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Dominant car? Great driver? Or a bit of both?

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Andrew Benson | 11:35 UK time, Friday, 23 December 2011

Sebastian Vettel's second world championship title was as remarkable for its control as much as the blinding speed of the German and his Red Bull.

Vettel based his season on a strategy of taking pole position, blitzing the first two laps and from then on going only as fast as he needed to.

The plan generally worked to perfection - Vettel took 11 wins and 15 poles from 19 grands prix - but it left you wondering just how fast he and the Red Bull could have gone.

In Brazil, I asked him if, with the title already in the bag, he had ever been tempted to just go for it, to really push the car and himself to the absolute limits. He replied that he had done just that in Korea and India, the scenes of two of his most dominant wins. "We were able to explore and sometimes take a little bit more risk," Vettel told me.

Despite Vettel's domination in 2011, there were very few of the runaway wins normally seen when one car is superior to the rest. Quite often, the races looked competitive, with Vettel tantalisingly close to - but frustratingly just out of reach of - his leading rivals.

Vettel and team boss Christian Horner often insisted the Red Bull had less of an advantage over McLaren and Ferrari in 2011 than in 2010. Yet Vettel won only five races and recorded 10 poles in 2010 on his way to winning the championship for the first time.

Let's examine the two seasons in a little more detail.

In 2010, Vettel's advantage in qualifying over team-mate Mark Webber was only 0.053 seconds when averaged out over the season. In 2011, it was 0.414. Likewise, Vettel's average advantage over the fastest driver not in a Red Bull was 0.077secs in 2010. In 2011, it was 0.317. That is a massive percentage gain from year to year.

There are reasons why Webber was so far adrift of his team-mate. Unlike Vettel, he struggled with the new Pirelli tyres, which affected both his pace in qualifying and his tyre wear in races.

The Australian is also physically bigger than Vettel so was occasionally at a disadvantage with the car's weight distribution, which again impacted on both his pace and tyre wear.

Sebastian Vettel leads the field at the first corner of the Australian Grand Prix

Turn One, race one; Vettel already has a big lead as the rest squabble. The story of 2011. Photo: Getty

The DRS overtaking aid, which gave drivers within one second of a car in front a boost in straight-line speed, also influenced matters.

But it is the tyres which were key. Asked to produce ones that spiced up racing, Pirelli came up with rubber that wore out rapidly, forcing a greater number of pit stops and resulting in more unpredictable races.

It is also worth looking at Red Bull's race strategy in 2011. The team may have had a car whose aerodynamic superiority made it the fastest by far, but it lacked a little straight-line speed compared to the McLarens and Ferraris. On top of that, I understand Vettel thought some of his rivals were perhaps better at wheel-to-wheel racing.

As a result, Red Bull's strategy was based on Vettel taking pole position, then opening up enough of a gap by lap three to prevent anyone from being close enough to make use of the DRS system, which couldn't be used for the first two laps. After that, he would measure his pace to those behind, producing a super-fast lap or two if he needed to.

Such a strategy did have its risks. If Vettel found himself in the pack during a race, he would have problems overtaking as the car was set up for lap time not straight-line speed. In other words, an error in qualifying or at the start could mess up an entire race.

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Red Bull were caught out a couple of times, notably when Ferrari's Fernando Alonso rocketed to the front on the run down to the first corner in Spain and Italy.

In both cases, Vettel managed to get past again. In Spain, he did it by pit-stop strategy, although it took two attempts, while in Monza he achieved it a brave overtaking move around the outside of the flat-out Curva Grande.

Had it been a McLaren that passed Vettel - a car that was faster than the Ferrari over the lap and down the straights - he might have been sat behind for the entire race.

But team boss Horner was adamant the strategy that Red Bull employed was the right one. "As a team, you have to attack the events," he said. "If you are conservative, sometimes you can pay a penalty. If Vettel was in a situation where he needed a big overtake, yes, a gamble was taken. But it was a calculated risk."

So how dominant was the Red Bull, really?

It had a clear performance advantage in at least nine of the races, of which Vettel won eight - Australia, Turkey, Valencia, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea and India. The other one was Brazil, where he hit trouble.

That leaves five races at which it was not possible to ascertain whether Vettel's was the fastest race car, although it almost certainly was in most of them. They were Malaysia and Monaco, which he won, and China, Canada and Abu Dhabi, which he did not. And the remaining five races where it definitely was not, out of which he won only in Spain.

The first obvious conclusion is that the Red Bull's pace advantage was restricted by the tyres. On many occasions, Vettel could have gone faster but chose not to because he was concerned about over-using the tyres.

At the same time, Red Bull insiders insist Vettel was not always in the fastest car. There were weekends, they say, when they did not think the car was quick enough yet Vettel still managed to put it on pole. Equally, there were times when Vettel was having to drive on the edge to break the DRS and to hold his advantage at the head of the field.

The Pirellis required something new of the driver - an exquisite feel for the limits of the tyres, the intelligence to drive measured races at exactly the pace the tyres and car could cope with and the consistency to do it at every race.

How many drivers could do that?

