So much so young: Sebastian Vettel
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Oct 2011   |  10:08 am GMT  |  266 comments

Some say he’s going to win as many titles as Schumacher, others say he’s still improving as a driver, while others say it’s all the car and Vettel cannot overtake.

No 24 year old driver has achieved more – two world titles, 19 wins, 27 pole positions.

And now Fernando Alonso has challenged him to a contest to see who can be the youngest ever three times world champion – one of them is likely to beat Ayrton Senna’s record of 31 years of age. Alonso has been waiting five years for his third title..

Whatever the hype, the hyperbole or the criticisms swirling around this morning, the fact of the matter is that Sebastian Vettel is now a two times world champion, the youngest of the nine drivers who have achieved that feat.

And he thoroughly deserves it. He wanted to clinch it in style yesterday with victory in Suzuka, but when it became clear that the Red Bull’s tyre wear was going to make that impossible and Jenson Button had him covered, pragmatism took over and he settled for a place on the podium and a smaller trophy to clutch as he celebrated his historic achievement.

Many F1 fans don’t like Vettel; they don’t like the finger he waves around when he comes first in a qualifying session or race, they don’t like the fact that he has the fastest car when he hasn’t struggled enough in his early life to deserve it – the dreaded “entitlement” argument so regularly trotted out against Lewis Hamilton. And they don’t like some of the things he does on the track like the chop on Button at the start yesterday, or the whirly finger “loony” gesture after he’d collided with team mate Mark Webber in Turkey last year.

I do like Vettel. I like him very much as a person and as a racing driver and I respect him, because he is true to his craft. He’s the perfect combination of fast, intelligent, focused and hard working. Apply those criteria to the other drivers on the grid and see how many tick four boxes. Chances are the ones that do will be the most successful, because that’s the way it’s always been at the top level of F1.

This season has gone pretty much as expected. Coming off the back of last season, the signs were all there that the confidence which that unlikely title win in Abu Dhabi gave to both Vettel and the technical team at Red Bull, would mean that they would come flying out of the traps in 2011. The fast car they produced gave them pole position at every race, but winning the races has proved more difficult, as McLaren and Ferrari were able to challenge them at most places on race day, with a few exceptions. The rivals beat them six times, but it could easily have been more.

I don’t think he’ll match Schumacher’s seven titles, because he’s around at the same time as some formidable talents and the likelihood is that McLaren and Ferrari will get their act together soon and build a car which can fight for the title. When they do, both teams have the drivers to take on Vettel.

It may be next year, it may be 2013, but it will happen.

Some fans believe he would not beat Alonso or Hamilton if they were his team mate. Maybe, but it’s a moot point; we’ll never know because it makes no sense for a team to try an experiment like that when F1 history shows how counterproductive it is to employ two drivers with a voracious appetite to win.

In the meantime, it’s time for fans of every persuasion to set aside any partisan feelings and accept that this year Vettel has been superb. He’s hardly put a foot wrong all year; a few crashes in practice sessions, the spin on the last lap in Montreal.

But he’s also given us some great moments; several perfect laps in qualifying, the pass on Alonso in Monza among them.

F1 is about the best of the best, in every department, “competing to win”, as Senna used to put it. And few people have a real understanding of what it takes to win in F1.

While rivals have missed opportunities, missed a trick on car design or botched pit stops, the fact of the matter is that this year, Vettel and his Red Bull team have given a text book example of how it should be done.

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1

The day I realised Vettel was special wasn’t the Monza victory which was fantastic in it’s own right but considered a freak at the time. No for Me it was the pass on Lewis at the Brazilian GP 2008 in difficult conditions. Very single minded and focussed total belief that he could make it stick, with a total disregard for the championship. Never undertood the whole Vettel can’t overtake nonsense, media whipping up a frenzy while conveniently ignoring the evidence!

