Vettel to step up a gear in 2012?
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Jan 2012   |  11:28 am GMT  |  191 comments

Yesterday the boss of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, said that “Sebastian (Vettel) has improved and is stronger than ever. He has prepared during the winter break like never before and he will certainly not let us down.”

With just two weeks to go until the wraps come off the new cars from the challengers for the championship, attention is building on what kind of season we will have and how close the racing will be.

Mateschitz went on to say in the same interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, that he thinks the closest challenger this year will be McLaren, then Ferrari and then Mercedes. Before any of the cars turns a wheel that is also my assessment of what lies in store. If that is the case then Vettel’s superiority over his team mate may be a crucial factor in the battle with the two McLaren drivers, who are likely to take wins and points off each other. I’d also expect Lewis Hamilton to shake off the malaise that affected him last season and be on top of his game again.

Fernando Alonso enjoys an even greater superiority over his Ferrari team mate and is very clearly the Scuderia’s favoured runner in any tight situation.

In a close title fight these could prove the decisive factors. And I expect a closer title fight with car development again a crucial factor throughout the long season.

Red Bull ended the 2011 season in very strong form with a 1-2 finish in Brazil and there is every reason to expect them to pick up in Melbourne where they left off, despite the banning of the exhaust blown diffusers on which they led the way in collaboration with Renault.

But Mateschitz choosing this moment to suggest that Vettel has taken his training and preparation to a new level in anticipation of the new season is interesting.

Vettel is young and, despite saturation levels of success in the last 36 months, he’s still hungry. That’s one key message here. Another is that he still has more development and maturity to come as a driver.

The success in 2011 was all about the team reaching the highest levels in all areas; design, development, operations, strategy, tyre management, crisis management and above all driving.

Keeping the momentum of a large organisation going at such an extremely high level is very hard, especially when winning becomes a habit and your well funded rivals are gunning for you. But the inspiration comes from the man who holds the steering wheel, the rest of the team follows.

At this early stage I’d suggest that Vettel starts favourite and will step up another gear in 2012, both in terms of driving and team leadership in search of the third world title that would put him among the greats like Senna, Prost, Schumacher and Stewart in the record books, even if many fans still deny that he merits that status.

He’s the man to beat.

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Seb did well in toro rosso in 2008 when they were 7th n rbr(with redbull’s brand name) 8th in c’ship.


“even if many fans still deny that he merits that status.”

Yer I’m one of them. Put him in a lesser car and see how he does.


Somebody missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons.


What people fail to realize is that if one driver is consistently half a secondish faster than his teammate, he is already a legend in the making.

If you look at all the great champions in the past, that has always been the case unless two world class drivers drive for the same team.


No doubt , SV is good. But I think MW would be much much closer if MW worked with the team more to get a tuned car for him and support from the team to do so. Just look at how SVs car takes off and corners on the first turn and pulls away every time – now tell me both cars are the same????????


Do you think RBR give MW a slower car than SV? Why would they do this? Surely they want to win with both drivers, just like any other top team would like.


In every team , resources must be tuned , accordingly they choose a number 1 and 2 driver . Would Marco ever make public comments that one is about drivers to retire or try to swap nose cones in broad daylight ? Part of life mate .


I’ve said it before…. I think Seb V is one of the greater. He’s not my personal favourite, but the speed, the way he drives and the way he qualifies. You can just be amazed.

I think that comments such as “he has not won in an inferior car” is bxllshxt.

Adrian Newey Jnr

James – it seems interesting that in the massive amounts of sports that Red Bull sponsor, that Mateschitz would specifically focus on F1. Is F1 that important to them? Your colleague Joe Saward likes to suggest that RB is not in F1 for the long term.


Truth is nobody knows how long they will be in for – at this level in investment.

They were in for many years with Sauber, learning the business, so they’ve been around a long time already.

It will take a change in F1’s business model, whereby revenues from TV etc plus outside sponsorship mean that Red Bull’s contribution is very manageable, for it to be a really long term proposition. RB’s spend is coming down all the time with the success they are having, prize money, bonuses etc.

There is a real incentive for them to be part of a process whereby F1 teams can get costs down, as it will ensure the long term participation of the parent brand.


Can someone with insight or F1 inside info (James) let us now if Lotus has plans for developing (or already in place) variation of this system that could pass rules to get FIA approval?

Also how bad will Lotus team’s car’s performance be affected due to this ban as they must have developed the car using this system? I read somewhere (may be here) that this system can be easily taken off the car without affecting its car’s stability or normal performance.


