and Fezza coming and going). This year appears to be going a similar way, with Macca and Fezza coming on strong again - but they're likely to take points off each other and because Webber hasn't shared much of the booty with Vettel so far I think it's too late for anyone to catch up with Seb. 2009 revisited.


Actually when Hamilton won in 2008 it is widely believed that Ferrair had the best car that year. I remember seeing a quote somewhere ( I believe from Ferrair) that they were "driver limited" or some such


Widely believed? No, he had the best car overall that season, fact.

The last few races Ferrari had the edge yes, but over the entire season it was McLaren.



History proves it. McLaren and Williams were the teams to beat when Newey was there.


Newey is not invincible, so was Mclaren the team to beat from 2000-2004 when he was designing their cars? Also did Newey win any titles from 2006-2008 with Redbull before Vettel joined? Didnt it take a miraculous Monza win in a Torro Rosso from Vettel to get him the status as a top driver? If Vettel wasn't in the Redbull this year I don't know maybe Hamilton would be leading the title race, also if Vettel wasn't in the Redbull last year Alonso would be world champion.

Newey is good but don't discredit Vettel, the boy is the best driver out there.


The reason Red Bull became the team to beat was because of the regulation changes at the start of 2009, not because Vettel


If vettel wasn't there last year then webber would have won the wdc given the points both took off each other. Webber is a constant. The current rbr is like the Williams back then unbeatable

Vettels mOnza win is exaggerated. His teammate best known in f1 for being dumped mid season for the youngest f1 driver alguarsuari as well as being beaten by rookie buemi managed in that monza 2nd row on the grid! And then a mech failure stopped him. It wasn't amazing by any standard. A situation presented itself and he took it.

What beat newey in 00-04 was a guy called rory byrne who also did schmachers double benetton wdc


Yes, but isn't that more Newey's merit than Vettel's demerit?


Certainly @ Newey's merit

Certainly not @ More Newey's merit than Vettel's demerit

Vettel isn't a top class driver. Being fast is what F1 drivers are suppose to be, that alone don't make them good.

He can't overtake, he cries and sulks like a baby (Hungary, for his own offence), he crashes into others and teammates and puts the blame on others instead (Turkey, which also shows he has no sense in driving properly).

These makes him good? C'mon!

Wouldn't be sorry to see him swap places with Kubica and sit out for a season or two.


+ 2,

sorry, I couldn't see the "like" button anywhere, but this will do





Very good article although Hamilton has won 15 GPs. I agree that Vettel has improved a lot this year.

However, the big difference is Adrian Newey in my opinion. Would it be fair to say his abilities are head and shoulders above any other designer, aerodynamicist, etc? In the 30 years or so I have been following the sport I have never known a driver to be so superior to his counterparts.


What about Jenson Button? He has outperformed Hamilton on several occasions.

The difference between Vettel and the others James mentions(and I would add Jenson Button to that list) is that they have all won races which they shouldnt have. That is they have out performed the car. We havnt seen this from Vettel(yet).


I really don't know why people forget about his amazing '08 victory. Vettel proved himself as a great driver in many occasions, it is a bit unfair to think that his car does everything.

I bet that if in 1988 internet blogs/forums existed, we would see the same kind of comments about Senna.


I agree, it's very unfair to say he cannot yet be regarded in the same league as Hamilton and Alonso.

Youngest ever driver, youngest man ever to lead a race, youngest man ever to score points, youngest man ever on pole, youngest man ever to win a race, youngest ever world champion.

Say what you like but he's clearly a top top driver, whether you want to believe it or not. He may not be as flamboyant as a Lewis Hamilton but he doesn't exactly need to be does he? Fair enough the Red Bull is incredible in quali trim, but he still has to go out and put in the lap which he does time after time after time! The concentration is incredible! Most people rate Webber pretty highly and he is nowhere close in the same machinery, looks a broken man. If you can stick her on pole and lead flag to flag who really gives a monkey's about how many overtakes you can pull off?

Most proper F1 fans appreciate these skills as well as those possessed by the aggressive drivers and really enjoy seeing how it all pans out over the season. I really find it difficult to understand the need for all these new gimmicks, the true racing was what we had before and I don't think it will be too long before we realise that.


What about his win in the Toro Rosso in the wet then?


Monza in the Torro Rosso???


Bourdais finished 4th!


We saw that at Monza 08.


When Button moved to McLaren, most people thought Hamilton would blow him away. He hasn't, and Button has surprised a few observers, but I think you still have to say Hamilton is better.

Button had a lot of years in the wilderness.



I agree that Hamilton is clearly the faster driver but he isnt the complete package. Button is smarter and doesnt lose his head. Thats why at the end of the season he will again be right up there with Hamilton.


While I'm still uncertain about Vettel being able to match Alonso's or Hamilton's consistency I see it rather impossible to outperform a car that is performing on every occasion. And that's not Seb's fault at all.


They both have 15 wins.


As much as i beleive Vettel is very quick, i dont think hes in a different league as most commentators and pundits make out,

If they had identical cars over the season then i think it would be

1. Alonso

2. Hamilton

3. Vettel

I also think in spain his victory wasnt quite as immense as everyone made out, sure the Mclaren was quicker in the middle part of the lap, but thats the bit where its pretty much impossible to overtake without the benifit of better tyres.

With Vettels downforce in the last corner it was all to easy for him i think.


i agree 🙂




Staggering ow many people seek to self delude and believe what they want, to suit their favoured driver, repeating the same old lines week in week out hoping it can do what their heroes cannot.

Lewis beat Alonso, and more importantly did so in his Rookie season. Everybody knows Rookies get quicker and more race experienced, Hamilton would properly destroy Alonso now. Added to which, consider the unbearable pressure ramped upon his shoulders, it showed how scared many were of his sheer abilities, especially Alonso and a a lot of Spanish Journalists suddenly making a fat living off writing Alonso the Invincible stories...

He is still literally in a class of his own when overtaking, all the other drivers fear the Yellow and Silver in their mirrors.


Good point, Massa and Maldonado probably fear Lewis, when they see him in their mirrors.


Massa and Maldonado don't fear him.


Not if ham keeps driving as he did in Monaco 🙂


Yes, everybody knows Rookies get quicker and more race experienced over time. However, I think Hamilton's best performance was in 2007. He was fast & consistent. Now he's fast & erratic.


@Oliver Oh really, in equal cars, Alonso would beat Hamilton???

Did you miss the 2007 season or what? And remember in 2007, Alonso was battling an immature rookie

Until Alonso has an equivalent of Silverstone 2008 or China 2010, or Germany 2008 or Spa 2008 or Turkey 2010 or Canada 2010 or Australia 2010 oh meh the list goes on... Hamilton will always come out top hands down


I'm a massive Lewis fan but come on, Lewis is only marginally ahead of Button and makes way too many mistakes compared to Alonso. Also, if you're referring to 2007, I would suggest you look back at what actually happened that year.


I'm bored with this argument... its time to move on.


Dead right.


maybe u missed last season were in a worse car fernando beat hamilton and almost won the championship. mclaren beat alonso in 2007 not hamilton.


I saw Alonso go from race after race making mistakes last year in the first half of the season.


And he still lost the title because he haven't found a way to pass rookie Petrov in mediocre Renault. I'm far from naming Alonso overrated, but this task isn't something f.e. Hamilton would even care about.


They had same number of points at the end of the season in spite of Alonso being unwanted in his own team for at least a half of the season. Famous Ron Dennis saying "WE are not fighting Ferrari, WE are fighting Alonso"...


Macca and Fezza both had ups and downs last season. In 2007 Macca hampered Hamilton for half the season, then would have done the same for Alonso in the second half (but couldn't - FIA in the pits, remember?) Hamilton 1, Alonso 0...

Right now, all three in an identical Red Bull, I reckon it's Ham - Alo - Vet over a single race, but maybe not necessarily over a whole season...


That's the reason that the team managers voted Alonso as "best driver" last year.

Hands down.


@Galapago555 Yeah Alonso was voted the driver of the season last year for unlike Mclaren, the Ferrari upgrades did work & so he was able to give the unreliable Red Bulls a run for their money.

And who did the managers vote as the driver of the season 2009, uh-huh! It's all relative depending on the tools one's given


Red Bull dominance = Adrian Newey with his hands untied.


Vettel's doing a superb job beating a talented guy like Webber


JA wrote: "...it spoke volumes that an energy drink company is doing it better than the doyenne of Formula 1."

Ah, but it's not really an "energy drink company", is it.

It's The Team That Has Adrian Newey™.


Fantastic article as always - fantastic insight into the mindset of these legends?

Lewis is surely looking good at Montreal but after Monaco I have learned to not doubt Seb or Fernando. I just can't work out how that Red Bull has so much downforce yet still does well at quick tracks. Surely Red Bull will struggle this weekend?


it's the high downforce - WITHOUT the drag, that's the genius.


Slower on the straights but faster in the high speed corners.


We'd have seen the same dominance last year if it wasn't for Sebs car being unreliable for the majority of the first half of last season.

Ok, so we know he (Seb) can win from the front... but can he come through to win from the pack? We've seen both Hamilton and Alonso (and others) do so... but not with Seb, thus I'm not convinced (yet) that he's quite on a par with those two.

I do think he's upped his game significantly, some of which may have come from the confidence of being a World Champ.


Well, in Spain he won without being on pole. If I remember correctly he was fourth at the start then he managed to win. I can't remember any guy who won from the middle in the past four seasons. The gap between the f1 cars is not that big anymore.


Yep I agree with this: Seb has had the luxury of pole or near-pole starts thanks to a great car and his admittedly great Qualifying abilities. But I too would like to see more of how good he is coming through the pack from the back before deciding how good he is!


It's pretty hard to have tonight through the pack and win when you rarely start off the front row. Brazil 2009 was a good one in recent memory of Seb, recovering from a puncture to finish in good points in silverstone 2010, yeah he pieced up Sutil but according to all the Hamilton fans after Monaco this year, clearly sutil should have parked it in the gravel and waved him through.

Who people think deserves the championship or if it is the car vs is tithe driver is 99.99999% decided by who your favorite is and how they are doing currently.


As much as Vettel is clearly as fast on an open road as Hamilton or Alonso, I'd not put him on the same level yet. His racecraft was poor last year, making a lot of clumsy moves, and he's had a car that is phenomenal for the last 2 years. Alonso and Hamilton have shown, in like for like cars, that they are the 2 best drivers. Vettel hasn't had to show that yet. It's all very well leading from the front...


Vettel's clumsy moves of 2010 are being repeated by Hamilton in 2011.


Hamilton crashed into more people and made more mistakes in corners (letting rivals pass) the last 2 seasons than Vettel did in his entire F1 career. Who is clumsy?


It'll be interesting to see what Hamilton took away from his Monaco trial. Part was the team's fault, sure - but a lot of it was self inflicted. The red mist got the better of him. He needs maturity and needs it fast.


I take you're point about the crashing, (I trust you have your facts correct. However, As a proportion of the overtakes attempted I don't think you can argue with Hamilton's prowess, and that of Alonso also. Vettel hasn't had to do it because he's been at the front in the faster car most of the time. I'm just yet to be convinced that vettel is more than just a guy that drives a car fast. Strikes me that when the chips are down, he messes up (Spa and Turkey 2010 spring to mind)?


Vettel in mid-2010 was indeed the "crash kid" as McLaren put it. However, the poise with which he got it together and grabbed the WDC in 2010 was quite a transformation. The 2011 Vettel is a radically new and improved edition.


