Sebastian Vettel delivered when it mattered
17 November, 2010
Nov.17 (Daniel Chalmers) Sebastian Vettel won the title by hitting fantastic form in the final third of the season, and consistently producing brilliant qualifying laps.
Vettel’s season has been a year full of ups and downs but he delivered when it really mattered. The last part of the season is the best time to hit a purple patch, which is exactly what Sebastian did.
If it wasn’t for his engine failure in Korea he would have won the last four races of 2010.
His race victory in Abu Dhabi under enormous pressure showed why he deserved to win the title. Out of all four of the title contenders Vettel looked by far the most relaxed and happy which made a huge difference. This was the same man who appeared to be cracking under the pressure mid-season.
Mark Webber on the other hand seemed to let the occasion get to him, and he didn’t look like the same driver we saw earlier in the year. Fernando Alonso who is normally very calm looked a bit flustered in qualifying and then in the race as the title ebbed away from him.
The top three teams were perhaps the tightest they had been all season. There was never such stiff competition for pole position, but the young German did his customary perfect lap to snatch it.
In the race he started on tyres, which did a longer run in qualifying than his closest rivals, so had more wear. Despite that he held off Lewis Hamilton at the start and kept him at bay throughout the first stint.
The critical part of this race was the pit stop period. Vettel did extremely well to pull out enough of a gap over Robert Kubica and Kamui Kobayashi and emerge just ahead of them. This was down to a series of strong laps before the pit stop, and then a quick turnaround by the Red Bull crew.
Hamilton didn’t manage to beat this pair and then spent a long time stuck behind Robert, which allowed Vettel to clear off into the distance and win the race.
Had Vettel not jumped Kubica he would have had Lewis right on his tail, and it could have been a very different story. Had Hamilton won this race ahead of Vettel it would have been Alonso’s championship.
It was a very mature and composed performance by somebody so young, with all the immense pressure associated with a season decider on his shoulders. It was probably his strongest weekend of 2010.
The key part of Vettel’s title challenge has been his raw pace. He has become something of a qualifying king. When it comes to the final part of qualifying he is always able to extract an extra tenth or two from nowhere.
He is the first driver to give Mark Webber nightmares in qualifying. Before coming up against Vettel, Webber has flattened all of his team mates over a single lap, and is considered one of F1’s best qualifiers.
The fact that Vettel has managed to dominate a fellow one-lap specialist in qualifying this season is a great indication of just how fast he is.
These days qualifying is so critical with it being so difficult to overtake in modern F1 cars. Furthermore the re-fuelling ban limits tactical options to jump rivals. Therefore Sebastian’s one lap ability is the ideal asset to possess in the current era.
Equally when Vettel is in front and in clean air he is absolutely untouchable.
Sebastian is actually unlucky not to have won more races. He was leading in Bahrain and Australia until reliability gremlins crept in.
In Korea he was driving brilliantly in very treacherous conditions under intense pressure from Alonso and Hamilton. Unfortunately for him his Renault engine blew up near the end of the race.
Without these technical problems he could easily have had eight race victories instead of five.
We should also look at some of the races Vettel didn’t win to look at some of the crucial points he gained.
In Monza Sebastian stayed out on the soft tyres for 52 out of the 53 laps. This jumped him from eighth to fourth gaining eight points.
The difficulty of looking after a set of soft tyres for that long shouldn’t be underestimated even with Bridgestone’s durable tyres. It was a magical performance.
In Bahrain and Spain when the RB6 developed mechanical gremlins, he was able to find a way to drive around the problem, and still finish the race and collect some points. He scored 27 points over those two races, which has proven pretty critical to his championship triumph.
However despite all these strengths in Vettel’s game he still needs to iron out weaknesses before he can become one of the sport’s greats.
He still struggles when in close proximity to other cars, and as we have seen is a little hot-headed when it comes to overtaking.
In F1 you can’t always rely on starting at the front. The great drivers are able to come from further back to take vital race victories.
Alonso and Hamilton have been able to win from further back in the past. Vettel needs to be able to do that too before he is considered to be as strong as them.
Race craft could be a more vital asset next season with the re-introduction of KERs, and the adjustable rear wing, which will allow drivers to increase their straight-line speed when following another driver.
We have seen from other drivers that it is possible to improve race craft. Jenson Button’s race craft wasn’t particularly strong in the early years of his F1 career.
However now he is considered to be one of the best racers on the grid. Several critical overtaking moves formed the foundation of his championship success last year. The ability to produce game changing overtaking moves is what Sebastian is lacking.
Alonso and Hamilton both did brilliantly to stay in the championship fight despite having slower cars than Red Bull. If Sebastian wants to become one of the all time greats he has to be able to prove in future that he can regularly challenge for wins and championships in slower cars.
There is no doubt however that he does fully deserve this championship for the sheer speed he has shown, and his flawless performances in the business end of the season.
Although you could perhaps argue that Alonso has been the driver of the year due to the fact he came within four points of the title, with what was at times only the third best car.
If Vettel can iron out the weaknesses in his game, and continue to get faster he has a very bright future ahead.
He already has one title under his belt and that will take some of the pressure off next season. He will thrive with the number one on his car.
Head of Red Bull motorsport Helmut Marko says: “I think he will be more mature, more relaxed after this.”
One important factor for next year though is how he adapts to the Pirelli tyres. As we have seen in the past changes in tyres can shake up the form of the drivers.
Overall the chances of him winning more titles are quite high. If Adrian Newey keeps on delivering there will be more title challenges ahead.
If Red Bull stopped producing competitive cars, there are plenty of other top teams lining up for his signature.
Sebastian is going to be a key player at the front end of the grid for quite some time. The sky is now the limit for him.
With five world champions on the grid now next season it’s going to be another exciting championship.