Vettel with a good car didn’t throw it away and made optimum use of it. I think that’s a good thing. When Alonso won in 2005 and 2006 who knew that 5 years later he wouldn’t have won again. Same with Hamilton after 2008.

Only time will tell. In any sport a career can be truly judged only over a 8-10 year period based on longevity and results.

Why should we jump to conclusions and argue if Vettel is a great driver now? He is a very good driver with great potential. lets see how he goes over the next 5 years and then make a judgement.



“he’s in the car to beat”

Anyone else switched places with him last year would have won WDC – and he would not have done.


You mean like Mark Webber?


Same goes for the other champions on the grid. Your point is?


Your statement would indicate that you believe *everyone* else in the field is better than Vettel. For a start, Webber was in the same car. He didnt manage a WDC in 2011. I would concede that it’s entirely possible that 1 or 2 of the current drivers would give him a run for his money in identical machinery, but to claim that *anyone* would have won the WDC in that car… Who could argue with that logic [rolls eyes].


When are people going to realise Webber was not “in the same car”? If he was, he’d have to somehow shoehorn himself in Vettel’s car with Vettel already seated in it.

It’s been said again and again since 2009 that Vettel is the driver RBR gets behind and Mark gets the scraps. If it was a truly even spread of support for both drivers like at McLaren then we’d see Mark make much more of an impact, maybe even take a WDC. Case in point, Mark’s ongoing clutch engagement “problems”, and Vettel’s subsequent “his start revs ALMOST dropped as low as Mark’s” (but never actually hindering his race starts) near misses. What? How can that even be an issue after 2 races, or are the mechanics more useless than they appear? It was clearly designed to give Vettel the edge in races where Mark could challenge him at the same time give Mark a nice mechanical failure to blame a poor(er) result on.

But no, even after all that people still use Mark as the measuring stock against Vettel when clearly the support they receive is vastly different… mostly if not all due to Vettel’s future potential driving for RBR long term.

I would expect a Vettel supporter to do the usual conspiracy theory response to the suggestion of RBR favouring SV, but it’s fact, it’s just which weird mechanical or strategic issues that Mark suffered throughout the season do you specifically want to focus on.


I support Mark Webber 100% actually but I don’t believe that he is supplied with substandard equipment. He is essentially driving the same car as Vettel. Of course there are differences but i doubt they are designed to hobble Mark over Seb.

Please don’t insult Aussie drivers by making excuses for them.


Vettel is the focus of the team because he is simply the better driver. Simple as that.


The person would need to be substantially better than Mark Webber


Would love to see him in a crap car with button or hamilton, then we can start calling him great , but not with a great car and webber … No no .


The Mclaren Hamilton and Button drove isn’t “crap”, it’s a car that was capable of challenging Vettel’s Red Bull on more occasions than it actually did.


Won six races and could have won a few more


More nonsensical PR BS from RBR.

It turns out that the various forms of the oldest sports cliche – “we’re gonna step it up a notch this season” – never really pan out. Its just motivational BS for the troops.


We’re about to witness a time honored adage: “when the flag drops the bullsh*t stops.” Looking forward to 2012.


No doubt he will step up a gear next year and year after that, such is Vetel’s application. He was a different driver in 2011 to 2010 to prove my theory… Its nothing got to do with hunger etc. it just how Vetel is as a sportsperson thats all 🙂


Just like Jeremy Clarkson says in Top Gear,



This is just hot air. DM is just trying to create a news story over nothing; you look at all the press interest last year (top F1 stories on Autosport for example) and barely a breath was spoken about Red Bull or Vettel. They can win races, but seemingly not make headlines!

I suspect McLaren will fade in 2012 – I suspect Ferrari will be running in the #1 or #2 spot and Red Bull will be up there but not as dominant as last season. Well, I sincerely hope that’s the case anyway!


You detractors are hilarious.

All these criteria people mention to ‘disprove’ Vettel is a good driver, yet if they apply the same criteria to their own favorite drivers, or of the ‘greats’ of the past, none of them would pass those same criteria.

What, you thought Fangio and Senna won their championships driving in the slowest car or something? They had the fastest. And they won most of their races also from pole/2nd. They didn’t do much passing too. They clearly aren’t ‘great’ in your unbiased eyes, yes?

Driving a Newey car disqualifies the championship? What are you on about? That guy’s car hadn’t won a championship since 1999. Over a decade…hello?

That is F1, have the best package, then utilize it to the maximum. How people can critisize a driver for doing a good job on Saturday and then maximize the performance on Sunday, is rather pathetic.


