Vettel – One Of The Greats?

George Dagless reflects on the successes of Sebastian Vettel, and whether he is one of the greatest drivers in Formula One History.

In the wake of another dominant Sebastian Vettel performance at the Korean Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing team principle Christian Horner heralded his driver as one of the greatest the sport has seen, rating him as highly as Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.

Certainly if we consider purely the statistics the German is well on his way to be considered in the same league. At the age of 26 Vettel has amassed 34 wins, 42 pole positions and three straight world championships. By comparison at the same age Schumacher had 19 wins, 10 poles and two titles to his name.

At a glance it seems that Vettel is on course to eclipse his fellow German’s record seven world championships.

There are other factors to consider though. Schumacher joined the Benetton team in 1991. At the time the team were competitive but by no means championship contenders. Over the next three seasons a steady improvement in performance culminated in the driver’s title for Schumacher in 1994 and the driver’s – constructor’s double the following year, with much of the acclaim going to the talented young German who was driving the team forward.

Comparatively Vettel joined Red Bull as they were on the verge of becoming title challengers in 2009. On the back of large rule changes from the previous year Red Bull were one of the best teams to adapt as they pushed Brawn GP all season for the title. They narrowly missed out but the signs were ominous as Vettel finished second in the championship. This is perhaps one mark against Vettel’s claim to greatness.

Schumacher would then go on to propel a struggling Ferrari team into one of the most dominant forces the sport has known, yet Vettel appears to have landed straight into a winning car. There is one challenge to this point however. In 2008, Vettel won his first race at a rain sodden Monza. Driving for Toro Rosso, a team who had never won before or have since, the German guided his car to victory when so many more established names were struggling. It certainly grabbed people’s attention.

The performance was likened to that of Schumacher in Spain in 1996. Since then though, Vettel has been in the best car. Undoubtedly he still needs to apply his talent to win races but having the best equipment can only help.

For Vettel to be truly great a switch in team may be needed. Should this happen and he carries on with his dominance there can then be no doubt that he is a true great. It seems ironic then that the team that has provided the German with so much success may just be the reason he never fully writes his name into the history books as the greatest ever.


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