Got to get to the front first though.

The guy is class, at the moment he is performing better than or at the level of Hamilton and Alonso. Whether he can keep that up remains to be seen, but James is right these three (and Robert Kubica) are a level above the rest.


He's in the trick car. Of course he's starting at the front (DRS in the corners during qually) - all he's needing to do is beat Webber. Hamilton and Alonso would certainly be beating Webbo too.


totally agree on kubica. lets hope he comes back as good as ever.

George Shamtani

I see this quite differently to you James. In my opinion it is Vettel and Alonso that are the known quantities in the sport not Lewis. This might sound bold but the point I'm trying to make is that they've both proved their quality in lesser teams. Historically, drivers like Coulthard and Villeneuve have flattered to decieve in big teams. There's no doubt Hamilton is at a higher level but his gilded journey into F1 has sheltered him from proving his quality in the same was as the true greats.

There is an established pattern that all the great drivers have followed. Senna, Schumacher, Alonso and now Vettel, and this pattern is to get a pole position and a win in the second year of racing with an average car. Then to follow this by winning the world championship within 4 or 5 seasons.

McLaren have a vested interest in Lewis and to judge anyone against him whilst he is there is difficulty. And I feel sorry for Alonso becuase he didn't have time to establish a relationship with McLaren before being thrown up against their Protégé. People tend to forget that he was at a technical disadvantage because of the change in tyres (Kimi had this problem too). In my opinion through the year he grew stronger than Hamilton and looked very much the faster driver near the end (putting China and Brazil to one side).


Vettel may not have been gifted the A team straight away, but make no mistake, he has been groomed the same way Hamilton has.

The 'ungroomed' drivers on the grid include Alonso and Button both of whom drove for poor teams before being given a winning chance. Longer for Button of course.

If RBR hadn't come good, then Vettel would probably still be in a Torro Rosso right now nudging the rear wheels of Mercedes at the race start.


Good point. I often wonder if being the McLaren chosen one might even be a disadvantage to Hamilton in the long run. He never had to serve an apprenticeship in a poor or midfield car the way Alonso and Vettel did. There has to be a huge amount of knowledge to be gained in a situation like that. We might have seen some of the consequences at Monaco.


Hamilton did have to struggle in a midfield team in 2009. He won a race.

And he was a rookie when he went head to head with Alonso and equalled him. Alonso was quicker in the middle of the season at Monza and Spa, not the end. Towards the end of the season Hamilton won in Japan and got pole in China.

I love to see two great drivers in the same team. We'll never see Hamilton and Alonso together so I hope Hamilton goes to Red Bull at some point. Or Vettel to Ferrari.


@George Shamtani Oh so Hamilton dragging a very poor Mclaren in 2009 didn't convince you then on Hammy's quality as a driver?

As for Alonso in 2007, yes fans always put out numerous excuses/conspiracies why their drivers didn't win but that doesn't change the fact Alonso was a two times champion who had been in F1 for 5 seasons & yet got beaten by a rookie


They finished on equal points, to me beaten means at least 1 point more (or even half a point if there is downpour and stoppped race).


Lets look at it this way, if the points are tied then you have

to rank the drivers base on number of podiums so that is a form of points which isn't presented on paper. I dont like Lewis but yes he did beat Alonso as he ranked 2 and Alonso ranked three. If there wasn't Kimi, Lewis would have been the champion not Alonso.


Hamilton spent the first half of the season as a midfield runner. What was his average grid position pre-Hungary? What was his average finishing position in a race before then?

McLaren made a significant performance gain at Hungary, and the car was competitive for the remainder of the season.


Georges point is absolutely valid.

In recent memory, and by this I mean post 1980, Hamilton was afforded the best opportunity to become a world champion of those drivers who have become world champion.

Alan Jones, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Prost, Senna, Mansell, Schumacher, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hakkinen, Button, Vettel: they all had starts in teams that were not designated winners.

Perhaps the only other drivers who were afforded the same circumstances were Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve who were both given immediate births in exceptionally strong Williams cars (although Hill had raced in Brabham for a few events prior to Williams).

And? Hill won in 1994, in his second year within the acknowledged best car, as did Villeneuve. While I will not assert that Hamilton's McLaren was as dominant, the parallels are there.

Make no mistake, Hamilton is a great driver. He has shown his ability often enough for this to be without question. However, throughout his career he has enjoyed the best ride. Go and check his career history. When he moved through the lower Formula, almost without exception he moved into the acknowledged championship winning car. He did the same when moving to McLaren.

I'm not even going to bother adding to the Alonso vs. Hamilton argument. This has become far too emotionally charged. Hamilton's ability to match Alonso in his first year, irrespective of team shenanigans, was impressive. However, it doesn't imply he is a better driver.


Just wanted to say excellent post, surely deserving of some recognition.

Great points covering Hamiltons career progression compared to other world champion drivers.

young slinger

Ah, but, Hamilton (and now also Button) have to race consistantly against McLaren's strategy callers, so bad that they cost him the championship in his first year and both of them higher finishes, not to mention podium places.


I totally agree with those who say Adrian Newey is a bigger asset to the team than Sebastian Vettel although he is obviously a very fast driver.

One thought comes to me on the succession of drivers you mentioned, Senna, Schumaker, Alonso, Hamilton. These men all had masses of fans and at it seemed masses of detractors. It makes for excellent sport and drives a brilliant good v evil storyline.

However I'm really not aware of many Vettel fans, not of the passionate my boy can do no wrong and your boy is bad type. He's just a little bit Prost isn't he?


Prost had plenty of detractors! But I generally agree. I like drivers who take it to the edge of the rules and beyond - Senna, Schumacher, Hamilton. I don't mind if they do crazy things like park at Rascasse because it's that drive that makes them great. I heard Martin Brundle say that Senna used to put his car in positions where it was up to the other driver whether there'd be an accident or not. Seems to me that's what Hamilton was doing in Monaco (although the Maldonado one was a bit clumsy). Given the trouble Senna had with the authorities even in those days, he'd have felt just as persecuted as Hamilton if he'd raced in these over-stewarded races. He'd have had a drive through every other lap. But Vettel is never in these situations cos he's generally in P1. I'm sure he's very good but, like you say, it's difficult to get worked up about him.


That is something I have also pondered over, why is it that Vettel doesn't seem to have the fanbase the other drivers his equal have?

I'm a big supporter of any driver doing well, so as well as Hamilton and Alonso, I also highly rate Button, Webber, Kubica (obviously based on last seasons form), & Rosberg.

Funny thing is even Rosberg seems to have a bigger fan base then Vettel....it must have something to do with Vettel having gone into such a dominant car at such a relatively young age, maybe people can't relate to him? Or maybe it's X-Factor that he lacks (which one would surely need to be apart of the RBR team?).

It is a doozy of a question though, one I don;t quite understand.


Well he's not been around that long for a start. I think he's pretty popular in Germany


"...a run of bad luck or Ham and Alo coming back to pip him to this year’s title might push him over to the dark side."

- what do you call all the car failures he had in the first half of last year? Or that heartbreaking engine blowup in Korea when he was a few laps from winning and taking the championship lead. And yet he kept it all together, didnt say a harsh word about the team, and asserted himself over the next 2 races to win the championship. Stunning stuff from anyone, let alone a 23-year-old.



Just because RTL make him a big deal does not mean Vettel IS a big deal. Germans (like any state I guess) simply love to have a winner in there house. a dominant force in his or her field. It just makes them feel good and more to the point it makes them feel better than the others.

Vettel has been around long enough for any type of fan-base to evolve proper. He simply does not polarize enough (at all) and if and when he does it is solely because of the sheer dominance of the RB7 (Newey). Vettel is bland and honestly lacks sparkle. Other than being this really young kid in a bloody fast car there is not much to him for a petrol head to look for. He is extremely smart carries a wise man's head on his shoulders - something anyone listening will have notice when he was giving interviews at the age of 19. But that's it really. Vettel is boring to look at when standing still and his finger STINKS !!! It's completely different story once he downs his visor.


And he hasn't had reason to show his nasty side yet - Turkey last year was the closest we've had. Now he's tasted life at the top a run of bad luck or Ham and Alo coming back to pip him to this year's title might push him over to the dark side. When it happens, some fans will stay with him, others will shift away and we'll have the same kind of love-hate polarized support we see for Ham and Alo (and Schuey). Rosberg is similar at the mo - everyone has a kind of 'he's a good bloke' neutral view of him.

Brent McMaster

I'll be more convinced of Vettel being the complete package when he is consistently beating Alonso and Hamilton in comparable equipment. He has had 2 years in a supremely dominant car; it's alot easier to win from the front row, which is all he has really shown so far.


I do agree with you and many of the other fans that Vettel has yet to show what he can do if he has to fight through traffic from near the back of the grid. Hard fights like that are what made/make Schumacher, Alonso and Hamilton so special. Heck even Webber and Barricello to name a few more have been able to this (in great cars). That said I don't think his car dominance is quite as large as many let on, of late he hasn't been waltzing away at the front, he has had to defend which he is very good at.


Can you give me one race where hamilton or alonso won fighting from the back?


Alonso has 20 poles and 26 wins. Simple arithmetics says he definitely had some wins from back. Here are some graphs to illustrate it:



Hamilton: 2008 British GP won from 4th.

2008 German GP had to pass Kovalainen, Piquet and Massa for the lead

2011 Chinese GP had to pass lots of cars for the lead (including vettel)

2008 Monaco GP won from 3rd, including a recovery from a puncture

2009 Hungarian GP won from 4th.

also great recovery drives like Brazil 2009 (from 17th to 3rd) and Italy 2008 (from 15th to 7th)


Not Hamilton or Alonso, but Raikkonen won from quite far back in Suzuka 2005, and I think we all agree he was not quite the complete package (had the speed, lacked the motivation and leadership). Before 2011 that was my favourite race I had ever seen live.

StallionGP F1

I think Kimi Raikkonen is the only person to have done it so all dis coming through the field is a myth for Ham and Alonso at best used by people who try to big up their drivers


How about Raikkonen, Suzuka, 2005? P17 on the grid, going on to win the race. Legendary!


Vettel won the 2010 Malaysian GP from 3rd on the grid, which is the furthest back he's won from to date.

Hamilton has twice won from 4th, in Hungary 2009 and Britain 2008.

Excluding Singapore 2008 for obvious reasons, Alonso won at the Nurburgring in 2005 from 6th on the grid. However, he was aided by three of the cars in front of him tangling at the start, then Kimi Raikkonen's tyre/suspension failing on the last lap, so hardly a battle through the field. His best win on merit would probably be Japan 2006, but even then he probably wouldn't have won if Schumacher's engine hadn't failed.

Basically it's small potatoes between the three of them and I don't think you can accuse any of them of being able/unable to fight through the field to win because it just isn't possible in modern F1. Button's win in Hungary 06, in changable conditions and assisted by a timely safety car, is probably the closest we've had.


Its a massive misconception that Hamilton has won races fighting from the back of the grid, in fact he has yet to win races from the middle of the grid. I think the lowest he has won from is third!

Schumacher won many races where he stared from near the back of the grid, Senna's lowest position from which he won was 6th so again another misconception when people think he won races from the back of the grid.

Again Hamilton is good at overtaking but he has always had the fastest car in a straight line.

in 2007/2008 the Mclaren had the best top speed thanks to the Mercedes engine, in 2009 he had an even greater top speed advantage as he had the best engine and KERS! In 2010 The Mclaren was again the fastest top speed as it had the F duct before anyone else.