Verstappen, Herbert, Irvine, Barichello, Massa…and to this list add Bourdais and Webber. That’ll be the main reason people undervalue certain championship victories.


Why didn’t you add Kovalainen and Fisichella to the list?

Oh, they were Hamilton’s and Alonso’s teammates when they won their championships that clearly aren’t impressive too then because their teammates were inferior drivers too, right? 😉


Well…i like kovi a lot. The main reason i rate alonso, Hamilton and button is because they have raced as teammates. I massively downgrade schumi for not going head to head with kimi and for being trounced by nico. A seb-lewis red bull combo for ’13 is what i want. Or alonso-lewis at Ferrari!teammates, wh


…and Kovalainen, Fisichella, and er.. Barrichello again.


Very Well said… Nice comment.

Win Championship in SLOW Car is a Joke. !!!! I am worried that if eventually Vettel wins a title in a “SLOW & BAD” car then our friends might say he will have to walk on foot and win the title to prove that he is great.


Couldn’t have said it better it beats the imagination when people type utter rubbish.


Hear, hear!


Exactly: top drivers have won races, even several, using superior tactics with inferior cars. But a title? Has it ever really happened outside of fanboy mythology?


Good point – basically winning is winning whichever way it comes. When you win the most you are the best


Well said mate.


Well if Mateschitz thinks Vettel is going to be as good as he was in 2011, is he in for a major shock (the heart attack kind of shocks).

Look, Mark Webber’s problems have to a minor degree been the Pirelli tyres & to a larger degree been the gases that have been blowing under the diffusers.

Now since the Pirellis had got more durable towards the end of the season, Webber was getting on top of his woes e.g. at Interlagos & also if you recall that race in Silverstone in which the blowing of gases was banned, Webber out qualified Sebi & was all over his gear box towards the end of the race.

So yes, Vettel is in for his toughest season yet for not only will he have his teammate stalking him all over the place but his other competitors will have him eating dust.

Also Mateschitz may want to brush on his F1 history, if he did, he would know that no young double world champion has gone on to win three WDC on the trot, not Alonso nor Fittipaldi, nor, Prost, hell not even the royal Schumi pulled off that feat.

In addiction, no driver has ever won more than two WDCs in a Newey car for ironically, most drivers win one WDC with a Newey machine

Lastly & more importantly, Newey always produces cars (usually after major rule changes) that dominate for only 2 and a half seasons before they’re beaten.

So methinks Red Bull won’t infact be the car to beat but Ferrari so it doesn’t really matter how prepared the Wunderkid is for the new season, if he doesn’t have the machinery, he’s headed no where fast.


Good thing Vettel isn’t any of those other drivers, why don’t we wait till this time next year before we get so cocky about who is better than who eh?


There’s only one problem with your predictions…

Vettel makes the impossible possible.

And for proof of that just look at all the records he holds for such a young driver.


Anti-Vettel detector went code red with this post, haha.

You forgot to mention in Silverstone Vettel had KERS problems and was told to slow down, Webber then was told to slow down and he didn’t. Was the only reason he was close to Vettel because Vettel had mechanical problems and was told to slow down.

All drivers are begging for the best machinery. Alonso and Hamilton being the biggest whiners for it every weekend. So why not critisize them for not being able to do with without the best machinery which is what you demand for Vettel?

Double standards.


Goferet, a lot of what you say is more wishful thinking on your part in the end.

Vettel has been head and shoulders (pun intended) above Webber in 2009 qualifying when your criterias all applied. There was the durable Bridgestone, NO blown diffuser back then and Vettel beat Webber in all but 2 or 3 qualifyings. The car was not built around Vettel and sometimes (50% of the time) Webbers car was lighter due to different fuel loads back then. So your theory is already proven wrong and he was still kind of a rookie in his first year in a Red Bull.

Btw, didnt they use the new tire for 2012 in Brazil already ? Vettel still beat Webber by 0.2 sec. Interestingly Button beat your boy by 0.2 sec. and not vis-a-vis !

The ones in for a shock will be Hamilton fans if he doesnt live up to the hype soon. In the end every argument against Vettel can be used against Hamilton as well. Against Hamilton some make even sense.