Jenson Button had a great season for McLaren, finishing second behind Vettel in the standings. The 2009 world champion treats his tyres delicately and, at his best, is as good as anyone. However, his form tends to fluctuate depending on outside circumstances, while he is not the best qualifier.

As for Hamilton, his speed and feel are at least equal to Vettel's but the 2008 world champion struggled in 2011, making too many errors and perhaps not fully grasping the demands of the new F1.

Then there is Alonso. The double world champion boasts speed, consistency, adaptability and mental strength. However, the Ferrari was nowhere near fast enough this year and it's rare that the Spaniard transcends the car's abilities in qualifying, although he nearly always does in races.

That is why, in 2011, Vettel was generally in a league of his own, even on the occasions when his car was not.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Obviously is because is the best and the fastest.

  • Comment number 2.

    #1. Vettel, not the car

  • Comment number 3.

    It has to be said that whilst the Red bull was the fastest car in the majority of races, Vettle is also a great driver. He consistently beat Webber and won races he shouldn't have because of his ability to pump in fast laps when he needed to (though this was also down to McLaren, Ferrari & the rest failing to capitalise when they had the advantage).

    Well done to Vettle for this year but, for more entertainment next year, I hope that the rest of the field can get closer to him & the Red Bulls.

  • Comment number 4.

    Obviously it has to be a mixture of the two.

    1) Driver - Mark Webber was no where near Seb, of course some of it coming down to weight distribution but mostly because of the gulf in skill.

    2) Car - The car was by far the fastest on the grid in the majority of races, which gave Seb a advantage before he got into the car.

    I would like to also say that the difference between this year and last year was the inability of the rest of the field to take advantage when the Red Bull wasn't the fastest. Eg JB's wheel coming off, Hamilton crashing into other people & Alonso being let down by Ferrari.

  • Comment number 5.

    Dream on you could have put any driver in that car and he would have won the title, Webbers drop of form & bad luck has nothing to do with Vettel being anything more than an average driver. It's easy to see the quality drivers wringing the best from their car, like Alonso & Hamilton I have never seen that kind of talent with Vettel in any class he has driven. As others like to point out he was totally dominated by De Resta in the same car. Even he knows it as he counts himself lucky to have had the best designed car for years. Time will tell how good he is when he gets a lesser car, trouble is that doesn't look like any time soon :( One of the most boring seasons for years.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    'I have never seen that kind of talent with Vettel in any class he has driven. As others like to point out he was totally dominated by De Resta in the same car. Even he knows it as he counts himself lucky to have had the best designed car for years. Time will tell how good he is when he gets a lesser car, trouble is that doesn't look like any time soon'

    Didn't he do quite well in a Torro Rosso? (like pole and a win).

  • Comment number 8.

    perhaps the old 80/20 rule? 80% car 20% driver. If it was not for bad luck Mark Webber would have had no luck this season.

  • Comment number 9.

    @Wilko

    "Didn't he do quite well in a Torro Rosso? (like pole and a win)."

    Yes, he did. Take a look at where his team-mate qualified and reconsider your position. The Toro Rosso was set up perfectly for those conditions.

  • Comment number 10.

    Vettel is one of the best without a doubt, he's the fastest guy by a country mile and has matured incredibly quickly this season compared to last. Personally though, I can't say it was all Red Bull as this season McLaren made too many team and driver errors to mount any kind of challenge against that kind of consistency. Ferrari shot themselves in the foot with qualifying around 5th and 6th and had too much ground to make up come the race despite Alonso's starts.

    Nobody downplays their car before the season begins but I'll be surprised if Ferrari aren't stronger, we already saw from Silverstone how much closer they were when diffuser blowing was banned. McLaren seemed to suffer more than Red Bull in fact. I'm sure those 2 teams will catch that back pretty quickly though.

  • Comment number 11.

    @Wilko

    I should add, I do think he's a (reasonably) remarkable talent, but a "not the best car" example which in actual fact may well have been the best car on the day isn't much of an example at all.

  • Comment number 12.

    @5 boomish

    "As others like to point out he was totally dominated by De Resta in the same car."

    Who were the others you mentioned? drunk Di Resta fans at the local?

    Wikipedia gives a different account,

    "For much of the season, di Resta and Vettel were exchanging the points lead, but the German's focus wavered towards the end of the year. BMW-Sauber's motorsport director Mario Theissen attributed this to the busy schedule that Vettel undertook as his team's test driver in the last three Grands Prix of the 2006 F1 season"

    Good article Andrew, good seeing the comparisons from last year between Vettel and Webber and rest of the field. I heard one of the reasons Red Bull didn't want to completely show how dominant they were was it would lead to more accusations about RRA being broke by the team.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    I agree that Vettel is blisteringly fast when he has a clear track and can drive at his own limit, and all credit to him for that. However I have reservations about his ability when put under pressure. I think this may have influenced the team's strategy because getting Sebastian out front atthe start kept him out of the way of the hard-charging guys like Hamilton and Alonso and the more subtle Button. All of these drivers and others are better at wheel-to-wheel racing and Sebastian tends to cave in when put under such pressure, so he wins when he has a lead from the start and can stay out of the way and drive his own race. I am not saying he lacks talent but he does lack the maturity and the killer instinct of, say, a Mischael Schumacher.