Vettel although has had an overall package, his car is one of the slowest in a straight line, making it very difficult in past seasons to overtake.


i think its only a matter of time before people have to accept that vettel is going to be around for a long long time winning races. im a ferrari and alonso fan but i think he has overtaken hamilton as the second best driver after hamiltons terrible performances in malaysia and monaco. not much to choose between vettel and alonso anymore. just think alonso's relentlessness if that is a word edges it for me.


One mixed race and Hamilton is bashed. Alonso is not 'performing' any better than Hamilton this year when looking at WDC points.

Whilst I have been impressed with Vettel's driving qualities from the front, I am still to be convinced by his overtaking qualties when driving from second or third row on the grid.


Perhaps you should recall the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, where he started the race one place behind Jenson Button and finished one place ahead. Much has been said about the quality of Button's drive that day.


Nah he is THE best car/driver combination at the moment which is like saying he is the best driver at the moment.


So your 'ranking system' consists of memory of the last two races only? Even Button's been your number 1 in recent times too then?..

Amazing how quickly the thread's topic can be lost by people regurgitating the same-old, same-old I hate him, I love him stuff.


I don't know why people rave about Vettel's victory in Monaco. To me it's a hollow victory, it was on a technicality. Up to the Red flag in Monaco I think it was a good drive by him, however due to the nature of Monaco we don't know whether Alonso and Button would have passed him. When the race was restarted and the leaders were on fresher tyres, it was pointless. Vettel's victory from there was artificial if you like.

But it seems whether you like Vettel and Red Bull Racing or not, something or someone is working overtime to keep that car at the front.


I agree with you Chris, I also think it was a hollow victory in Monaco because he was extremely lucky both in Quali and the Race.

Of course he's going to win with such an enormous advantage over his rivals. Its like giving a golfer a club that can hit the ball 20 yards further.

What I would like to see is Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso (and maybe even Schumacher) all in a Red Bull, and only then will be really able to assess the talent, everything else is just fluff.


Also we haven't seen Vettel do much overtaking of similarly matched cars. It's only lapping car's where we've seen him overtake mainly. Stick him at the back of the grid for one race and see what happens.

I also don't like, and I might be alone in this, how smug and at the same time shifty the Red Bull guys are defending aspects of their car. If they've got nothing to hide then drop the supreme secretive approach


guess his overtaking of a McLaren and a Ferrari in 1 lap in Spain doesnt count as overtaking of similarly matched cars.

And while Red Bull (like many other teams) sometimes shield components from view, it's to stop them being copied, not because they have anythg to hide. Every inch of the car is already subject to intense FIA scrutineering.


Nice article, but I do agree with Oliver with the actual order of driver ability.

Clearly Alonso has the worst car out of those three and yet is competing well, near the top of the standings too. Last year is further proof of this; he almost won the championship with a definitely inferior car.

Hamilton is a great driver to watch but the plastic coating which he had at the beginning of his career when he was winning everything is starting to vanish, and he is much more entertaining as a result. ...[mod]


Hello James, i have been a long time fan of yours, i bounght your schumacher book back in 1999, was and still is a great read.

Regarding Vettel, he is naturally quick, we saw this when he won at Monza for Torro Rosso and i truly believe he is better than Hamilton. Lewis is prone to errors and erratic driving and had it not been for glock giving him that place at the final corner in interlagos, he would never have claimed the WC.

Alonso however is another matter. He beat, although a handicapped, Schumacher Ferrari twice. For me that sets him apart and with a distinctly average Ferrari he took the scuderia within a race of the Title.

Hamilton is rather like Montoya, brash, bold and clumsy. Great for the spectacle but not a classy driver. Out of the 3 it is Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton.


Funny how memory can play tricks with people....

"Lewis is prone to errors and erratic driving"

Er... Vettel last year anyone? How many times did he crash?... into Webber... Button...

"...Glock giving him [Hamilton] that place at the final corner in interlagos"

Why would he have given him the place? Glock's team mate did a virtually identical lap time that lap because of the tyres they were on. There are so many what-ifs, you can't only count the ones at the end.

"Alonso however is another matter. He beat, although a handicapped, Schumacher Ferrari twice."

And which rookie was it again who beat Alonso in the same car?

For me that sets him [Alonso] apart and with a distinctly average Ferrari he took the scuderia within a race of the title."

The McLaren was WAY worse than the Ferrari last year, and Hamilton was still in it at the final race.

Vettel and Alonso are definitely great drivers; Alonso is as good as ever and Vettel is way better than he was last year. But don't write Hamilton off with dodgy memories.


There's no dodgy memory, Vettel is now the best driver in F1, Alonso was faster than Hamilton in 2007 apart from the last 2 race (I wonder why). Ron's quote "We were basically racing Fernando"


While Newey is no doubt a factor. Newey seemed to have lost his mojo for a few years there. I think Vettel is the real deal. Maybe not quite as fast as Lewis but NOW less error prone.

He has pulled 3 tenths on Mark Webber this year and I'd put 2 of those tenths done to confidence and the rest on Pirelli. Alonso is the slowest of the three for sure, but then so was Prost V Senna. Prost was my favourite all time and Senna was the fastest I ever seen, Lewis is the second.

Lewis has proved time and again that he can make a slow car go fast. Alonso needs all his ducks lined up behind him, just like Schue. Look at how Alonso was when Hamilton was his teammate , that showed his true colours, he is no faster now, Lewis is.


Alonso is slowest? come one didn't you watch 07 monaco qualifying, alonso with heavier fuel load and same year Monza, Australia, Malaysia, Germany, Bahrain, Spa, Silverstone. You'll get your answers. ..


It's easy to forget that it was his first year in F1, versus the double world champion, but would Alonso have behaved the way he did all year if thought he had Hamiltons measure..


I don't think Senna was faster than Prost. Experts say that Prost, when conditions and the car was perfect he was much faster. He had a very smooth driving style, like Clark. Senna, on the other hand, had a much better car contro. That is why he excelled undr difficukt conditions, like when raining, or when the car had a difficult handling. Rememer, there was times that Prsot was much faster( when everything was perfect) and Senna could do anything about him. Prost speed is proven when he 'murdered' Lauda, Rosberg and Mansell in the same team. However, his caracter was not one that could make fans love him


to me q3 in malaysia proved to me that vettel is the fastest driver out there at the minute. red bull did not expect to be on pole for that race and vettel stepped up and delivered when hamilton couldnt. i admit alonso isnt the fastest of the 3 but is the most consistent. witness japan 2008 for that.


Definitely agree. Vettel is the fastest at the moment and is an undoubted talent. In my opinion, Alo, Vet and Ham are equal, however, bar the uncharacteristic mistakes in the beginning of 2010 (and the majority of '07 though i dont really recall it that well), Alonso is generally the most consistent. That is what i think his biggest strength is. He can get the most out of the car consistently. But then again... the same could be said of Hamilton and Vettel.

I'm sure i had a point...


For all Team is important car than driver.Driver can little difference but only few drivers can little differences do it very well is it Hamilton,Alonso and Vettel at the moment.Rosberg maybe close but how is really that good nobody know.


It's not Vettel that is good, it's Adrian Newey.

Put Vettel into a Ferrari or McLaren alongside Alonso or Hamilton respectively, either of them would blow Vettel away.

Take China, Spain (at the start) and Monaco for example. Both Alonso and Hamilton were biting Vettel's heels on different occasions despite an inferior car. Vettel only managed it with a superior car. He'd be nowhere without Newey.

Look at Alonso/Hamilton. Inferior car, but can still grab the car by its neck and make it obey the driver's wish to be fast.

In terms of driving skills, Vettel is still nowhere near Alonso or Hamilton. Being fast is not enough in F1 (Remember Raikkonen? I'm a fan of him but I can't deny he has his own shortcomings). He has still yet to prove his overtaking abilities, and he is still too much of a baby (crying on the radio in Hungary 2010 for an offence as a result of his own mistake, and sulking at the end of the race by hitting the cone upon parking his car).

Hugely over-rated driver, full stop.

And with this Adrian Newey issue. As much as I admire him and his design skills, he is good, yes. However, there is one man who's beaten him many times in terms of car design though - Rory Bryne. A very underrated and low-profile designer in F1. Bring him back to Ferrari and see Adrian knocked down into second place.


You make good points, in a sub par car Vettel would be lose to FA and LH, but in the I thinfastest cat I think Vettel has the speed in clean air to beat either of them.


About "When Fernando Alonso came along and took two world titles in the mid 2000s, Schumacher knew his time had come".

As I see it, Ferrari car wasn't so perfect at 2005 and only at 2006 they started matching Renaul.

I think, theoretically, Schumacher could know that Alonso goes to Macca at 2007, before he diceded to step down and this means that he had a chance to beat Alonso in his new team in 2007, as some time is needed to adapt.

So, yes, the time had come but not right that season, from my point of view.


Agreed - the tyre war meant that Ferrari (Bridgestone) were nowhere next to Renault (Michelin) in 2005. Schumacher also had the beating of Alonso in 2006 - he won most of their head-to-head battles when the cars were relatively even (Imola, China) and really only the blown engine for Schumacher at Japan gifted Alonso the title.


No doubt a prime Schumacher is better than Alonso and Hamilton, but maybe Vettel can reach the dominant Schuey's level in the next few years, Hamilton can barely beat Button over a season.


Couldn't agree more. I think what James meant was that by the mighty Schumacher standards, he should have been able to win despite being handicupped. And may be it's partly because he lost a bit of his speed in his mid 30s.

But none the less, he produced some of the finest performances in the history of f1, most notably brazil 2006, it was so epic that it beat my all favorite film.


"The three men stand head and shoulders above the other F1 drivers in terms of their quality and their dominance of the sport"

There's this other driver... someone Schumacher? I've heard he's pretty good as well...


I am afraid not anymore and it hurts 🙁


True. But whatever happens now - it doesn't (in my opinion) take away from the most dominant driver this sport has ever seen.


Sadly, not lately.


There is another difference between Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. The two last ones started in Formula 1 in winning teams. Alonso had to grow and wait until he had the equipment to win.

James, do you think that will have any effect in Hamilton and Vettel's future development as F1 pilots?


You do know that Vettle started at Torro Rosso right?


As I see it, back then, more than now, Toro Rosso and Red Bull were basically one team. Toro Rosso was the feeding team for RB. And yes, Vettel was the third driver for BMW (when he was 19 years old). But I think my point is still valid: Vettel, as Hamilton, has spent basically his F1 live in one team, Red Bull.

I agree that Vettel had to "work" more than Hamilton to get to a winning team but hardly any of them have followed the path of most of the other WCs. IMHO


Vettel was a test driver for BMW and then on STR. Neither had won before he got there, BMW didn't win until well after he'd left (and only then because Hamilton took out himself and Raikkonen), and STR's only win was via Vettel in the rain.

I'm not a big fan of Seb, but be fair.


Re Vettel starting in top form team.... errrrm... Toro Rosso and Sauber?


Vettel started with one race in BMW and 25 in Toro Rosso, hardly winning teams (though Vettel did win with Toro Rosso, quite the show of his talent in my opinion)

Filipe Amoroso

Newey is a genius, but so is Brawn, and so was Rory Byrne, who still beats Newey in the statistics.

