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24 Sept 2013

Sebastian Vettel already commands 3 driver's championships and is well on his way to a 4th consecutive title, however if the actions heard at recent podium celebrations of fans are to believed he has also become a driver that is dis liked.

Opinion amongst fans about who is the best driver will always be swayed by the fact that most people follow a specific team or driver.  What however is clear is that some drivers can transcend this trait as either they have moved between teams and therefore carry support from past endeavors, they drive for a team that bears a different Nationality to their own or they are media savvy.  The latter is a difficult one for some drivers as perhaps 75% of the media that follow the F1 circus are British, this therefore tends to skew the representation of the facts in a certain way. 

Those countries that have their own media that follow the F1 circus, like Italy and Germany obviously favour their own too, with Ferrari sharing most of the limelight in Italy and (currently) Mercedes in Germany.  Vettel should therefore be able to command a good media presence and therefore a good standing in the fans eyes by virtue of him driving for a British team and being of German Nationality. 

The problem however is how he comes across (at least in the British media), his confidence often borders on arrogance whilst his 1 finger salute to winning grinds many fans gears.  Whenever we see him he is in PR mode, wearing his racesuit in a FIA post session interview or in the pit huddle with one of the reporters.  We rarely see the relaxed Vettel doing a feature the likes of Jenson, Lewis etc partake in for Sky or the BBC which represents their lighter side.  He also has the problem of following and very much cast in the footsteps of Michael Schumacher, of the same Nationality and with the same win at all costs mentality he doesn't ingratiate himself into the mind of Brits.  That however is another debate that see's the British at their best when supporting an under dog (usually one of our own) and is akin to small man (Island) syndrome.

Aware of the 'boo boys' that have taken to booing his performances as he stands on the podium to receive the trophy he deservedly been awarded, Sebastian doesn't seem overly concerned by it, nor should he.  Booing is essentially a signal of disdain but then can we assume that these people are unhappy with the best driver on that given day, or indeed most days during the GP weekend's this season? Or are they unhappy with their own driver and feel this is the best way to shame their performance?

If we draw parallels with other sports and in this instance football (or Soccer dependent on where you are reading this) then you boo your own team when you are upset by the performance they have given in that match or a string of matches that preceded it.  As Sebastien is achieving the best result possible then we can only surmise that the 'boo boys' are people that support other drivers/teams.  Whilst it would appear they are booing Vettel essentially they are lauding him and pouring scorn on their own driver(s).

I constantly hear the phrase 'Yes, but he has the best car' well that may all be well and true but it is only the best because it is married to his talents.  Mark Webber is a fantastic driver but prefers a car that can only be described as less aerodynamically dependent, wielding the same car as Vettel during his 3 championship years he has yet to best the German...

The same can be said for other Championship winning drivers, on their day their team mate will take victory but when it comes down to a sustained challenge the cream always rises to the top.  Drawing parallels once more, we could look at the dominance of Michael Schumacher taking 5 titles from 2000-2004.
Had BrawnGP not have made the grid in 2009 and/or utilised the Double Decker Diffusers that dominated the performance of that years cars Sebastian could be looking at taking his 5th consecutive title this year not his 4th and drawing level with Schumacher's consecutive dominance.

So having the best car does win you Championships? Well of course, Formula One is a team sport that requires not only the best driver, but the best strategists, engineers, pit crew, facilities, car and of course the driver.  To those that say Sebastian is not a good driver I'd suggest you cast your mind back to Monza 2008 when he took victory for Toro Rosso or many of his drives through adversity that required a calm and presence of mind that many don't possess.  (Abu Dhabi and Interlagos 2012 are two of the most recent examples where he was forced to recover from earlier mistakes)

The question remains with a widesweeping regulation change in 2014 will his dominance remain?  The regulations that were introduced in 2009 are undoubtedly one of the contributors to Red Bull / Vettel's dominance over the last 5 seasons (once they installed the DDD in 2009 they really were the team to beat).  The switch from in race refuelling, slick tyres and heavy dependance on the use of aero suit the Milton Keynes based squad.  The problem for Sebastian is momentum, the upheaval in regulations for next season may dilute some of the areas he finds advantages, namely commitment as their current crop of cars have had such amazing aero balance, Pirelli will undoubtedly scale back the level of performance/grip their tyres give and lastly we see a return to the power units making a difference between the teams.  In the short term then, he may find himself on the back foot or could be even more dominant than ever.

World Champions are not made by mistake, they are the best of the best over a season long campaign that requires the utmost dedication from them both on and off the track, Sebastian has proved this for 3 years running putting him amongst some of the greatest names that have graced F1.

At 26 he finds himself in the company of Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.  Whilst at the end of the season he could join the ranks of 4 times winner Alain Prost, leaving him every chance of eclipsing Fangio's 5 and Schumacher's 7 world drivers titles.


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