2

As an Alonso fan I have been in awe of Vettel.He has been flawless all year and has adapted to the tyres brilliantly. This for me is why Lewis is struggling as the tyres don’t allow him to drive in his normal extravagant style. A true champion adapts and he will have to soon or mclaren will start to focus their energies on button. Alonso will be able empathise with Lewis as he had a similar problem at mclaren when he made the change to Bridgestone…ironic!!

3

Just a question, anyone…what exactly defines talent? How do we measure it? Statistical achievements? Bravado? Exhibition of skill? If so, then Seb and Mark would be equally talented.

Mark, cause of the cars he drove before joining Red Bull (who the heck finishes 5th in a Minardi?), and Seb for being in the Top 8 in a Toro Rosso.

4

RBR raised Vettel’s game by providing him with a car tailor made for him, which in turn flattered the Pirellis.

Had RBR not compromised Webber’s WDC campaign in 2010 in a bid to justify their investment in Vettel, then it would have been the Boy Wonder struggling for grip and podiums.

5

Webber had no excuse for losing the title in 2010. The RB6 at his disposal, with far better luck with reliability, and Mark still lost.

6

Fascinating article, and some great posts.

James, a little off topic, but I was wondering, do you ever play console racing games, or is that a little too close to home?

And if so, who do you “drive” as?

7

Yoshi!

8

Of course, we all know Yoshi is the greatest driver of all time! xD

9

James, you wrote:

“Whatever the hype, the hyperbole or the criticisms swirling around this morning, the fact of the matter is that Sebastian Vettel is now a two times world champion, the youngest of the nine drivers who have achieved that feat.”

Not quite true. To be clear:

Youngest to achieve he certainly is, but the nine you mention are those who have won _back-to-back_ championships. (Vettel has also become the youngest to have won any two such championships, of the _fifteen_ who have ever won two or more).

10

To be a back-to-back WDC on Bridgestone then Pirelli is no mean feat. His overtaking is still not instinctive but suspect it will get better (alonso’s skill makes a drivers overtake on him look much better than it really is e.g. vettel, webber, koby, etc.).

Vettel may not surpass Schumi’s record 7 WDC titles but he will eventually overtake his record for # of pole positions.

Mercedes will need to break the RRA budget to get him on their books.

11

All who are disliking Vettel’s victory finger: would you dislike 2 fingers in a V-shape too?

The german word for Victory is written with a S for Sieg. The index finger of Vettel’s right hand was broken in 2007 and never really healed. So it is bended like an S.

Okay, Vettel said he did the finger-sign once after a victory as a young boy (way younger than now) and was asked at other victories by reporters to do it again. I would have liked if he said it is a german Sieg-Finger. There are a few pictures when he is not wearing gloves and you see the broken finger in a S-shape.

Even Button was winning last race, i saw no comments that Vettel’s new front wing was just arriving 21 minutes before qualifying and that he had to do setup and testing in qualifying. So closing the gap of one second from testing compared to Button in just Q1 and Q2 means that he has either high technical and aerodynamical knowledge to do quick setup changes with his team, or he is able to give clear responses so his team knows what to do, or both.

Much what Schumacher shined in. Noticed that after Heidfeld left, Renault is not competive any longer, no driver who gives good feedback of setup errors?

So i think one totally underestimated feature of Vettel seems to be that he is good in giving feedback.

Sorry if my english is close to non existant, i always slept at english lessons at school.

12

Your spelling is better than most of the English speakers who post on this site. The most popular mistakes seem to be when spelling definitely (usually ‘definately’ or ‘definatley’), lose (‘loose’) and, oddly for an F1-related page, Vettel (‘Vettle’).

13

James,

A refreshing look at Vettel, I had completely forgotten he is only 24, what an amazing achievement.

Additionally refreshing I saw a video today of him doing a donut on the edge of turn 2 celebrating his title, when will F1 take itself less seriously and allow the drivers to do such things? It gave me a massive smile to see a little bit more of driver character coming through. More of this please Bernie.

Congrats to Seb, but that was your last for a while I think.