  • Comment number 15.

    I will say this, no doubt about it, Vettel is a good driver, but i dont think he has been really tested out. after watching the Race of champions, Michael Schumacher went head to head with Vettel and beat him. so what does this say? it means that given an equal car, vettel will be beaten every time. the Red bull car was clearly the fastet car on the grid - period! Vettel’s two season wins are a carbon copy of Mika Hakkinen,because Mika had the fastest car then.And then look at what happen to him after that. ferrari and Schumacher killed it over the next five seasons. I believe that when the rest of the grid finally produce a car that is on the pace, Vettel will be showed up for what he really is and thats just a normally good F1 driver and nothing else.

  • Comment number 16.

    Ganulu has written that Vettel is obviously the best and the fastest. I dont think you are watch the same F1 coverage as the rest of the world. Just because someone can be fast in this sport doesn’t make them the best does it! Usain Bolt is fast and has been beaten, does this make him the best? The way people like you Ganulu see people like Vettel in this sport as immortal and invincible. Where are you going to put your face if vettel doesnt win the title in 2012? If he does win the 2012 season, then my credit goes to the guys who built the car. Schumacher joined Ferrari when they were at their all time low and took 4 years to help turn that prancing horse into a championship winning car. And to really give you something to think about Ganulu, if you have a brain, what do you think would be the consequences in F1 if Michael Schumacher was in that Red Bull car? shall I tell you?At the ripe old age of 42, he would be lapping everybody on the grid a lot sooner and more often than Vettel did.

  • Comment number 17.

    Vettel has a very long way to go to beat Shumacher's achievements. He has been y lucky in practice for pole and when the other teams find out what Red Bull switch on to get that extra speed, it will be interesting to see how he does from the pack. F1 must look at the stats. At present the majority of F1 wins come not from racing, but from pole position. Redbull also have the best team and team strategists. I would like to see more opportunities for overtaking introduced to all the F1 circuits. That would make for real racing.

  • Comment number 18.

    that car has more trickery in it than we know. it pushes the limits of fairness. hub Warmers, flexible wings and who knows what else? note red bulls reaction when blown rear end was to be banned!! newey was the fastest driver! but out of vettel and webber, vettel was.

  • Comment number 19.

    Yes, he had the fastest car on the grid this season, but he won in both Belgium and Italy in a car that is not suited to either circuit. Also he managed to adapt well to the tyres and his dedication to actually being around the garage, when he doesn't even need to be, helps him too. Sebastian Vettel is truly dedicated to his sport and is still learning and improving each time we see him race. He has matured as a driver this year and people should just give him a break, just because he can win! It's the same with British people in all sports- never happy unless they win, be happy that they are representing your country it's all about taking part not winning! Give the little German fellow a break!

  • Comment number 20.

    I like salty s comment 80% 20% (at least)

  • Comment number 21.

    It's very difficult to pinpoint just how good Vettel is given the car advantage he has enjoyed this season.
    There is no question he is a world class performer who has a prodigious talent behind the wheel of a racing car. However, it seems some doubts still linger with respect to his overtaking abilities.
    His overtaking successes in Barcelona and Monza suggest he has the full skills set, yet demonstration of these skills have been few and far between in his Red Bull career, which could be argued is not his fault given his teams dominance.
    Time will tell, although he will not be considered in the truly great bracket until he wins a close fought championship against a driver like Hamilton or Alonso.
    2010 was a rather lucky championship win.

  • Comment number 22.

    Dangerously Perfect Combination.

  • Comment number 23.

    Obviously it's both and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. First there is the car which unequivocally is the best by a country mile. Beyond that it is important to understand why and how it is the best. Put simple it's the most agile car on the grid with it's low drag, high downforce qualities makes it a very flexible package adaptable to all of the circuits. The McLaren had good straightline speed but inferior where it usually counts around the medium to high speed corners. Such a car like the Red Bull is confidence building in itself and any top driver given that sort of oppportunity would have had outstanding results. Sebastion Vettel of course has grasped the opportunity with both hands and delivered some of the best results in a season ever obtained. Unquestionably Vettel is top drawer, hungary, and will be very hard to beat in a competitive Red Bull next year and beyond. That said the deliverables are about 80% car, 20% driver so unless you have a good car you don't stand a chance. Will Vettel win a third championship? - I'd say very likely unless a rival team can come up with a highly competitive car in 2012.

  • Comment number 24.

    Seb cant handle pressure - is this why he managed to win in Barcelona with Hamilton pretty much on him for the final 3rd of the race with KERS not working properly and Hamilton well within the DRS zone.......just a thought......

    and so bored with the 'not able to overtake' I cant even be bothered to comment.....

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    Those who describe Seb as no more than an average driver should rub their eyes, blink hard and look again. Read the recent Mark Hughes article which gives an insight into how well Seb managed the demands of the tyres for both qualifying and the race; it also implies how quickly he learns and adapts.

