F1 Winter Break
Ecclestone: “Vettel is the best driver on the grid”
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Sep 2011   |  10:57 am GMT  |  201 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the full conversation click HERE

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


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

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

He now reminds me of a combination of Senna and Prost. He`s got the raw one-lap speed of Senna mixed with the ability to analyse a race and take care of the car that Prost had. A combination like that is indeed bad news for his competitors. I actually think he`s allready now more calculated and tactically skilled than Alonso when it comes to races. And he`s only 24..

I also think he`s very capable in the mechanical department when it comes down to give input when developing a car. You have to remember that Torro Rosso never won a race before Vettel, or since.. Red Bull also started their winning ways with the arrival of Vettel..

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

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


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


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


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

Vettel or Alonso? I think Alonso today….but in 2-3 years…it will be hard to pick one of them. I think Vettel is becoming a phenomenal driver that will be remembered….

I wish Alonso could win at least one more title….but it willmnot be easy…well maybe he will in the next 5 years…


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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



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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


I have one in the pipeline..


If JA did a survey asking “Which is the best car on the grid?”, the answer would (I think) be overwhelmingly in favour of RBR. Many of us might not be happy about it due to our team preferences, but I think we’d all generally agree on it.

Why? Well, it’s obvious to all of us :

Always on pole.

Almost-always leading the races.

Almost-always winning the races.

Yet, when the same question is asked about the driver, the criteria suddenly changes….


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


i have to admit i think James’ article is pretty fair and unbiased and i think he does a good job of appraising each driver fairly.

as for vettel in inferior machinery, anyone remmeber monza in the torro rosso ? His peers all said he was amazing that day, the wet is a great leveller of a cars abilities and allows a driver to shine, Vettel is a fine driver and his wet abilities show this, hamilton too, you only have to look at massa for a driver who shows his true abilities in the wet!


That’s correct till Kubica is back 🙂


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


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

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

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




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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


I am not a bit surprised to hear it from Bernie, having known the history of him always endorsing the winners.

When Fernando blasted into the picture, he was going all out to tell that FA was the best driver on planet. Result- we have two Spanish GPs on calendar 3 years running. Is there anything more he can achieve by appreciating Fernando?? Hell no, job well done!!

We saw similar story when Lewis came in gave the double world champion one hell of a run. When LH became champion, he turned into Ecclestone’s golden boy. Result is a renewed interest and cash flow from English speaking market of the world, especially from Great Britain.

Now that Vettel is the driver on a roll, Bernie has shifted his allegiance once more.

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


Vettel may very well be the ‘best’ driver on the grid but we have no way of knowing that at this time. He needs to show everyone how he can perform in an underperforming team, not just a top-shelf outfit like Red Bull is at the moment. The same is true for lewis. The pair of them may be the best but who can say? There is no basis for comparison. Had he said Seb was the ‘fastest’ driver on the grid, i couldnt really argue.

Several other great drivers on the grid have paid their dues in mediocre cars before enjoying success. Schumi, Jenson, Webber, Alonso, Rubens etc. These are the guys you would want to be in a trench with you if the situation arose. Proven performers at both ends of the grid.

I particularly like the tongue in cheek comment by Bernie regarding cheating. Christian didn’t seem to deny anything either.


Vettel was in a torro Rosso before Rbr


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

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

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


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

There is, though, a BIG but.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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