14

Its far too early to tell just how good he is.

I like the guy a lot. I think hes got bundles of talent, but the great drivers of the past have all had to have periods of adversity (where say they werent in the fastest car) that they had to overcome. Its these periods that make them great.

Its the reason that Schumacher is not held up to the same standard as the great drivers of the past. He never had a period of adversity. He won titles at Benetton with launch control in his car and titles at Ferrari when that car was streets ahead of anything else.

Vettel clearly is talented. He has all the tools in his arsenal to be one of the sports greats, but for me, until hes had a period where everything wasnt going his was, we wont truly know just how good he is.

15

Schumacher’s early years at Ferrari were times of adversity. Did you not pay attention during 1996-1999? He even took pole on his first race back from a broken leg!

16

Absolutely couldnt have said it any better.

Alonso is a case in point…..retired Schumi at his zenith by doing a double on him and the world applauded etc etc. 5 years on with all manners of adversity visited on him, the man has stood 7 feet tall and in the eyes of most (including mine), is the most complete racing driver in F1 today. He lost the title last year at the last race (due to a dodgy team strategy call) whilst driving a car that was no where near the best car. He’s shown exceptional leadership and performance this year in another ‘dog of a car’ (compared to the RBRs and Maclarens) and has delivered results in spite of the car. He is a team leader.

Hamilton on the other hand is possibly the most naturally gifted driver of his generation but since winning his title and meeting all manners of adversity and challenges (aka Jenson!), he’s cracked…….

Seba may very well deliver in difficult circumstances but we simply don’t know that…….time though will tell

17

I have to admit, I’m a JB and McLaren fan predominantly, so I’m not biased towards Seb in any way.

I do however believe that even in a good car, you dont dominate like Seb has this year without being a top drawer driver.

I am one of the many that doesnt like his finger waving, or the crazy frog, but he comes across to me as a very well grounded young man.

That chop on JB at the weekend wasnt great, but lets just remember he doesnt make a habit out of it does he. His other incidents were two mistakes against webber and jb last year.

What I really dislike is when people are completely unable to see past their driver and team. I want McLaren to win every race, but if they dont I like to see good driving and great racing.

F1 seems to be reflecting modern day society in many ways, in that there appears to be no middle ground. You can either fanatically like or dislike something without being able to take a balanced view.

Yes Seb has the best car, but so did Fernando at Renault, so did Lewis at McLaren, so did Jenson at Brawn for most of that season. And so did greats like Mansell, Prost, Senna in a lot of their wins.

Great drivers very rarely win without a good car underneath them. A good car is part of the sport, and its why I like this sport more than any other. The technical aspect is intriguing as is the strategy etc.

Just an opinion.

18

James, you may need to start writing a book……

19

LOL!! Thanks for that

20

I thought the most interesting item in the article was the statistic that the youngest triple champion is Ayrton Senna at 31. This is older than I expected it to be & I started to think why this would be so.

I think the reason is two-fold. Firstly, by the time most drivers get into a competitive car (after serving their apprenticeship), it will be the late twenties for them. Secondly, the competiveness of F1 also means that the dynamics of which team is on top is very fluid. While a team may be on top for a couple of seasons, the other teams breathing down their neck will eventually overcome their dominance.

Look at Fernando Alonso. Two years on top & has now not won the title in 5 years. Michael Schumacher was able to string together 5 titles in a row, but this was an exception to the normal pattern. Most other periods of dominance seem to last only two season (Mikka Hakkinen @ McLaren, Williams in the early 90’s, Michael Schumacher @ Bennetton).

What does this mean for Sebastian Vettel? One thing in his favour was getting a drive in the top team at exactly the right time when they were peaking in their superiority. Also, can Red Bull maintain the superiority for another season? History says they will have difficulty doing it. McLaren are already lapping at their heels & Ferrari are not that far behind. Mercedes are also likely to take a step improvement next season. Should make for an interesting year.