So if based on the 'engineering genius' factor we downplay Vettel, we should also downplay the merits of Mansell, Prost, Schumacher, Hill, Villeneuve, Hakkinen, Alonso and Button (am I forgetting someone?).

Seems unfair and too simplistic to me.

Vettel is winning on his own right. Webber has an equal car, but the margin Vettel is putting on him shows what a good job he's doing.

McLaren had the better car in race trim in Spain and Monaco, and still could not win. (Wrong gearing in Spain, bad luck in Monaco...that's racing). It would surprise me if they don't win in Canada.


Even Hamilton's Mclaren in 2007 and 2008 had traces of Newey's design DNA lrft over.


For starters Vettel joined the sport when he was 19 while Hamilton joined F1 when he was 22 & Hamilton or Alonso have never had such a big advantage in terms of performance.

Vettel's first four races in Formular 1 all ended on the first lap, true he's matured somewhat this year but it's doesn't take much skill to defend from the front, me thinks especially on tracks that are impossible to overtake on (Hamilton did it as a rookie in Hungary 2007) as China showed us, Vettel has been lucky in Barcelona & Monaco

Also when it comes to sport, it's more about quality than quantity & that's why among many F1 fans especially the purists, Senna is the greatest of all time despite Schumacher's impressive stats for hey, why would Schumi break down in a flood of tears when he equalled Senna's number of race wins back in 1999.

So fair play to Vettel he has taken advantage of the cards he's been dealt but he hasn't felt the heat yet coz the big guns are coming out in the second half of the season beginning with Canada & yes, the wheels are going to start flying off.


"..Vettel’s first four races in Formular 1 all ended on the first lap"

so is that how he scored points on his GP debut, thereby becoming F1's youngest-ever points scorer? Please don't let the facts get in the way

"..Vettel has been lucky in Barcelona & Monaco"

just how was Vettel lucky in Barcelona?


Exactly, Vettel was sublime at Barcelona with a slower race car than the Mclaren, where was Webber? nowhere as usual.


In Vettel's first race he became the youngest ever driver to score championship points in a Grand Prix. He also finished his second, third and fourth races.


Vettel's first race ended in a points finish, actually. 8th at USA 2007.


A-hem, please don't mention Hamilton and Hungary, let's not open the can of worms.


You just did.......


F1 being cyclical, Newey only seems to be able to design two good cars before everybody catches up and he goes stale for a while. Happened at Williams and Mclaren before.

Red Bull will mop up this year, but their biggest test could be 2013 when Newey will have to design a 3rd great car.


Remember, that was in the "evolution" era of F1, where unlimited testing was allowed. We're in an era of "revolution", where rules are changed every few years, and teams can't throw millions at testing every day of the week to make tiny little upgrades to evolve their car.

Basically, Newey comes up with an amazing design out of the box, whereas many of the other designers have good designs that take significant development to reach their potential. Now with the testing ban, that incremental development is gone, and designers have to come up with big updates regularly, with only Friday practice to see if they are worthwhile.

Also, with 2013 having another rules shake-up, expect Red Bull to be similarly dominant. I agree that 2012 might be a hard year for Red Bull as other teams will catch up by evolving their cars somewhat, but with 2013 on the horizon, Newey's talents of designing a car from scratch will again come to the fore and I'll bet well see them dashing off into the lead many times in that season.


Excellent point. So it makes it imperative that Hamilton sign up with RBR when his Macca contract runs out.

I see LH and SV in RBR for 4 years giving us a reprise of Senna-Prost. After that period, Alonso retires from Ferrari and Vettel takes his place.

The trio of Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel c/d stay on top for the next 5 years. These 3 are also the 3 youngest GP winners in history w/c shows their natural talent. Not one of the younger drivers at this point has shown this kind of talent except perhaps for the Hulk in lower formulae.

David Turnedge

I think Seb proved he was special winning in a Toro Rosso and coming from behind to take his maiden championship in 2010.

The guy's special.

I just wish he wasn't so much damn faster than Webber in qualifying.


Most important man at Ferrari? Fernando Alonso.

Most important man at McLaren? Lewis Hamilton.

Most importnat man at Red Bull? Adrian Newey.

Seb is good, Fernando and Lewis are the bests.


I don't agree completely.

Alonso is definitely the most important at Ferrari and Newey at Red Bull

But I don't think Hamilton is any more important than anyone else at McLaren. In fact it's him whose mostly criticising the team (sometimes with reason, due to those dodgy strategists) and causing division, he should actually rally the team around him ...



Seb is actually a top class driver. But not the team leader.


When Lewis had the better of Fernando in his first season at McLaren I thought we'd seen the arrival of a competitor that was going to dominate the sport for a decade. That's clearly not happened, and I imagine that's come as much a surprise to Lewis as it is to anyone else.

I don't think Alonso and Vettel are his only worries either. Rosberg's got the potential to match him, Kubica too, I hope. Who knows how good Di Resta will become? Given there was a time when I thought Hamilton was sitting pretty to break all Schu's records, I'm now wondering whether his one title is the only one he'll ever get.


Good point. di Resta in a strong car could turn some heads. Not that it really means much, but he beat Vettel in F3 and decimated Ralf Schumacher and Coulthard in DTM, both former GP winners (Ralf sometimes overshadowing his brother on a good day). He could further upset a few of the established "greats".


George Shamtani

Re Hamilton having a gilded route into F1. yes he walked straight into a McLaren drive but that was on the basis of performances in all the other series that he'd competed it. It was well justified in a season where he matched then world champion Alonso blow for blow in the same car in his first season. The year he won the championship the McLaren was widely believed to be slower than Massa's Ferrari.

Then in the 2009 season he took an absolute dog of a car and punched way above its weight.

I support James' point of view that Vettel is the unproven driver of the trio at the moment. We need to see when he's in a car that isn't so dominant and when Alonso and Hamilton are applying the pressure. I hope it happens soon because it will be an awesome spectacle seeing those three toe to toe.


That 2009 McLaren car was much better than people make out.


I remember the back half of that 2009 season, the mclaren was reasonably good yet he was throwing away a lot of points, something that a Raikkonen or Alonso wouldn't do, hell Kimi almost matched him on points at the end of the season in that ferrari which was a darn site worse. who knows how he won spa in it.

Sure his racecraft is usually fantastic, but he seems a bit obsessed with wanting to win or race in style, rather than winning ugly and do a 'boring' lights to flag race. He just goes missing come race day sometimes as a result.It's allright to be an aggressive driver but it's nothing if you can't control it, something hakkinen was masterful at. As someone pointed out earlier sure its spectacular to watch but it's not going to win you a lot of titles with this resistance he has to winning and racing ugly.



Please would you use drivers' initials (KR/FA/LH) instead of just using 'he', it makes your post easier to understand.

All the best to NZ.


I agree with you in so far as Hamilton is obsessed with "wanting to win / race in style" but is that not what a true racing driver should be about?

However, I've got to question you on your assertion that: "he just goes missing come race day sometimes as a result"? When has Lewis Hamilton - in a reasonably competent car - ever gone missing in a race?

The guy almost never finishes further back than where he starts - a pretty impressive return for somenone who must have started say 80% of his races from the first two rows.

Sure, I remember him binning it at Monza in 09 when he was "racing" his heart out to try and catch Button who was in a superior car. He also had a couple of scrapes last year (though IMO he was only culpable at Monza) but, IMO, that was largely down to him knowing that in an inferior car he had to push like hell to try and gain every single point whenever and wherever it presented himself.

In a fundamentally slower car I feel playing the percentages makes it less likely that you will win a championship against a superior car and admittedly very good driversuch as Vettel.

Put Hamilton in the Red Bull this season and the championship would be over before the end of summer - put him in the current Red Bull over a few seasons (relatively) and some of Schumi's records would at least be under threat!

A McLaren in the hands of Hamilton is usually a monster around Montreal and as it is a circuit that really tests a driver (the walls etc.) and rewards a true racer, my money is on Hamilton producing something very special this weekend - ala Silverstone 08, Germany 08, Spa 10, etc.!


I believe it was 2004 when Red Bull bought the remains of the Jaguar team. They had many lean years and abandoned their policy of using young drivers early on, dropping Liuzzi and Klein in favour of DC and Mark Webber.

For years they used to be the "party" team, hopeless at racing but having a very good time.

This goes to show that without the right people at the right time, (also the right engine) the money alone does not do the trick.

Red Bull is not held in sainthood by all though, their policy of buying, rather than sponsoring leaves some disgruntled people behind in their wake, not least in the Red Bull home town. A recent BBC docu highlighted this.


From the comments I see a lot of people just saying Vettel wins because he is just in a faster car. But people tend to forget his debut in the US GP, The stunning pole and race win in a Toro Rosso (This was the Minardi team more or less) at Monza.

You can always argue that Vettel has the best equipment at his disposal but that same would then hold good for Alonso and Hamilton where they may not have had the best cars every year they were successful but were in teams which had the best resources.


It's inaccurate to describe the 2008 Italian GP winning Torro Rosso as a "Minardi". It's often forgotten by fans that the 2008 Torro Rosso was a very competitive car relative to the Red Bull. In fact Red Bull and Torro Rosso actually ran identical chassis that year. Moreover, Torro Rosso beat Red Bull in the constructor's championship, which many credit to the superiority of the Ferrari powerplant in the TR package that year over RB's Renault engine. This result played a big part in Renault being able to succeed in getting permission to make revisions to their engine, which led to a resurgence in Renault-powered teams in 2009.


yes the Personel were Minardi, the car was Newey/Ferrari



That's exactly the point.


It's inaccurate to describe the 2008 Italian GP winning Torro Rosso as a "Minardi". It's often forgotten by fans that the 2008 Torro Rosso and Red Bull cars were actually running identical chassis, and in fact that year the Torro Rosso was often more competitive than the sister Red Bull cars due in

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Olivier Panis won Monaco 1996


With +1 lap... to de second driver! Biggest difference between 1st and 2nd in all F1 history. That really was an Epic Win. What a shame he couldn't drive a Red Bull the following years...


Rainy races throw up freak wins now and again - hell, even Button got his first and only win prior to the trick-car Brawn in the rain - in a Honda! Seb's drive at Monza was good, but it was another rainy day lottery with lots of the main contenders going out or having bad strategy calls from the teams.


That Italian Grand Prix was not a freak win for heaven's sake! Vettel won it on strength in a mistake-free drive.


I think, in a good car that he's comfortable in, Vettel is faster than anyone on the grid, I've absolutely no doubt about it. Where he potentially loses out to men like Alonso and Hamilton is that ability to hustle a less than perfect car around a track faster than it's really capable of going. That ability to drive on the ragged edge, lap after lap and outperform the car.

We haven't seen Vettel in a bad or even challenging car yet and I think that's far more significant than the "he can only win from the front" criticisms. It seems like people forget that he's only 24. Before Monaco, a lot of people said he'd struggle there because he doesn't like street circuits but guess what, he's adapting and I'm sure he'll learn to fight through traffic too.

Something about Vettel's style suggests to me that he wouldn't be able to wring the neck of a recalcitrant car the way his two main rivals can. Much like Jenson Button, who although a very fine driver is not quite in the same league as Alonso and Hamilton, I suspect that Vettel lacks (or has yet to develop) that ability to drive around a car's problems and if presented with a problem that cannot be ironed out in the setup, may well struggle to be competitive.

That's my take on it anyway, although it'll take a misstep from Newey/Red Bull before we'll find out. I won't hold my breath.