May i just mention Monza 2008 and the constant bickering how that doesnt count because it was so easy getting pole position and the win in a Torro Rosso. Now my question for the Hamilton fans. When was the last time Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren on pole and won the race the next day ? Not within the last 30 odd races !


it’s frankly astonishing to hear that there are still people out there who doubt Vettel’s genius

he and Schumacher (when younger) are (were) head and shoulders above anybody else, including Alonso

“bizarrely”, the English media have always failed to share with their readers, what the F1 engineers and team bosses happily tell the international media

for a long time, for instance, Schumacher was driving with a partially broken neck

once his team was trying out a new OIL in testing without Schumi knowing it. Michael immediately noticed that something was different and then asked his engineers about the oil

as for Vettel, the great Adiran Newey once said

” of ALL the drivers I have worked with, Sebastian stands out”

if ANY of those stories/quotes had been linked with the likes of Button or Hamilton, we would not hear the end of it

kudos to James though: just like Murray Walker he has always been fair to Vettel

it would be great to get a few stories about Mercedes: they have so many little chiefs in their team now, you have to wonder whether they can make it work

thanks in advance for some input here, James


I agree with the astonishment at the Vettel doubters. But then again, the same was true of a young Senna, Schumacher, etc. It is difficult for some to recognize/admit truly extraordinary talent in the present. In 20 years, after Vettel has long-since retired with five or more championships, the same folks will undoubtedly recall “that genius Vettel” with misty-eyed nostalgia…


Agree with all your comments 100%

I’ve been watching F1 for over 20 years and Schumacher was (pre-retirement) simply the most skilled driver I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t think that I’d see his like again.

But then Seb came along in a Torro Rosso and changed my mind.

This kid might just be the best ever.

Just don’t tell the Brits!


My God, my respect for Schumacher has gone through the roof, he could even tell that the engine had a different lubricant…

Can you quote the source of that information, because everything I have ever read is that Irvine and Barrichello were better test drivers for Ferrari because they couldn’t drive around problems like Schumacher could.

In fact Irvine tested a front wing that had been rejected by Sir Schumacher and found 1/2 a second improvement.

Schumacher hadn’t felt any difference and reported it as such…


Important to note that Adrian Newey has worked with Senna – would he be suggesting Vettel stands out above Senna?

Also important to note is that Adrian Newey has never worked with Hamilton.


for 2 races before he was killed, and Senna was highly critical of that Williams


Hi James,

Did Mateschitz say anything about Mark Webber in the interview, I wonder if this will be his last seasonin F1 and if there is any indication who will pair Vettel in 2013??


I am a huge Vettel fan, so I am excited to see he is still has hungry as ever to be at the top. The prospect of him going for a triple championship makes me giddy!


Hi James,

Any news that Seb has taken his preparation to a new level is a scary prospect, who knows what he is capable of if he, as a man as driven completely by success, believes he can improve on 2011…

Slightly off-topic James, can we realistically expect Mercedes to be taking the fight to the big three this season? I’m sensing that 2013 is the first campaign in which they can go out and fight for victories, but is there any sense that podiums, for Schumacher at least, are around the corner?


There is a sense at large that they may have something up their sleeve, an innovative car perhaps.

Certainly they should be a lot closer than last year, racing the 2nd and 3rd fastest teams


James from what I understand they have 4 men on their design team who were techincal directors at one stage for other teams, won’t it be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen?

Adrian Newey Jnr

Perhaps those chiefs were “over promoted”? An example might be Sam Michael. Great in his area of expertise, but disappointed as a technical director.


Could be, but they are heads of departments now, working for a giant like Mercedes. The structure is clear. It requires Willis and Costa to accept that they aren’t top dog on tech side. If they can then the team should be potent, playing to the variou ‘ chiefs’ strengths.


Vettel may well have prepared harder in some respects for this season but equally I think it will really hard for him to raise his game compared to last year. This is because he hit such a high level last year that to better it would almost come close to perfection. James has a point that his team leadership may grow though, and if McLaren and Ferrari get closer to Red Bull this year then he may have to drive differently than in 2011. But I’m still not sure his actual on-track performances will be better than in 2011, though if he does need to race wheel-to-wheel more the perception of him may become more favourable among those who still have doubts about his ability.

Regarding Hamilton I think it depends on how competitive the McLaren is. If they start the season very close to, or faster than, Red Bull pace (or the pace of the fastest car, if that’s not Red Bull) then we will see him back at a very high standard. If not then his head might go down and distractions may increase – either away from F1 or even inside it (regarding his contract renewal, for instance).


I think vettel has weaknesses that he is well aware of. They built the red bull to qualify fast and build a gap and take victory by holding off challenges. When this failed vettel seemed to struggle more(I’m not suggesting he can’t overtake like some detractors – simply that he has one favored route to success and he cleverly exploits that).