    His 2010 season may have been as notable for his (few) accidents as his drives and snatching the title but 2011 has been almost error-free. By his own admission (above, in this blog) he believes he is not amongst the best wheel-to-wheel racers and my main concern is that the competition may not be fast enough to allow him to learn this facet of F1 next year.

    I would not be surprised if, in the not-too-distant future, he takes on the mantle of complete driver that is currently attrbuted (and not unfairly, in my view) to Fernando. Oh... and he has a great personality, too.

  • Comment number 27.

    A few minorly-deluded people on here...Seb was the outstanding driver on the grid this year. Not because he took audiences by the seat of their pants and captivated them with mesmerising overtakes and blistering speed. But because he drove exactly as he needed to to win in more than 50% of the GPs this year. Questions still remain about his overtaking ability, the outstanding slip-stream-slingshot-aided overtake of Alonso at Monza aside, he didn't really need to pass anyone on track this year, but at getting pole and running off to win: he's easily the best. You can only be accurately compared to your team mate, and this year Vettel transcended Webber...what more can be asked of him?

    I hope mclaren and Ferarri catch up next year, but more than that, I hope the team-mates at the front running team, whoever that may be, measure up to eachother with more parity than displayed at Red-Bull this year.

  • Comment number 28.

    Take Vettle out of the equation and the Red Bull; would not look that good. Perhaps its a case that the new F1, the car and the driver complemented each other; but when Ferrari were dominant in the early noughties if Schuamacher didn't win Barrichello would, whilst this year Webber only had the 1 victory.

  • Comment number 29.

    If you want to gauge Vettell, take a look at Webber. Mark is - at best - a middle-of-the-field talent who wins races, competes on the track with the likes of Hamilton and Alonso, and qualifies well because he's in a Red Bull. Enough said. Vettell is very, very good but not great. Alonso, Hamilton and - on his day - Button are greater talents

  • Comment number 30.

    fastest car by seconds with the better of two above average drivers.
    Take away the clear car advantage e.g. vettell not on pole and he never won
    says all about how much was the car and how much was the driver.
    As soon as Bewrnie gets bored RBR will suddenly nolonger have the fastest car just like happened with ferrari and vettell will show his real class mid-pack with occasional flashes of briliance as he takes off others like he has shown he loves to do just ask mark who was taken off 8 times by vettell in 2009 alone

  • Comment number 31.

    Mr One Finger clearly had a car advantage for most of the season not all races but most- unlike his team mate quickly got to grips with the new tyres and poles wins galore followed naturally.. and second champ in the bag all rarther boreing and proving only that in this high tec age of f1 that driving the quickest most reliable car wins you the champ..........oh and for all you Vettel fan boys out there that keep bleating on about his win at monza in a Torra Rosso being proof that he can win in a bad car it was NOT a bad car in fact in was a pretty good car enableing Vettel to any number of good top finishes....He is good but not as great as alot of peeps think.

  • Comment number 32.

    Fantastic Driver and Car. They will be hard to beat next season. I predict a hat trick for both. Vettel and Red Bull. I am a Hamilton fan but have to admit defeat.

  • Comment number 33.

    """Despite Vettel's domination in 2011, there were very few of the runaway wins normally seen when one car is superior to the rest. """

    The only reason he didn't have runaway wins was he built a 7-8 second gap quite dramatically i.e. first 3 laps, then just maintained the gap to preserve the car, so he would match pace to those "chasing". Horner is extremely cautious, they would not let him run at full speed all race, they don't like him trying to put in 1 fast lap at the end.

    He is cruising.

    The car > all in F1...

    As for Mark, same brand of car, but I doubt it was running the same setup/modes, especially first half of year(amazing how he suddenly gained quali pace when Vettel secured championship), plus he knows his place now, so why risk his life when he won't be allowed to beat Vettel.

  • Comment number 34.

    Vettel is hugely talented, and his dedication to improving his own level of performance is clear (look at his reaction to having to retire in the penultimate race of the season- he went straight to the garage to try and ascertain what went wrong). At the same time however he obviously had the best car in the 2011 season, and if anything his overtaking of Alonso proved he can overtake, it's just his car has been so dominant he hasn't needed to. I'd say Alonso and Hamilton are more naturally gifted, but Alonso didn't have a good enough car and Hamilton (as has been well documented) was out of sorts in 2011. What we have to hope for next season is a more level playing field. You didn't get the impression there were 5 world champions on the grid at all times last season- hopefully next season, with 6 world champions on the grid, we can get more of an idea of who is good at pure racing. I'd especially like to see a more reliable car for Jenson Button, who I think is one of the most intelligent drivers on the grid. He should be competing for another world title.

  • Comment number 35.

    andrew benson once again giving excuses for his"mate" webber's poor season..its nt tyres,its nt weight, it is a talent problem

  • Comment number 36.

    Have to agree with #26.. Vettel has a great personality! He's a funny guy.

  • Comment number 37.