I agree. I was (and still am) a big Schumacher fan in the 1990s years with Ferrari, which I always felt looking back were actually his best years. In 96 - 98 particularly he took the fight to (Newey-designed) rival cars by simply making the car go so much faster than it really ought to have been able to go. Just look at his Monaco 96 Pole lap for an example of one of the greatest qualifying laps in history.

We saw a bit of this from Alonso last year. We haven't seen it from Vettel, and really when Hamilton's car has been less than good he's tended to moan rather than get on with it (as Alonso is currently doing). For me this sets Alonso above the other two.


Vettel has matured, but lets not pretend that he is nothing and the team is nothing with out money and Newey.

And that has always been true of F1.

Only ever seen one driver out drive the physics, and we can go see a film about him. Schumacher isn't even in that league.


And Senna, the man himself, wouldn't agree with your last sentence.

But there u go..


Of course now. Why would he?


People always wondered what would happen if Schumacher found himself in a Newey-designed car, well here's the next best (or worst, your mileage may vary) thing...


agree totally mate. some of the things hamilton have done since he came into the sport have been great but also he has made some of the biggest mistakes also. examples of this is coming into the pitlane too fast in china 2007 ( i no his tyres were wrecked but he should of drove accordinly), turn 4 brazil 2007, kimi canado 2008. vettel overtake france 2008, monaco qualifying 2009, monza last lap 2009, monza 2010 first lap, locking up in korea and brazil last year and monaco and malaysia this year just to name a few. there is many many more also. but i win say i think his peak performances are as good as anybody else but he will never have the consistency of an alonso or vettel has shown since spa last year.


Vettel takes out Button at Spa, Vettel takes Himself out at Silverstone with a rash move at start, then makes more rash moves to try and catch back up, Vettel hits Webber in Turkey. Its easy to list mistakes for every world champion.

No driver is perfect, every driver will make mistakes. They all suffer from red mist when things aren't going their way. They are motivated by winning and now and again they all do something stupid in a belief it will achieve that goal and instead costs them points, race wins or even titles.

Would you want it any other way though?


It's more difficult to find big mistakes for Fernando, and he is older than the other 2:

Japan crash 2007, Malasia 2009, China start 2010, FP3 Monaco crash 2010, Spa crash 2010, malasia crash 2011 and there's no much more to say. 6 big mistakes in 9 seasons. Pretty good isn't it?


Not to mention when he reported his team to the Stewards so they were punished for breaking a non existing rule...


...and at the end that decision decided de WDC.


I could give you a long list of Alonso mdriving mistakes last year if you want.


In case you have forgotten, Hamilton made five significant unforced errors in five consecutive race weekends last season, starting with Monza and ending with Interlagos. It was these unforced errors that ended his championship challenge.


Yes, please.

Maybe you could add some moments of Fernando blatantly waving his fist against his opponents.

Thanks in advance.




The article says Hamilton has 14 wins, but he has 15 (although, I believe he has 16 as it happens, Belgium 2008 was a darn fine drive!)

And I think Vettel has 15 wins too. 14 with Red Bull and 1 with Torro Rosso.

Hamilton has raced in 9 more races but has 14 more podiums than Vettel. And Hamilton has more fastest laps, which surprises me as Vettel seemed to like to go for the stats in that way! Not so much this season though I notice.

I would imagine momst people would place Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel as their top 3 drivers in F1. It's just the order that would change.

Like many, I wish we could see Kubica in a strong car to know for sure where he fits in all this. Maybe we still will...


Hamilton has more fastests laps and podiums than Vettel because he has driven a McLaren for his whole career, whereas Vettel drove a Toro Rosso for his first couple of years.


Vettel drove a Torro Rosso for one year and it was a much better car than it is now. I believe it used to be built by the Red Bull team. He did very well in it, won from pole in Monza and even passed Hamilton in Brazil in the wet. It wasn't a terrible car. It wasn't a championship winning car, but it wasn't bad.

Also even great teams can build a bad car and Hamilton was behind a lot of cars for half the 2009 season. So I think the numbers still stack up.


I don't think they do to be honest. Vettel started at Toro Rosso in 2007 and raced 7 times for them and once for BMW in his very first race, so that cancels out with the half season that Hamilton had a bad McLaren in 2009. Then although Vettel won one race in that Toro Rosso and it was a much better car than the ones they produce today, it was still the 5th or 6th fastest behind Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, BMW and perhaps Williams. At no point was that Toro Rosso in 2008 a consistent podium challenger. Hamilton has had consistent podium challengers in all of his seasons apart from the first half of 2009, hence his numbers are bigger.


James, just a correction. Vettel has won 15 races, not 14.


It's hard to believe, given the professionalism and experience of the teams, but there seems to be a psychological issue in play.

Red Bull have the others so much on the back foot that they seem to be repeatedly allowing themselves to be pushed into risky or just plain contrary tactical decisions.

Button is perhaps the most obvious victim of this (although granted, he seems to enjoy experimenting of his own volition rather than being scared into it) but it's hurt Hamilton and Alonso too.


Mclaren have a long history of strange, frankly absurd, strategy decisions by the 'brainiacs' behind the scenes. If they left all decisions to the drivers and team principal I swear they'd get the same final results, just winning and losing at different tracks. Jenson has, imo, no choice but to chance taking different strategies - head-to-head with Lewis on the same strategy I think he'd lose 9 times out of 10 (Lewis is just faster) - but by taking a different strategy at each race he often gets himself up there when Lewis's strategy choice is wrong - and, for Mclaren, it's definitely working to do things that way (to the extent I'm surprised a few more teams aren't splitting strategies more often). Ferrari suffer similarly to Mclaren, though in their case I think it's less a case of the mathematicians in the factory getting things wrong, more the pit crew (Domenicalli included) being a bit of a shambles at times..


Hi James

Vettel was gifted the Monaco win & i was frustrated with pundits calling him 'TheMaster of Monaco' when he clearly wasn't.

Give some of the F1 drivers like Paul De Resta or Rosberg a drive of Newey's car & they will win too. Vettel is not a great driver just average it's the very clever Mr Newey who is winning the title for RBR.

I've always wanted to see each F1 driver drive the same car, then we could see who was the best on a level playing field. Not much fun but at least we would see if Vettel for example could get a win with a Virgin or HRT car. Daydream over...

Upstarts or just super confident, the only contender for this title is Alonso, he's happy & patient & he's the best driver on the grid at the moment imho. Hamilton is like a

teenager & Vettel, well he's got the best car & Mr Newey.

StallionGP F1

What a load of rubbish would the redbull be that dominant if webber was the team leader with some other driver.

I have read a lot of silly comments on this site about his monaco win, my question to you is if Hamilton or Alonso had driven such a race what would be your general perception would you have said Vettel was robbed? please think carefully before you utter such again and you are not the only one guilty of this Vettel is becoming the new schumacher and people dont like it but you have got to deal with it. If you are not his fan dont put the man down by saying its all down to newey as Webber should be doing same.


For the same reasons the Ferrari is worse than McLaren, Red Bull, Renault and Mercedes because Massa's (2nd in 2008) results are that bad so Fernando Alonso must be like a living God sat inside a F1... Come on man, everybody knows Mark is not having his season, and actually I don't think he is as good as people says. Seb is winning mostly thanks to the car:

-"You don't like it but you have got to deal with it".


Exactly lol


Totally agree with James, i always thought vettel was just good because he had the best car, but no doubt about it, he has stepped up a level this year, very impressed with his drive in spain this year


Love how everyone slags Vettel, how he isn't as good as Hamilton and Alonso because of his car. If the car were that dominate, how come Webber isn't beating those two? Vettel won in a Torro Rosso. Has anyone else come close to winning in that car? Also the complaints about winning from pole. Well if someone can qualify ahead of him, that would solve that complaint. I guess it's his fault he's too quick so he can't make a run up through the field and silence the nay sayers.

Hamilton is quick but gets frustrated easily which causes him to make foolish mistakes. Alonso got beat by a rookie. Nothing to brag about there. He's lucky he's a two time champion. If Schumacher's enging hadn't blown in Japan, he would have taken that title, not Alonso. Vettle could win many titles and there will always someone whinning how he really isn't that good blah blah blah. Same people do it now regarding Schumacher. Go bury your heads in the sand.


Nice to see a few sensible comments for a change


What - like 'blah blah blah' & 'Go bury your heads in the sand'

The ultimate in sensible comments.


Even in 2005 he was lucky that the mercedes engine kept failing.Kimi was pretty much the best driver that year and deserved the title.


How many points he won due to having the fastest car?: X.

How many points did Fernando lost that year due to Mechanic issues? Y.

How many points did Kimi lost that year due to mechanic isues? 21+X+Y? NO. Fernando was the best that year and won a deserved title.

StallionGP F1

Nice one people are just not realistic for every win someone must fail.


It makes it even worse that Kubica isn't competing this year, he is one i would put in the same group as alonso, vettel and hamilton


Yes I'll agree to that one though No 4 of the 4, as yet he's not proven he knows how to win and knowing is all important


I think Vettel is extremely talented and definitely quick, but I still have that lingering feeling it's Adrian Newey who's the real star at Red Bull.

If Vettel really wants to prove to himself - and to the world - he's that good, then he should probably move teams after this, i.e. if in another team he can still maintain the same level of competitiveness, he'll have shown the world that he was winning bec. of Sebastian Vettel; and not bec. of Helmut Marko, Dietrich Mateschitz, Christian Horner or Adrian Newey. Similar to what Schumacher and Alonso did after winning 2 Championships with Benetton/Renault (although 'Nando hasn't won titles since, he proved himself to be a major force nonetheless, so probably just a matter of time).

StallionGP F1

Lol what a joke was he winning at torro rosso redbull wasnt winning when he got there remember.

All this guys you mentioned Ham Alonso went into winning teams. What prove does he need again to go race for virgin and win in a virgin If that happens am sure you would say its because Ham and alo had an off day.


NOBODY driver can better work than Mr. Newey nobody. But RB only with Newey Mr Webber and other driver same as Webber will be as good as when is have Vettel? No for me Newey and Webber can not win any of championship.


Amazing and inspirited article, James. But looking for the feedback here in the site, few are convinced that Sebastian is in the same level of Fernando and Lewis.

Seb is admirable, I really like the guy, but as the majority here, I feel that he still below Lewis and Fernando. Fernando has in his CV two titles against Michael. And Hamilton is the only driver at the field who was able to beat two world champions in the same machinery. THIS achievements, speaks volume about the talents of this two men in terms of raw speed and performance.

The pity is that Seb is stolen not only the numbers of Lewis and Fernando, but taken away the trilling of a real and powerful rivalry that could be absolutely fantastic to F1: the two best drivers in the most traditional teams. Pity…

Now, we have a car so superior, that the best two men in the field are crashing left and right to equal it in performance.

…It’s all about succession- or rather premature succession. When Ayrton Senna died and Alain Prost retired…

Good insight, but I remember that was in 1993 that Senna established himself as the best. And he had not the best car at his disposal. It was in Alain´s and Michael´s hands at that time.

Look back to Fernando´s win at Nurburgring in 2007, or Monza in 2010; Look back to Lewis win at Germany 2008, China this year… Forceful wins, coming from the back and… overtaking. We need to see Vettel doing that, before point him as talented as Lewis and Fernando.

Not yet, at least.