21

Sebastian has won the championship in probably one of the most competitive eras in Formula One. He has had to beat Hamilton and Button at McLaren, Alonso at Ferrari and his own team mate Webber. All the above are great drivers and all have had fast cars.

Ayrton Senna is the last champion to have had a similar level of competition when he beat Prost, Mansell and Piquet in the 1980s.

22

No question the ‘Vettel – Redbull’package was untouchable and without doubt deserved the Title this year, however I remain to be convinced that Vettel is as yet the complete driver like Alonso. He certainly has blinding speed (like Hamilton does) but I need to see him perform in adverse situations over a season before drawing a final conclusion. Can he scrap regularly with the best of them in a proper dogfight and come out on top or thereabouts? Can he manhandle a poor performing car on to podium places consistently and challenge for the Championship? Can he (NOW) handle not having the best car / being top dog / etc across one or more seasons and still keep his head, his motivation, his leadership plus more and continue to deliver results for the team? Alonso has / can, Schumi has…….time will tell with Vettel

23

None of the drivers you mentioned did all those things either. Including the legends of F1 like Fangio.

So basically, you have a group of people who demand Vettel to walk over water, do things no other champion has done, before they will admit he is a bit more than average driver.

It is pathetic and reeks of sour grapes.

24

Not at all my friend and if you cared to look at my article again you’d find I started off saying “No question the ‘Vettel – Redbull’package was untouchable and without doubt deserved the Title this year…..” He thrashed his team mate and has as I also said in my commen, ‘has blinding speed”. The man deserves his title period!

However the point I was trying to make is that to be a complete driver, you need more than just blinding speed; take a look at Hamilton. He has incredible speed and in the right package, got pipped to the title in his 1st year and won it in his next one. Now, the world at the time was in complete awe of him, were comparing him to Schumi and were talking about long term dominance / breaking records etc etc……..sound familiar??

Well what happened next? He met a few of the adverse conditions I mentioned above and has simply put, cracked!

Alonso on the other hand retired Schumi at his zenith by doing a double on him and again the world applauded etc etc. 5 years on with all manners of adversity visited on him, the man has stood 7 feet tall and in the eyes of most is the most complete racing driver in F1 today. He lost the title last year at the last race (due to a dodgy team strategy call) whilst driving a car that was no where near the best car. He’s shown exceptional leadership and performance in another dog of a car (compared to the RBRs and Maclarens)…..I could go on.

Vettel is a hugely and naturally gifted driver and has matured this year compared to last and may very well possess all the qualities above….All I’m saying is that we do not know but no doubt in my mind that at some point in the next couple or more years, we will find out, no doubt.

Until then, congrats to Seba on a job well done

25

If there was an “Article of the Year” button, I’d be hitting it over and over again right now. Great stuff.

26
Adrian Newey Jnr

James – any likelihood that RBR learnt from last years mistake by backing Seb early in the season at the cost of Webber? Have you got any insight as to why Mark’s performance has fallen off the cliff? He alluded to performance differences in the car in his last interview. Maybe Vettel gets the new parts?

27

No. I think Vettel raised his level in 2011 and MW struggled on the Pirellis

28

Thanks for your insight. I think it has really puzzled Webber fans after his performance last year.

29

It may not be the popular view but Vettel strikes me as arrogant. The only reason he is a two time champ is because RBR backs one driver fully and as has been said “a team cannot fully support two drivers”.

He is not a class above any other driver on the grid.

He just has Adrian Newey for Hardware & Helmut for favouritism.

30

He is even promoted by Bernie and Charlie Whiting.

31

You picked your nickname properly 😛

32

If you don’t like Vettel, you don’t like people, as simple as that.

He is as humble as you can expect from a very successful young man.

33

Hes very good at what he does, but i’m not sold. Its when times are tough that brings out the best race drivers.

And when the times were tough for Vettel, like Turkey 2010, I believe that we saw the worst of him.