    @32

    i have to agree,massive hamilton fan,but unless mclaren pulls their finger out and make a good car(equal/best) cut out the pitstop errors,qualifying errors,race errors,strategy,and for yes hamilton to cut the errors then he will win,as last season was a diaster,every error from mclaren seemed to affect lewis,and jenson took advantage of it one simple example eg monaco lewis looked the fastest all weekend and mclaren stuff the qualifying and jenson gets on the podium

    i think they need to kick out their pit mechanics,they are worst in the top 10,the majority of races and stops were over 4 seconds,whereas RB and MB were consistantly(i mean most races) in the low 3 seconds,why arent they calling them out they need to improve or leave.you can visably see the effort between them and the teams i have mentioned look at youtube it is freightening eg barcalona they botched the stop and hamilton is stuck behind vettel for over 20 laps,gap was well under a second for the vast majority of those laps

    i hope they pull their finger out and ferrair also then we will see who is the best.

    vettel i will say and i will say it again is imense in clear air and qualifying but suspect in a packed field or wheel to wheel,the tyres helped him alot,whereas hamilton and webber got killed by them

  • Comment number 38.

    Best car, most consistent driver in the 2011 season, not necessarily the most talented on the grid.

  • Comment number 39.

    vettel cant win without the best car...the same can be said of all the drivers on the grid ..same old boring arguement

  • Comment number 40.

    alonso won only 1 race this season at silverstone..why? Bcoz it was the only race where alonso had the fastest car

  • Comment number 41.

    Vettle is obviously a good driver but it was the car last year which won it for him. if u threw him, hamilton and alonso in the same car he would finish 3rd most of the time out of them 3 as the other two have won races this year when their cars have been below par.

    Vettle is a good driver but not the best

  • Comment number 42.

    "Red Bull's strategy was based on Vettel taking pole position, then opening up enough of a gap by lap three to prevent anyone from being close enough to make use of the DRS system, which couldn't be used for the first two laps. "

    So the other teams' strategy was to go slowly around the qualifying, just to let young Seb get in front, then linger far enough behind to make sure he couldn't be caught?

    All the teams would love to be able to take pole in nearly every race and whizz off out of reach. The trouble is, only Vettel has been able to do it and that's why he became champion.

  • Comment number 43.

    One of the best drivers in the best car by an absolute mile.

  • Comment number 44.

    All you need to do, in any situation where car vs driver comes into the equation, ask yourself if that driver would have won the title in one of the "inferior" cars for that season.

    Put simply, had vettel been in the Mclaren and probably the Ferrari last season he would in my opinion have still won the title.

    Not always the case (schumi won his titles due to the car) but in this example Vettel > Car

  • Comment number 45.

    Somehow i doubt some of this johnny come lately's ( hamilton fans) know much about f1

  • Comment number 46.

    @ 39

    My sentimental exactly. All this talk about Vettel only won the WDC because he had the best car is getting so, so boring.

    @ 26.

    I agree. Vettel has really matured a lot compare to last season. On top of being massively talented, his also a hard worker. He'll be staying late night at the padlock with his team, looking through data after data, always figuring out ways to improve his own performance and get the best out of his car. As a driver, he will keep on growing. It won't be a surprise if he does end up being a complete driver like Schumacher.

  • Comment number 47.

    Utter claptrap - Vettel's car is set up to most suit him, which is why Webber struggles.

    With F1 in its current guise, the car wins the race and the Red Bull has been consistently the best car on the grid.

  • Comment number 48.

    Vettel may have won this year's chamionship but that does not make him the best driver. A true champion would leave a winning team and go to a different team and try and help them become champions. As in the case of Schumacher who left Beneton to join Ferrari who had not a grand prix or constructors championshion for some years. Alonso and Button have done the same, left the teams that made them champions and have moved to different teams. So if Seb is so good then let him leave Red Bull and the security that he has there as the team is wrapped solely around him no matter what other people say i.e. Mark Webber's comment "no bad for a number 2" his quote not mine and see if the same thing can happen again.

  • Comment number 49.

    @dominic
    exactly which races have hamilton and alonso won when their car was below par...care to give examples ...same old boring cliches from hamilton and alonso fans ...open your eyes and watch an f1 race properly b4 commenting

  • Comment number 50.

    @deltic62
    the true champions also leave for a better pay packet...sad but true ..one day vettel will also leave

  • Comment number 51.

    Both but clearly the car is better than the others. This is F1.

  • Comment number 52.

    #43 has it about right to be honest.

  • Comment number 53.

    You've just got to love the British. You've got a foreigner having broken all records considered by everyone else as flawless and they're still adding "buts" and "howevers" and writing articles asking questions and having digs. Whereas if one of their own achieved a fraction of his performance he'd be the best thing since sliced bread.

    But of course British people aren't "racist", they are sensitive on the subject judging regardless of nationalities and leading the world in that respect eh guys?



    .

  • Comment number 54.

    @nibs
    dont think racist is the word pal...its more like snobbish...but in this blog its more like benson giving his good ole buddies fernando and @aussiegrit a helping hand...by the way team bosses in the paddock now think vettel is the best driver ..you conveniently forgot to mention that and yet in most of your blogs this year you have kept trumpeting the "ALONSO IS BEST IN THE WORLD ACCORDING TO TEAM BOSSES" drum..selective memory?