Edward Valentine

I agree with you when you talk about Fernado's and Lewis' forceful wins from the back of the grid. All of Ralf Schumacher's wins (I think 6 in total) were in the same style as Vettel's - wins from the 1st or 2nd row. He never seemed to win when starting in the midfield and I feel it may be a similar story in the case of Seb although I would loved to be proven wrong.


1)I think that rb7 can be compared to Ferrari F2002... who drives a car like that must win. Vettel is just doing is job. We will know something more about his talent in the next years when he will have the chance to show it.

At the present time Alonso is the best driver in F1.

2)"Ferrari’s sacking of technical director Aldo Costa was a hugely symbolic moment – it spoke volumes that an energy drink company is doing it better than the doyenne of Formula 1".

I don't think it's because Red Bull is an energy drink company and I'm sure you thinks the same James. Anyway Red Bull is doing a great job and they deserve to be where they are.

Thank you for this website James it's my fovourite one!!!


I'm waiting for an article dealing with new 2013 turbocharged engines i'm curious to know what's your opinion abt it.


I've written quite a few over the last six months.

Some other Monkey

Underlying Red Bulls success is the fact that in this digital age anyone with the money can now buy the cutting edge technology that was previously only the preserve of established and experienced engineers, such as those at Ferrari.

Undeniably, talent still counts, driver, engineer or designer, but the ability to crunch numbers has opened up the field to anyone who can afford the technicians, particularly in aero. One has to also wonder where Red Bull would be if required to build there own engines like Ferarri.


Ferrari don't have to build their own engines. They just choose to because there has never been a Ferrari without a Ferrari-built engine.


If it was just about crunching numbers then every designer would be as good as Newey and every car as fast as the RB. ANd I dont think building its own engines hampers Ferrari in any way.


@Full-Stop Eh wrong. The 2007 Mclaren was as fast as the Ferrari for to be honest, the Mclaren was simply a Ferrari in disguise (Spy-gate) & why Hammy lost it, his teammate kept taking points off him unlike at Ferrari were Massa was helping Kimi (Interlagos)

As for 2008, the Ferrari was slightly faster than the Mclaren that year but the boys in Red kept shooting themselves in the foot besides the #1 driver in the team didn't show up.

The fact that the #2 driver came close to winning (and normally the #1 driver should be a couple of tenths faster) goes to show the Ferrari was the faster car albeit reliability + poor strategy calls.

And no it's not that quite simple - 95% car 5% driver - legends are made in F1 by the way you beat your opponents & by the strength of opposition & that's why many did enjoy the Schumi walk over years


Lets not forget that if it wasnt for the Spa fiasco where Massa was gifted a win, it wouldnt have been that close in Interlagos...


Similar happened to Fernando jumping chicane at Silverstone 2010, and he would have been WC. If you break that rule, you get a drive through or 20 sec penalty.


Lets see what happens to Red Bull/Vettel when the blown diffuser goes away after Canada. We will see if Newey has something other than this to make the car work well. I suspect the car was built around that aero trick and it will be severly impaired without it, but if not my hat is off to him. Vettel is just luckey to get to drive a Newey car, that is all!


It will hamper every team the same amount, it might even make the gap bigger in favor of RB


Not true according to the technical articles i've seen. It will affect all teams but RB the most as they are getting the most efficiency out of the hot gas diffuser.

The predictions are that their complete dominance in qualifying will disappear as they won't be able to turn the engine map overrun to 11 for extra downforce. After all this is why the ban is coming into force. Messrs Vettel and Webber have been able to change the downforce of the car between quali and race using a button on the steering wheel.


A lot of comments comparing the drivers, but this little quote stuck out the most to me:

'Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz has often said that he has no plans to sell his company or float it on the stockmarket. “It’s not a question of money,” he argues. “It’s a question of fun.”'

Very interesting. I think this shows that the team will stay in F1 for quite some time, as the accountants are far removed from the decision-making process. No Honda or Toyota-style pull-outs because of economic reasons. Red Bull sees a gain in motorsports, be it a combination of image, exposure and of course, fun.

As long as Mateschitz is in charge, I expect that team to be around the paddock and near the front of the grid.


As much as i would love to see 2 of the 3 race in the same car to know who is quicker i am happy that they are in different teams because it adds to the drama and the debate. For me Alonso is #1 but for outright speed over 1 lap it would have to be Hamilton and Vettel (i just don't know which order)


Only 1 driver on the grid has not just won a world-title but also beaten 2-reigning champions in the same car 🙂

However, F1 is and always will be about the designers.


Can't be Seb, Fernando, Lewis, Jenson or Michael, but Michael has only been beaten by Nico, and Nico has never beaten Lewis, Jenson Seb or Fernando, so its not Nico. Fernando has never been beaten (or beaten by lewis, but Lewis is WC), Seb has never been beaten, Lewis has never been beaten, Jenson only beaten by Lewis, but again, Lewis is WC. I think something is wrong with that sentence.


Hamilton beat both Alonso and Button, whilst in identical machinery, when each of them were reigning world champions! Alonso in 2007 and Button in 2010.

He has also never been beaten over a season - at any level - by a teamate!


"Only 1 driver on the grid has not just won a world-title but also beaten 2-reigning champions in the same car"

Spot on!



My personal view is that most people that hold the view that Vettel's winning streak purely because of his car ,his team or Newey will find that they are wrong. I am not suggesting that these things have no impact on his ability to win races, but one cannot take away the fact that he has had some very brilliant drives especially this year.

He seems motivated enough, and I think even if a driver is in superior package if he is not motivated enough it can make that driver to be a second place driver in most races. He has become very consistent and he often appears like he has a lot in reserve especially in qualifying. Seb knows what his target is , he knows what he has to do to achieve it , in qualifying he always sticks it in pole , he has made fewer mistakes and he recovers from these mistakes very quickly . In opinion these are some of the traits of being a good driver , being consistent , being able to turn one's luck around and coping with the extra pressure. The guy is doing what he is supposed to be doing , he is winning grand prixs, he qualifies better than his teammante and the rest of the field for the most part.

I am of the view that as a driver you could have a far superior package than the rest of the field but ultimately is up to the driver to make that package work to its full potential, for Seb the package is there and he is doing what he is supposed to with it.

Alonso and Hamilton are both great drivers no doubt, and both want their teams to build a car as fast as REDBULL in actual fact a lot faster and some may argue if they had the machinery capable of doing what REDBULL is doing SEB wouldnt have this lead that he has but such is the nature of the sport , in F1 some teams have always been able to deliver a good package from the start of the season while others catch up, it is up to those teams to deliver that package and for their drivers to beat Vettel with everything they have. Lets not attribute the Man'ssuccess to his team or car , he is driving briliantly at the moment and making very few mistakes .


If you dont have to push the car in every turn, at every track to extrac that extra 1/10th, its a lot easier to drive and win. Hamilton and Alonso are in cars clearly slower, they have to push the car to the limit, and beyond, to even have a chance at beating Vettel.



As Alonso said after Monaco - if we crash we crash!


@Irish con Hahaa thanks for the laughs. Ferrari had a slower car than Mclaren?

I see to remember the Ferraris in the first season weren't all that bad but Alonso kept tripping over himself - jumping starts, crashing in Monaco, spinning at the first bend in Australia

But from the German G.P. the Ferrari upgrades began working = why the Alonso was able to challenge the Red Bulls wereas the Mclarens went backwards in terms of pace till Abu-Dhabi.

@Neven @Irish Con

Yes, HAMILTON & Alonso had the same number of points but Hamilton had more podiums & that's why he was ranked second & may I remind you again, a rookie Vs a two times champ

As for Ron Dennis after Alonso's good manners & blackmail antics, do you expect Ron Dennis to back such an angel besides he said that at the penultimate race of the season or are you forgetting Mclaren were favouring Alonso in Monaco & Australia (where they gave Alonso a strategy to leapfrog his teammate in the pits).

So according to you, Mclaren hire a two times champ just to do him in - How does that make sense again?


Ham is classified ahead of alonso because he had one more 5th place. they were dead even on wins, podiums and 4th places. Funny thing is that Alonso has finished ahead of Ham in the last 10 races of 2007 (except one) exluding any DNF's


Actually, he is classified above Alonso in the 2007 championship on account of him achieving five 2nd places to Alonso's four!


Regarding that last point, certain stats can be very misleading.

Of the 10 races you are using for your example, the DNFs included Alonso in Japan and Hamilton in China - the former was clearly a driver error whilst the latter, IMO, was more a team/strategy error in trying to be clever predicting changing weather conditions. In both races Hamilton was clearly ahead of Alonso so that would make it at least 3 times in the last 10 races when Alonso (behind in the championship and desperate for every point) could not in equal machinery beat his rookie team mate.

When one also factors in Hamilton's punctures in qualifying at Germany, the race in Turkey, and the technical issues/"gremlins" at Brazil, the reality of Alonso v Hamilton in the second half of the 2007 season wasn't anything like as one sided as those stats would suggest!


james you dont ever seem to give your opinions on who you reckon to be the best. i would like your opinion on who you think is the best when everything is taken into it. i mean we can say vettel has the best car this year but for me his driving has been top class. cant say the same for other people in other years in the best car. for the record my opinion in alonso number 1 then vettel then hamilton. then the rest theres not much to choose.



You do realise what a fuse you've lit by starting this thread, don't you? As Harry Hill would say, 'Who's best? FIGHT!' (In fact, you might as well have written 'FIGHT!' at the bottom of the article. The mods will be working overtime for a few days, methinks...

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Still not convinced that Vettel is a driver that can "make the difference".

That Red Bull is like an FW14B. Give someone a hot knife and they can easily cut through butter.


I think he made the difference in Spain because McLaren had the faster race package.


James - Off topic. There are strong rumors spreading everywhere about Briatore taking the role as Ferrari Team Boss. Any news about it?


Now that would be interesting. Felipe "fernando is faster than you.......please crash" 😉


Would pay to listen this on a race said by Flavio... That really made my day.


Don't forget that Vettel had a BIG help when he was allowed to change his tyres after the late incidents in the race. Now we can only wonder what those 7 laps could turn out if Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton would go all the way.

It's a shame to see how sometimes F1 neglets the possibility to passion millions around the world.

Best regards from Portugal


Newey's a genius, the 'package' is of paramount importance... yeah yeah, that much is clear and I suppose it's why many downplay Vettel's position on the totem pole.

This year, Vettel has really impressed me because his whole demeanour, the way he approaches the weekend and in particular his racing, is showing far greater maturity. Clearly he is a very bright individual and he is learning from and applying his growing experience most effectively.

Hamilton, by contrast, appears to me to be an altogether less cerebral individual. Less mature, more vulnerable to setbacks and more impetuous. That seemed to be the case in 2007 and it was to be expected. But in 2011 I see little improvement in his ability to think his way to winning. No doubt his gifts in terms of hand/eye coordination, balance and determination are outstanding, perhaps the best. But the difference between the two is in the grey matter. That, I think is Hamilton's Achilles heel.


I agree but we haven't seen vettel up against it. I have heard a lot of people say vettel is very demanding behind closed doors. I think he is like the rest of them and he can throw his toys!!


Ummm... I think we have seen Vettel "up against it": Numerous retirements from race leads coupled with a super strong teammate plus extensive villification over the Turkey and Spa incidents put Seb under a lot of pressure last year. We all saw how he finished up the season though.


When I say "up against it" I mean in the situation ham and Alo have found themselves in for the last 2/3 seasons. Where they have to overdrive and make up for the cars faults. I think vettel has got it but we just haven't had the opportunity to see it yet.