If the red bull is not a qualifying monster in his hands again I think he will get more of a fight.

I’m not a particular vettel fan but I appreciate his greatness and intelligence. If he improves his racing I doubt anyone can touch him. I just hoe for the racing sake that mclaren and Ferrari put together some qualifying tricks to rob vettel of many pole positions and spoil the whole lights to flag victories he enjoys.


Not an opinion many F1 fans hold, but insiders are well aware of this.

McLaren to be strong and push RBR.

New tyre guru at Ferrari to fix their car-to-tyre relationship.

Mercedes: 50/50 chance of coming strong.

Until Vettel is forced to grind out race wins consistently (preferably from mid-grid), most F1 fans will never consider him great.


“Until Vettel is forced to grind out race wins consistently (preferably from mid-grid), most F1 fans will never consider him great.”

Vettel has already done what people say he still needs to do- prove he can overperform in a midfield car as he did in 2007-8. And his performances were every bit as good as the other champions on today’s grid.


“Most F1 fans”?

Who appointed you as spokesperson for the world? Thinking that your opinion is shared by everyone on the planet is more than a little conceited and arrogant.


Those F1 fans with bags over their heads is more accurate. No F1 driver has ever been forced to grind out victories from the midfield except on rare occasions. This is why they are midfielders.


Sorry if you’re offended VV, but there’s no doubt that the jury’s still out on Vettel.


“Until Vettel is forced to grind out race wins consistently (preferably from mid-grid), most F1 fans will never consider him great.”

This is why I never cheered Schumacher during his glory years, but AM cheering him on now. Everyone loves an underdog.


Oh man I can understand where you are coming from but I feel bad that you didn’t enjoy some of the finest racing moments delivered by the master.

It doesn’t matter if you are underdog or overdog, races like Barcelona 95,96, Brazil 2006 were absolutely amazing. If you appreciate driving, you LOVE it. It’s like if you love football, you wanna watch Messi.

Those things don’t come along very often mate.


Don’t forget Schumacher won many races from 2nd place and second row on the grid. Despite his overall record, he was not the best qualifier out there.


Whoever doubts Vettel should watch his appearance on Top Gear. He broke the lap record in the cheap car, but also was noted to be the only driver who checked the tire pressures of the car before doing the laps. Methodical and highly motivated.


It was dry track. Lewis’s lap time was on very wet track.


In fact Hamilton’s lap was not very wet, more like damp and in that type of car, damp surface makes little difference to the time.


You forgot oily! The track was wet and oily!

Tin foil on much!pfft


In a race enviroment I understand that, but on an entertainment programme???

He was either playing up to the cameras or, he is in desperate need of an anorak…


In which case that is a factor in itself that could have gained him a couple of seconds by lowering the pressures if say they were at say 32psi prior also unlikely anyone else took it seriously enough to think about it (being a light hearted show) not to mention track temperture wear on the car slightly worn or bent components in comparison to another’s drivers time say 5yrs earlier etc etc etc great if he was thinking about something about the tyre pressures from a competitive good racing mind point of view but in respect to the track varied possible track conditions and temp etc etc etc (the possibilities are endless in respect) the top gear times can not be taken into account without a minimum of 3 seconds on a visually comparable day. Simply NOT a valid point hero_was_senna did i point out de rista beat him in like for like machinary and in the same team in the 2006 f3 championship? 🙂


In fact over the time scale even something as simple as rear brake shoe adjustment there’s wind direction air temperature so so many factors in the possible 5yr term between all the drivers. what a ridiculous point hero_was_senna holds absolutely no water what so ever pmsl


In addition to what tim said; Vettel also did practice laps where he was moving the front seats back and forth to actually adjust the weight distribution


It’s meant to be a light-hearted thing with all manner of celebrities competing. I think his obsessiveness is beyond reason and proves nothing mroe than that. Most rational people see it for what it is – Clarkson & Co playing kids. Now, you’ll tell me Vettel was being the kid too in overdoing it. But that would be a contadiciton of your earlier statement.

BTW BBC producers are not the arbiters of F1 ‘talent’ – if there is such a thing beyond being lucky enough to get the best car…

Fan worship knows no bounds. Is it tied up with one’s own idea of who or what one would like to be and so becomes ‘personal’?


I’m not fixated on the time. More, actually, on the fact that BBC producers noted Vettel was the only driver they’d ever had to check tire pressures on the car before he did the laps, which say something about one’s approach. But I’m not trying to convince anyone; if you don’t agree, well, you don’t agree.

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