  • Comment number 55.

    Trumpeting^banging

  • Comment number 56.

    If it was purely the car why was Mark Webber not a clear second?

    If this guy was British we'd be laying claim to the next Michael Schumacher. We might enjoy watching drivers like Hamilton and Montoya and even Alonso when he gets in a bad mood, but the very best drivers are the ones who win quiet and boring.

  • Comment number 57.

    "The Australian is also physically bigger than Vettel so was occasionally at a disadvantage with the car's weight distribution"

    Two words in response to that excuse; Nigel Mansell!

  • Comment number 58.

    @sleepingspurs
    mark webber didnt finish second because he was too fat according to andrew benson

  • Comment number 59.

    The fun of F1 is when a driver push hard and take risk, which is what Hamilton gives to the fan and help to the publicity of the sports, without car crash and controversies is F1, there will be less fun in it. You need to push your car to the limit, push other drivers to the limit so they can make a mistake, I believe Hamilton is the world best F1 driver, Button is just a careful driver that sits at the fence and wait for others to crash so he can pass, to me Vettel is not a good driver he only have a good and the fastest car, how many serious and technical overtakes did he perform , how many line drags with other drivers did he do?.... In my opinion ,if I am to list the 5 best F1 drivers my list will be: (1) Hamilton (2) Alonso (3) Webber (4) Button (5) Vettel

  • Comment number 60.

    I see u already did notice that statement

  • Comment number 61.

    No matter what the pundits, these blogs and articles etc say Vettel is not and will never be a better driver than fernando alonso and Lewis Hamilton, put either of them in that red bull and I dont think anyone would have beaten them at any race period. Hamilton may have had a bad season but his qualifying pace was still very impressive he was consistently the closest to vettel in quail in a slower car over 1 lap. Alonso simply did not have a car that he could ever put close to the front row, towards the end of the 2011 season when alonso and Hamilton reconciled their differences hamilton said that he has always considered alonso the best driver in f1 and alonso stated that the only driver that he will be looking out for in pre-season testing for 2012 is Hamilton. In short whilst they both have shown respect and given vettel his plaudits for 2011 they know secretly that they are both the pinnacle and the drivers to beat even more so if they are provided with the right car in 2012.

  • Comment number 62.

    @dino
    How many line drags did vettel do? Its f1 mate cars dont start side by side to each other...
    Oh and if entertaining the fans is a sign of greatness then TAKUMA SATO is the greatest driver of this generation

  • Comment number 63.

    here comes another dumb hamilton fanboy

  • Comment number 64.

    I think everyone is missing a couple of key points, how legal was and is the Red Bull? Adjustable angle barge board, partial traction control! As for webber and poor starts, remember red bull engineers inform him of the settings required for the start during his warm up lap so extremely easy to bias them to vettels advantage. Hopefully the other teams will expose him next year for the average driver he is.
    Senna was no saint but to have the audacity to liken ones self to him is preposterous! No traction control, manual gear shift etc.

  • Comment number 65.

    @KMC
    I love a good conspiracy theory...got anymore good ones?

  • Comment number 66.

    Seriously, the amount of digs at Vettel is just unbelievable. What do people have against him?

  • Comment number 67.

    Good article nice slant.
    I have to agree with Pino M. I remember a Mclaren T Shirt "Who needs Schey when we have Newey" I think history is repeating its self.
    Rename it from Drivers Championship to Designers Championship. We never complained though when Nigel got his chance in a superior car.
    Forget Sky - so long as I can continue to time shift and watch it on I-Player avoiding the result, no wasting money and fine afternoons inside.

  • Comment number 68.

    I don't think Seb was the best driver however he was most certainly the best package, his brilliance and that car. He is a brilliant driver and showed that through the year but with the advantage that car gave him not to win the title would have been criminal. Seb is a genius behind the wheel but with that car you couldn't be!

    For me Jenson was the best driver, he didn't have the fastest car or much of the luck but every time he got in the car he was the driver I wanted to see, he made more passes than anyone else and was always in the game. He came second to a phenomenal package.

  • Comment number 69.

    Adrian Newey was outdesigned by rory bryne...outfoxed by PatSymonds ...and build duds like the mp4-18 and mp4-19 and the first few redbulls...not exactly a guarentee of success

  • Comment number 70.

    ^guarantee

  • Comment number 71.

    I think it would be unfair on Vettel to say that his success is down to the Red Bull car. Undeniably, he's had a very good car, but he's made the most of it. He's made very few mistakes this season and read the races well, and that's why he's the World Champion. We may not have seen him race wheel-to-wheel often, but that's because he hasn't had to. I'm pretty sure that Hamilton and Alonso and would want to start every race from pole and disappear into the horizon every time, even though they're known for being wheel-to-wheel racers.

    If the Red Bull car really was that dominant*, Webber would have finished 2nd every time, but he didn't. Now Webber may come back and say that he's struggled with the Pirelli tyres, but maybe he wouldn't have if he had taken the time to study them properly beforehand and visit the factory as Vettel did. It's the little things like that that explain Vettel's success. The car is helping, but Vettel is very talented.