Still can't work out what's wrong with Webber in comparison to Vettel this year. I've got a number of theories.

Can anyone work out the safety car period in Monaco on Lap 33? Just before it was called Webber was right behind Sutil and Kobayashi - only a second behind the pair. Then Sutil and Kobayashi both had a pitstop and Webber was still behind them, despite not pitting. So Webber remained in sixth position.

Now many people have said that Webber simply got caught behind the safety car, while Sutil and Kobayashi were ahead of it (ala Hamilton and Alonso last year in Valencia, where Hamilton naughtily overtook the safety car and then got a drive thru penalty, which didn't do much damage to Hamilton, and Alonso was furious about it as his race was ruined because he got caught behind the slow safety car).

However, James has written an article recently saying that the safety car now only picks up the race leader and lets everyone else past thanks to what happened to Alonso in Valencia last year. Therefore the only rational explanation I can think of was that Webber was mistaken for the race leader (race control thought he was Vettel - they drive the same car). If that is the case, why wasn't this picked up? Because Webber would then have been in 4th position outright after the safety car, and would then have easily caught up to the top 3 - Vettel, Button and Alonso and could have possibly won the race, considering he was the only driver out of those three who actually did any overtaking.

Please help if you can. I have noted many people on many forums have asked this question, but no one seems to have an answer, again please help if you can.

Much Appreciated.



This really is an important part of the puzzle considering we are heading to Canada which has had many safety cars in the past due to its street circuit nature and close barriers.

As I said, one possibility is Webber was mistaken for the race leader. Another is that a lapped car got between Webber and Sutil/Kobayashi and deliberately slowed down Webber (this would be similar to when if a car needs to pit during the SC period but the driver knows he has to queue in the pits, he deliberately (and naughtily) drives even slower than required to prevent the person from behind from overtaking him in the pits).

Either way, this denied us a four way battle up front, rather than (an already exciting) three way battle. It appears few know the real reason of how Kobayashi and Sutil were able to pit and still remain in front of Webber despite only being in front by a second or so. Therefore if you can help figure out this mystery please do.


James, your input on this would really help!


I think you may be on to something here with this, I thought that was strange too.


The Gods smiled on Vettel in Monaco not

once but twice, tradesman with a good tools

will do things in half a time, same apply to

motor racing / F1, Vettel is not in the same

league as Alonso or Hamilton, good driver

but that is it he has the best package car

last year and this year so far.

one can agrue till cows come home but there

are the facts.


James, Vettel's win in Monaco?! He won because of the stupid F1 rules allowing a tyre change, if it had not been for that he would not have won, in fact it was possible he'd not finish if his tyres fell off the cliff on such a tight track.

Vette's good by my money woukd be in ione of the other two and given equal cars Hamilton has already proven he can beat Alonso and he's a much better driver now than he wa in his rookie year.

If Jenson was in Vettel's car he'd be leading the championship by a fair margin and nobody really puts him in the same ilk as the 3 you mention do they?


According to data at


Number of wins by a pole sitter

Alonso 12

Vettel 11

Hamilton 8

Alonso - 165 starts

Wins 26

2nd Places 22

3rd Places 17

4th Places 17

5th Places 10

6th Places 7

Vettel - 68 starts

Wins 15

2nd Places 5

3rd Places 5

4th Places 8

5th Places 3

6th Places 3

Hamilton - 77 starts

Wins 15

2nd Places 15

3rd Places 9

4th Places 5

5th Places 6

6th Places 4



In other words,

14 of Alonso's 26 wins have NOT been from pole.

7 of Hamilton's 15 wins have NOT been from pole.

4 of Vettel's 15 wins have NOT been from pole.


And those 4 from Vettel were:

-Malasia 2010: He started 3rd behind mark and Nico(not overtaking).

-Abu Dhabi 2009: Hes started 2nd, won due to Lewis mechanic issues(not overtakin).

-Brasil 2010: Pseudo-Pole position behind Nico Hulkenberg (overtaking at start).

Spain 2011: Started 2nd behind Webber, who did a fantastic race...(overtaking at start).


Good point about Ferrari. They overcame mediocrity in the 80s and early 90s by becoming a truly international team. It seems they forgot that after MS retired and are having to re-learn it again.


Its a massive misconception that Hamilton has won races fighting from the back of the grid, in fact he has yet to win races from the middle of the grid. I think the lowest he has won from is fourth!

Schumacher won many races where he stared from near the back of the grid, Senna's lowest position from which he won was 6th so again another misconception when people think he won races from the back of the grid.

Again Hamilton is good at overtaking but he has always had the fastest car in a straight line.

in 2007/2008 the Mclaren had the best top speed thanks to the Mercedes engine, in 2009 he had an even greater top speed advantage as he had the best engine and KERS! In 2010 The Mclaren was again the fastest top speed as it had the F duct before anyone else.

Vettel although has had an overall package, his car is one of the slowest in a straight line, making it very difficult in past seasons to overtake.


Yeah because Hamilton's overtakes on, for example:

Kimi at Monza in 2007;

Kimi at Spa in 2008;

Rosberg at Australia in 2010;

Schumi at China in 2010;

Button at Turkey in 2010, etc.

were solely down to the cars qualities/capabilities and not Hamilton's unique combination of skill/technique/aggression/bravery/sense of opportunity/racer instincts, etc.!

Edward Valentine

Let's not forget his move into turn 1 at Interlargos in 2007 on Rubens. I have to say that was quality.


Definitely a ballsy move!


And don't forget, Red Bull's first victory came after Torro Rosso's.


Great article! (Though it stings a bit to hear you giving Vettel the championship already this year.)

I'm with others though that are still waiting to see Vettel battle Alonso or Hamilton wheel-to-wheel on track before drawing a full conclusion of him. Winning from the front says more about the car than the driver, in my opinion. Meanwhile we have all seen Alonso, for example, drive well beyond the means of various lackluster machinery. And do plenty of passing along the way.

Edward Valentine

I would just like to move away from the thesis of this article slighly by commenting on the following point:

"And he [Michael Schumacher] held that role comfortably for over a decade, fending off the likes of Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and even Mika Hakkinen".

Had Schumacher been disqualified from the 1994 title for causing an avoidable (championship deciding) accident then who is to say that he would have won in 1995. The momentum would have been with Hill and Williams. Hill won the 1996 title which would have been 3 championships on the bounce.

I do not think Schumacher would have enjoyed such a dominant career had these event taken place in this way.


Haha your joking right?? I suppose hill would then have gone to Ferrari and dominated!!!!

Edward Valentine

Certainly not. But would Schumacher have gone to Ferrari for 1996 without having won a title with Benneton? Maybe he'd have had to find a drive with McLaren or stay put. Perhaps Ross Brawn who was the brains behind Ferrari's dominance would not have moved either... But like all that has been and passed I guess we'll just never know.

Edward Valentine

"What happened in 94..." I don't doubt that Schumacher was pure genius and he did respond well after '97, '98 and '99 but I do feel his dominance was largely due to the performance of the car. This came about as a result of a combination of Ross Brawn and others who I do not think would have 'gelled' together at Ferrari had Schumacher not had won a title with Benneton.

Other than the title decider with Kimi in (if memory serves) '03 Schu had walked the title by winning almost more than double the points of the 2nd place driver. As soon as he came up against a driver with a solid racecraft like Alonso he buckled.


What happened in 94 would have made no difference as everyone could see the genius in Schumacher and most in the paddock knew if hill had won it would have been an injustice. If you doubt that then look at his bad years at Ferrari and how he responded.


I don't know what's wrong with Your math ?

Both Lewis and Sebastian have 15 wins so far in F1 !!!!

Lewis has 2,5,2,3,1 wins from 2007 till Monaco 2011, and Sebastian also has 1,4,5,5 from 2008.

This suprises me, because You follow F1 from inside.

Cheers from Croatia.


If only "fighting from the back of grid"is a sign of greatness then kimi raikkonen is the greatest driver of all time.


If only "fighting from the back of grid"is a sign of greatness then kimi raikkonen is the greatest driver of this generation.


IMHO its Hamilton, ALonso, Vettel. I would agree that it depends on the situation.

If they were given the same car and the same amount of time to learn it and in the same track, I think it would be less straight forward.

Over a single lap, Id give it to Vettel. Hamilton, I think, can drive qual lap after qual lap on a race distance all day long, Alonso is the smarter of the 3, his racecraft is a little more evolved, as he has been in the sport longer.


Great article.


I have to say that i am annoyed with Vettel's attitude and all media who focused on him. Of course he has a talent, but he is driving a car which cannot be defeated. He won almost all of his races from the pole position - with the best car.

And yes, he is great driver, but not in the league of Alonso and Hamilton.


Alonso and Hamilton are par. Vettle not in the discussion. Quoting specific drives of brilliance coming from behind or nursing a seriously impaired car around a track to victory comes as second nature to Alonso and Hamilton.

The rule changes mid season and over stewarding definitely with Lewis (since the begining of his F1 career) has come as a distraction to the wheel to wheel racing we love and deserve. I honestly belive that if you were to show up at race weekend with tricyles, Alonso and Lewis would trade paint and give you your moneys worth.

Hamilton is who I favor, but it would mean absolutley nothing to me if he was winning or losing without Alonso around or even Kubica, Kimi, Schumi etc. Racing is racing and fans want to see more of this. Yes, when racing becomes overtly dangerous than sanctions and penalties come into play but the now we are seeing on a consistent basis processional racing with schemes that have been developed to make it more entertaining. The entertainment comes from an element of danger, of driving on the limit or over.

But that is just my opinion.


Great post!


I am constantly amazed on how people try and ignore Vettel's talents. Already at just 23years of age, he has a monumental 20pole positions and 15wins. It's obviously not all about the car, Vettel has been consistently outqualifying Webber by half a second this year and before Webber was teamed up against Vettel, he was considered as one of the best qualifiers in the field. Vettel has also won in a Toro Rosso. Ascanelli a former Senna race engineer said that he was extremely lucky because he had experienced perfection at the start and end of his career. Not that Vettel is perfect, nobody is, but you can understand what he means. He is a very able overtaker too, he recently showed it in Spain where he got by Button, Massa and Rosberg in a matter of corners. A few people on here have said he can't manage an imperfect car! But if you look at Bahrain 2010 where he had an engine problem but could still pump in quick laps, Spain 2010 where he had brake problems but still managed to bring the car home in third. I can name many other occassions too. However I think his advantage doesn't just come from his car, his one lap pace but his general intelligence and attitude. I have heard that he is always working on every aspect of his game all the time, like Michael Schumacher, and in practice is always working on getting everything perfect. And I think that shows in his rate of development.


I am constantly amazed on how people try to increase Vettel’s talents. Already at just 23years of age, he has had a monumental RB5, RB6 and RB7. It’s obviously all about the car...


AN inferpect car, nothing to do with the engine. He has to have a car that is not the fastest in the field, when he does, he will be judge depending on how he handles it...


I have been impressed with Seb's driving this season. Sure he has the best car, but he hasn't made the same sort of mistakes he did in 2010.

With Webber fading fast, I see no reason why Seb cannot dominate both Lewis and Fernando for the next 2-3 years.

How Ferrari and McLaren choose to fight back will be the interesting story.


Seb is getting the tyres to work better than anyone else right now, granted, the car helps with this but Webber is struggling as he himself admits.

How many mistakes has seb made this year? Far fewer than his competitors.