I would like to see him go wheel to wheel more often, as he hasnt really had to challenge and fight lap after lap, and overtaking every one for some of his wins. But maybe that is formula one of the modern era. He just seems to win pole position and lead from the front.

I wish he has a more competitive team mate, i’d love to see him up against Alosno, Button or Hamilton or some future star who can really test him.

34

15 races — 15 RB Poles. When was the last time |a single team had been so dominant? This should be a matter of concern to the Motorsport world

35
Ted the Mechanic

Even though I’ve wanted someone (anyone! Webber, Alonso, Button, Hamilton – someone please bring it!) to take the fight to Vettel all year I have reached this point now where, despite the finger, despite the entitlement argument, despite the unlikeability factor, despite the car, despite the Team backing…

I have formed a grudging respect for the (“kid” no more) man. I can no longer ignore his consistently exceptional qualifying performances (often with just one shot at it); his relatively mistake-free fast race laps; his focus and commitment; his professional approach to the task, the team and the media; his… maturity.

I must admit I went through the same process with Michael Schumacher (waiting for DC to step up) and then thought “Why fight it?” Might as well just back the best and then I won’t be disappointed so often.

I guess most of us understand the Vettel unlikeability factor, sometimes it’s just hard to get past these things.

However, these days I just appreciate the whole crazy show and try not to have favourite teams or drivers.

36

‘However, these days I just appreciate the whole crazy show and try not to have favourite teams or drivers.’

I agree with you, I’m into that mode after all these years of having my favourites. It does upset one quite a bit tho.

37
Ted the Mechanic

However, after saying that, I do hope Mercedes build a strong car for next year because I would love to see Schumi fighting for wins once more.

38

Much of the criticism Vettel get’s is unjustified. Unfairly & pathetically dubbed “crash kid” by Whitmarsh last year, I wonder if Martin has stopped to reflect on his own drivers performance this season. Just think of all the incidents that Hamilton has been involved in with Massa alone (!!!!) this year… Japan, Singapore (plus the Qualy spat), Silversone & Monaco (Hairpin & Tunnel) and that’s just off the top of my head. If Seb had been the one at fault for even half of that, he’d have been torn apart by the media.

39

Vettel was the youngest at 19 to score a single point with BMW. Many sung praises when he was the youngest to bag the win in a wet Monza race with an underrated Toro Rosso. Countless fans vouched Sebastian will be world champion one day.

Welcome SEBASTIAN VETTEL, a well deserved champ.

At 24 he’s the youngest tenth back to back double world champ. There’s no bearing to keep saying the ‘iffy’ thingy. A hearty congratulations to Vettel for his victories and records and wish him the best in years to come.

What would be good if Ferrari, McLaren or even Williams close in on Red Bull next year, a repeat of 2010 will be most welcomed.

Should Kimi come back which I certainly hope so, we’ll have six champions, wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Just to recap from 2005 till 2011, has been really surprising years in F1. After the Schumi domination era, we don’t want another similar effect.

2007 we experienced the Hamilton phenomenon, still remembered Lewis in the purples on his first practice session at Melbourne.

2012 will be in our face in no time as the last race closes on 25 November.

40

Those bleating on about it being ‘just the car’ should be forced to watch an entire race through SV’s on-board camera. Maybe then they would gain more appreciation for exactly what it takes to win. Actually, come to think of it, that would be a very interesting experience.

Alternatively, purchase an Xbox and the F12011 game then try to complete a full race distance. I guarantee you won’t be able to do it. Don’t forget to turn the heaters up to 50 degrees celsius and ask someone to tie a rope around your head and yank on it every time you go around a corner.

Respect where it’s due people. S.V has been supreme.

On a totally unrelated note – any updated on Robert Kubica? Would be amazing to see him drive a practice session in Brazil.

41

He won’t drive in Brazil but may test something next month

42

I wouldn’t say Hamilton and Button have been counterproductive as team mates and I think they both have the same drive for victory that all the top drivers need to have.

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