    *The MP4/4 won 15 of the 16 races in the 1988 season, with Prost taking 7 wins, and Senna taking 8 wins. THAT is a dominant car.

  • Comment number 72.

    Although it has to be said that Vettel has also had the best team all-round, who consistently delivered perfect pitstops and rarely botched up his strategy (with China being the exception).

  • Comment number 73.

    Quite surpised there's no metion in the blog of the Red Bull wheel warmer (that failed in Abu Dhabi) offering its drivers blistering pace on the opening lap. As long as Vettel delivered the qualifying lap, which his car obviously afforded, he had little pressure knowing he had the aforementioned device. Credit to him for making the most of it but I believe no more than Alonso or Hamilton would have in the same car. I omit Button as his qualifying pace is relatively poor and he may have found himself more regularly in Webber's position than on pole.

    It's an interesting quote, "I understand Vettel thought some of his rivals were perhaps better at wheel-to-wheel racing." Good to see he has the intelligence to realise this… in races where he didn't have the pace he could be out-foxed (by Hamilton in China) or succumb to pressure (falling off the road when Button pressurised him in Canada). In previous seasons he was very scrappy when going wheel to wheel and I think that Adrian Newey realised this and designed the car to avoid it… very clever.

    My view is that Red Bull has had the perfect year, with other teams or drivers not delivering what everyone knows they are capable of – and Vettel has not often had to really extend himself – which only leaves me to conclude that, much like Jenson Button in his championship-winning year with Brawn… Vettel is a top-drawer driver but it's still a long way from certain that he could be the best.

  • Comment number 74.

    In addition to my previous comment the other factor that should be taken into consideration are the Pirelli tyres. - Personally I don't like them for other reasons that I won't go into here, but have expounded several times before. However there is no denying that Vettel was very quick to understand how to get the best out of them as opposed to his team mate. Some of this of course can be laid at the door of driving style, but if you have the best car and are on top of the tyres then that driver in these circumstances is almost uncatchable as it is only where conditions and/or set up have intervened that allowed mainly McLaren to get a nose in front. Under these conditions with Pirelli tyres there is no way a driver can come from behind in the normal way, and unless there is another car on the grid as good as the Red Bull we are in for a repeat season in 2012.

  • Comment number 75.

    There is no doubt Vettel is a fantastic driver and a supreme talent. He is doing everything right he can't do anymore he puts it on pole and wins, what more can you ask for. However his car advantage is bigger than publicized and i believe if Hamilton gets his head sorted and alonso gets the car they will beat him. Hamilton is the most talented in f1 but he needs to back it up with consistency, on his day he's unbeatable but he needs to stop being penalized or he won't win anymore championships

  • Comment number 76.

    Is Vettel an outstanding driver or just a lucky one? Well. Many people argue without looking at the real data. I am talking about 2007/08 seasons.
    2007--> Japan. Wet. Youngest driver to lead a F1 race with a Toro Rosso.
    2007--> China. Wet. Starting from 17th, he finished 4th.
    Now I am expecting people to tell us that the car was really good, that those races were not representative, that his team mate had bad luck, etc etc etc. Ah, I forgot about the best one, If pilot X had that car he would achieved more than Vettel.
    2008? Mónaco, Wet, starting from 19th position he finished 5th... with a pathetic Toro Rosso. And now I am expecting comments about that the car was really good and even better than McLaren and Ferrari. Well. You can rely on a couple of mistakes that Vettel had made last season and "forget" the rest. But the truth is that all this results were with a car that was the 6th or 7th on the grid and with rain races, those were the skill of drivers are tested. And Vettel has proven that he is a master in wet condidions. Thats enough for me to put him in the top pilots of all times. His results are similar to the ones that great drivers got with great cars, similar to Schumacher and his Ferrari, Mansell with Williams, Senna with McLaren. Perhaps we have to argue about this drivers and ask ourselves, did they win because they had the best car and any pilot would do the same?

  • Comment number 77.

    Vettel is the best. Pilot and car, perfect union...

  • Comment number 78.

    Just looking at Frajalo's comment which are all true, however it is pointless arguing who is the best driver because circumstances and conditions vary enormously. What we can say is that Vettel is amongst the current best in F1. Perhaps Hamilton is the most naturally gifted, but speed, consistency, and precision will always win through and Vettel has those qualities in abundance. There are from time to time appropriate conditions and circumstances that allow a driver to inexplicably shine beyond his normal performance level. In 2011 Button's Canadian win was just such an occasion where he managed albeit with the aid of the safety car, race stoppage, and alternative tyre strategy to gain heat in his tyres, and win despite all the odds being against him. - It was a magnificent effort, but it is vital that enthusiasts understand what allowed him to achieve it. Hamilton's win in wet conditions in Monaco a few years was also brilliant, but it was because he managed to get heat into his tyres to find the grip to win by over 60 seconds. Massa by contrast could not keep his car on the road. Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Button, etc, etc are all very good drivers with varying strengths and weaknesses, but at the moment the Red Bull car is building Vettels confidence, equally at some future point a car will take it away.

  • Comment number 79.