Great driver, I know us brits back Ham + But, and many fans worldwide consider Alonso to be the all round package, but it's time we gave this lad the credit he deserves.

He's the best driver on the grid right now.


I think that is a fair statement he is the best at the moment. His current form is brilliant but if I ran an f1 team I would chose hamilton or alonso first.


No one is better at getting the car pointed straight as soon as humanly possible exiting turns than Vettel.

Both Hamilton and Alonso do a lot with braking and rotating the cars entering turns, but neither maximizes the straights as well as Vettel.

Perhaps that is why both Hamilton and Alonso are seen as better passers (i.e., "racers") while Vettel is seen as being merely quick (i.e., a "frontrunner").

However, I think that Vettel's style lends itself better to qualifying, which means throughout his career, everything else being equal, he'll continue having the best chance to get poles and thus being in the best position to win races.


Interesting post regarding driving styles - I certainly believe one of Hamilton's major strengths is on the brakes and Alonso can certainly hustle a car.

But maybe, the simple reason that Vettel can get his car pointed straight out of turns quicker than the other two at present, is simply because of the significant advantage the Red Bull has in terms of downforce and thus getting drive out of medium and high speed corners?


Cut Alonso from this, he is pure PR product of Briatore and others. When did he had teammate to challenge? Lewis was in his first Year and blow him away!

And Fisico and Massa are just play teamates. Though Massa was No1 effectively at Ferrari during Kimi time, but more as sanction for Kimi than on his merit.


Well, we all know that a driver who wins the championship has the best car, or at least the 2nd best car. Maybe the 3rd best car, but this is really strange (McLaren-unreliable car when Ferrari and Renault were battling by the championship, years 2005 & 2006, so Renault or Ferrari would be 3rd fastest, in a subjective opinion of which car was worst).

So what we are talking about here is Vettel, if he is a superb driver or he has a superb car. In fact I think this is all true, however I think that the question is that his success is a bit distorted when we need to count his wins and compare them with Alonso, Hamilton, Raikonen... because I doubt they had a car 1 second faster than the 2nd, a 1.5 second faster than the 3rd, and such. And of course they didn't have a car which was the fastest in every track.


I honestly don't know where vettel fits. I think for outright pace he is there but I want to see more of his race craft. I can't seperate Hamilton and alonso and I think only time will put vettel in there bracket. Vettel for me though is clearly the third best and rightfully should be seen in alonso and hamilton's class.


James, I have to say that I really like the balanced insight of this article and the discussion point it forms.

It's interesting to see how the other competitors are unable to deal with the consistency of the Red Bull machine.

Hamilton looks to be the most affected and maybe not winning the championship with McLaren this year will surely only guarantee 1 more year of losing in a McLaren before he finally jumps into a winning seat and takes Vettel on in the same package.

It would be a mouthwatering prospect to see Hamliton and Vettel trying to out qualify each other on Saturday and then out DRS each other on a Sunday.


Have people forgotten that aero build their cars and fine tune them based on the feedback of the driver ??? Sitting behind a computer and wind tunnels can only get you so far - not only must the driver be fast, but also communicate back to the engineers and aero what the car is telling them and how it can be improved.


Personally, I feel that Vettel is the better driver of the 3 for a number of reasons.

Vettel is not simply feeding on the fortunes of Adrian's fast car, he works hard and is putting all efforts to make sure that he is ahead of his teammate and ahead of everyone else.

Other good points:

Vettel and Alonso can drive in the rain, thats something Alonso can't do.

Vettel and Alonso is so much more mature than Hamilton.

Vettel and Alonso is way ahead of his teammate, which Hamilton is not.

Vettel is also a thinker as demonstrated in the Monacco GP and his other recent wins.


Vettel and Hamilton can drive in the rain, thats something Alonso can’t do .

-Hungary 2006? Nurburgring 2007? Magny Course 2008 (Only Fernando and Nick were able to end the race without spinning if i remember)? Brazil 2008? Australia 2010? Korea 2010? lol.

Vettel and Alonso is so much more mature than Hamilton

-Alonso yes, Vettel...

Vettel and Alonso is way ahead of his teammate, which Hamilton is not.

-Marke Webber is NOT WC, Felipe Massa is NOT WC, Jenson Button IS WC.

Vettel is also a thinker as demonstrated in the Monacco GP and his other recent wins.

-Yes, he thought "here is imposssible to overtake, let's go slow and save tyres". What a genius.


Has F1 ever had 3 top drivers in the same era ?


Senna, Prost, Mansell, Piquet. Maybe not all of them had top drives, but they did all race together.



Come to think of it, Lewis idolized Senna and considers Alonso as "his Prost". And along come the baby Schumi, who is dominating the sport. Quite ironic isn't it.

James, how many titles do you think Vettel will win?

To me, it looks like four is a very realistic figure,he is only 23 and almost two titles under his belt.


I can see him winning this one and at least another one. If he stays at Red Bull and they have a run like Ferrari in 2000s or Williams in 1990s, who knows?


A couple of points,

• The fact that Hamilton was ranked ahead of Alonso in 2007, by virtue of an extra second place, is no more meaningful as the fact that in 2010 Alonso finished second, in the 3rd ranked constructor car, to Hamilton's 4th, in the 2nd ranked constructor car.

You decide whether it's meaningful or not.

• I think some people here suffer from historical conditioning and car performance typecasting when evaluating Vettel as a driver.

How could Vettel win in not the best car and you believe that it wasn't the best car?

I think it's probable, in Spain, Vettel did not have the fastest race package - and he was also without KERS.

eric weinraub

James, sometimes your revisionist... must be something truly British... view of events really gets tiring. Let me help you with regards to Schumacher! In 2006 Michael, mainly because of pressure to sign Raikkonen, back injury, and pressure from Carina, Michael retires... I guess you were busy doing something else when Michael lapped more than 1 second faster than the entire field at the season finale in Brazil 2006. There was no... 'he knew his time was up' crap! He was forced out to make way for a driver who has delivered... let's see... a WC in a car built for Micheal who once it became time to WORK, fled! Vettel is a great driver in the CLASS car of the field. of course he's beating the tar out of everyone.


I think you are working on some very wrong assumptions about me here. You overlook the fact that I wrote a biography of Michael when he retired - with co-operation. I was close to that situation as a result. And as a result of having written two books with him I think your assumption that I don't like him is ridiculous. Our careers overlapped - I started in F1 the year before him. I've had many dealings with him and there is no problem there. We get on fine



How could you miss Kimi from the list, the guy who 'amazed' James Allen quite a few times when he was driving at his peak. He was surely a better driver in 2007 and 2005 than anyone else who appeared on the grid then. And all these 'motivation' talks that some harp are rubbish because we never know what went wrong in the Hockenheim test in 2008 when all of a sudden Felipe Massa started showing promise with the help of a certain 'shark fin'. And subsequently there wee motivation talks and the arrival of a certain Spaniard who would later thrash Massa from his presence. All too easy in F1!

Anyways, Vettel has equalled the record of Lewis 'the erratic' Hamilton, in lesser number of races.

Vettel wins




2011-5 so far

Hamilton wins





2011-1 so far



I think nearly everyone agrees that Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton are above the rest. But who would you rank 1st, 2nd and 3rd, both in outright speed and as a complete package (team leadership, race-craft and -intelligence, qualifying speed, absence of avoidable errors, etc.)? I know it's not an easy call ...


Complete package? Fernando Alonso. Wait, it wasn't that difficult...


With regards to the "Vettel only winning from Pole" discussion going on here, I don't understand how being an exceptional qualifier makes people think of him as a bad racer. I will freely admit that he still lacks some of the skills of the greats when coming through traffic, but Hamilton / Alonso (and other past greats for that matter) don't always make multiple clean passes per race. Hamilton was little short of a menace in Monaco.

Senna had 65 poles and 41 wins - does this mean he was a "bad" racer because he only converted 63% of poles? I think not - it's just he was probably the best qualifier in history, and he wasn't quite as good in the races. Drivers like Schumacher and Prost (both having substantially more wins than poles) were probably better racers than qualifiers, but again it's all relative.

The point is, I think Vettel actually suffers in these comparisons because he is *so* good over a single flying lap.


The point is, I think Vettel actually suffers in these comparisons because his car is *so* good over a single flying lap.

-Correction finished.


excellent mate!

To bring into consideration another startling fact about Vettel, he didn't have the best car in two of the five races he won, viz Monaco n Barcelona. Ofcourse McLaren was clawing onto his rear both times but he watched his back pretty well. An year ago, it might have ended in tatters but now that the monkey is off his back, I think Vettel is driving at his best and yes, Hamilton is no match to Vettel because the brilliant ovrtaker that he is, he makes a mockery of himself when the moves don't work. And Vettel on the other hand has got controlled agression, controlled in the sense like he showed in Barcelona and aggressive in the sense like he showed in Silverstone last year.

Hamilton is a trier no doubt but he's erratic and fundamentally flawed. He just can't see people passing him, a trait which might have made him a great two deacedes back but not anymore. After all, people do see a red light in the pitlane.


What people tend to forget is that even the worse driver out there is lapping within a few SECONDS of the best of them. Every single one of them is a phenomenally brave extreme athlete. Please just enjoy all of their talents and dint get too mixed up with the who is best endless debate that goes on and on. Remember noone thinks Stirling Moss couldn't drive but he didn't win a championship.


The debate hasn't yet generated 300 comments so time to add some more fuel to the fire :

For the combined 2010 & 2011 seasons :

Webber : 7 fastest-laps

LewHam : 6

Alonso : 5

SebVet : 3

Therefore, seems pretty clear that for current drivers in current cars, Webber is the fastest.

Alternatively, my method of deciding is just as silly as many of the other ones mentioned in this debate. Funny (or sad?) how we can be talking about human rights on one day and then, next day, arguing about why my favourite is better than yours.


F1 without either Lewis or Fernando would be a much poorer spectacle for a whole host of reasons, not least of which human drama and the back story - they're needed. Vettel, like Kubica, would be missed, but, meh, the show would go on. Ham vs Alo is a necessary ingredient, Ham vs Seb or Alo vs Vet nowhere near as exciting/interesting (yet).


I'm rather late with the Vet/Ham/Alo debate.

I am a huge Hamilton fan (my family does not agree). At the end of the 2006 season I was depressed 'coz Schumy had left, and I couldn't support any of his rivals now could I. Then Hamilton came on and I (+ many other people) had a new drive to support (I am a driver supporter and not a team supproted).

Hamilton has shown over the years that he has the best car control of any driver today. I truly believe he is on par with Senna in that regard, he can make the car dance if he wants. I believe Button, Vettel etc. does not have that outright talent. The race where he really showed this was Silverstone 2008, where he beat the rest of the field by over a minute, while most of the other drivers spun, and in Spa 2008 when he won (and was stripped of it) and where Raikkonen went into the wall.

I do not believe he is the fastest driver though, because he does not have the smoothest driving style. Raikkonen had the most fastest laps in 2008. But does that make a driver great, or his ability to adapt the changing conditions etc?

Hamilton is not living up to his name in the last couple of races, so I hope he bounces back in Canada...

And for the "win from the back" argument, I agree with a previous comment that it is not really possible in modern F1. Schumy won from the back because he made a mistake quali or the race and had a superior car. Hamilton and others has finished high up the order a few times from the back.

To see a "alomst" win from the back (placed 2nd) see his GP2 Turkey race 2006.

But the greates diver is still Senna, can't wait to see the documentary...