    Just wanted to provide the driver ranks according to me and relative performances against 2011 team mates and a few comments.
    For every 1 point scored by Webber, Vettel scored 1.52 points
    For every 1 point scored by Hamilton, Button scored 1.19 points
    For every 1 point scored by Schumi, Rosberg scored 1.17 points
    For every 1 point scored by Di Resta, Sutil scored 1.55 points
    For every 1 point scored by Buemi, Alguesuari scored 1.73 points
    For every 1 point scored by Massa, Alonso scored 2.18 points
    etc etc.
    Anyway my conclusion from the above is that you can certainly say that all things being equal Alonso, Hamilton (take into account personal issues) and Vettel are definitely the 3 best drivers with Button close by Vettel and Rosberg the best of the rest. Webber, Massa and Schumi (presently) are good drivers but not anywhere near the best 5 in my opinion.
    If you take into account the season Alonso was at McLaren racing Hamilton for the championship that Raikkonen eventually won you would conclude that the two of them are the best as they finished on the same points. Its a fine line when you consider if Alonso had scored a point more in 2007 he would have been champion, if he had scored 4 more in 2010 he would have been champion, therefore a multiple champion. Alonso has always annihilated team mates as 2005/2006/2008/2009/2010/2011 would suggest too. He met his match in 2007. Hamilton has too many issues to be considered the best driver and it was highlighted along with Alonso's issues during the 2007 season at McLaren that having 2 number 1 drivers really doesn't work. Hamiltons problems were also highlighted this year when He and Massa always seemed to be fighting for 5th-6th place all season (What was all that about?)
    In 2008 Vettel destroyed his team mate but in 2009/2010 he and Webber were very close and in 2011 it was clear who Red Bull had chosen to support and concentrate their efforts with. i would rate Webber similarly with Massa (Almost made champions) but not in the elite.
    1-Alonso
    2-Hamilton
    3-Vettel
    3=Button
    4-Rosberg
    5-Webber
    5=Massa
    6-Schumacher
    6=Di Resta
    7- Who Cares?

  • Comment number 80.

    While its clear, seeing from Webbers performance the red bull car may not be the best car... but Vettel has shown it can be the car because he is the best driver...

  • Comment number 81.

    Webber only finished 14 points short last year. Fair point, but if Webber had done the unthinkable in 2010 and beat Vettel to the title Red Bull would have been disappointed me thinks , as Vettel was always preferred. Its a shame in the final race the Ferrari team got hung up on the wrong Red Bull, however its great to see a relatively new team at the top of F1 as its given the old guard a huge problem... How to beat a Schumacher-esque driver who has by far the most innovative thinker as technical director (Adrian Newey). Interesting times ahead in the hope that McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and even Williams, Renault amongst others pull their socks up.

  • Comment number 82.

    IN F1 IF A CAR'S AERODYNAMICS ABILITY COMBINED WITH CHASIS AND ENGINE PERFORMANCE ALLOWS YOU TO TAKE A CORNER FLAT OUT WHEN IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO THAT IN ANY OTHER CAR THEN IT CAN NOT BE PRESCRIBED AS ANY THING OTHER THAN A CLEAR ADVANTAGE.
    I BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE BETTER AND FASTER DRIVERS SUCH AS HAMILTON AND ALONSO WHO CAN DO THE SAME IF NOT BETTER JOB THAN SEB.
    BUT LETS NOT TAKE AWAY THE CREDIT FROM YOUNG GERMIN WHO DROVE EVERY SECOND OF THE WHOLE YEAR WITH SUPREME CONFIDENCE AND ON TOP OF IT WHAT A GENTELMAN AND PLEASENT CHAP.

  • Comment number 83.

    I'd be really interested to know how much Vettel would have dominated if the scoring system had been 10,8,6,5,4,3,2,1 as it was a few years ago or even 9,6,4,3,2,1 which I think it was when I was a kid (hard to remember back then).

    I seem to recall in the days of Schumi winning everything the scoring system reduced the difference between first and second to give the others a chance whereas the current system was devised because Hamilton winning after finishing 5th in Brazil grated with some. Maybe we'll go back again if Vettel continues to dominate.

  • Comment number 84.

    The car has been made for him, not Mark. Anyway, who cares......next year will be boring.

  • Comment number 85.

    .

    Aber erlich, Vettel ist zehr gut !!

    How can any one be doubting the ability of this young German driver; he's not only good, but very very good.

    Red Bull have proved themselves already and if they come up with anything slight better, then there's no stopping them dominating the GP F1 for the foreseeable future.

    Mark Webber I feel is content to play second fiddle and collect his loot as long as we don't him give a bleedin' headache. He certainly showed us that he can win races but please don't say it was fixed, coz the guy could sue you for every penny that you haven't got. . .so, be warned !!

  • Comment number 86.

    kind of reminds me of a young schumacher in a benneton that started dominating ,maybe the cars should be properly scrutinised as to c who is breaking the rules as someone once said its only cheating if u get caught

  • Comment number 87.

    wouldnt be suprised if ferrari came back strong next year we saw what they can do at silverstone without the off blown diffusers

 

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