The 2012 F1 season saw Sebastian Vettel win a third consecutive F1 World Drivers’ Championship, joining only two other drivers in the 62 year history of the sport to achieve that honour. Only 8 other drivers have won three or more world titles, none of which are still competing. Vettel goes into this season again as one of the favourites to win the title.
Vettel is the youngest driver to compete in a F1 Grand Prix session, achieve a pole position, lead a race, win a race, and score championship points. That’s on top of being the youngest ever double and triple world champion. Despite all these accolades, some F1 fans still don’t consider Vettel to be one of the truly great drivers. So what more does Vettel need to do, what more does he have to achieve, in order to be more widely accepted by F1 fans as one of the very best ever?
Granted, records aren’t everything, and there’s more to a great F1 driver than just being a world champion. Also it’s hard to judge just how good a driver is while they’re not only still competing, but still have the majority of their career ahead of them. Only by looking back do we really appreciate talent.
Vettel is only 25 years old. He still has, all things going well, a career of at least another 10 years ahead of him. Perhaps this is why some are yet to be convinced; perhaps with so much potential in future, it’s hard to grasp his talent now.
In 2006 when Schumacher retired having won a record seven world titles, many believed and still do that the achievement will never be duplicated. Vettel will surely win another title, probably two or three, and perhaps even more depending on circumstances if things go his way. If seems if anyone is going to get close to Schumacher’s seven world titles then Vettel is the guy with the ability and opportunity to do so.
One of the reasons some doubt Vettel’s talent is that for the past three title-winning seasons he’s had the best car on the grid. McLaren and Ferrari have for the most part had competitive cars to match the Red Bull car, but seem to always be playing catch-up.
Some say the success of the Red Bull team, and therefore also Vettel, is only due to the genius of chief technical officer Adrian Newey. Clearly the only car designer to have won Constructors’ Championships with three different F1 teams continues to make a huge contribution to the team’s success, but the cars haven’t been dominant every race of every season. Success doesn’t come just from building a great race car; a great driver is needed to achieve the results. This is apparent by the difference in results between teammates, for example between Vettel/Webber and Alonso/Massa.
It’s the same point that some make against Schumacher’s legacy. His dominance through the early 2000s that saw him win five consecutive world titles was the culmination of many factors and not just his talent, though there is no doubting that. In both cases even with the best car, both drivers still had to consistently perform at the highest level and certainly weren’t simply gifted any of their world titles.
Two of the greatest F1 drivers in history, Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark, both won their multiple world titles with the same team. This doesn’t seem to be an issue for these two, so it makes no sense for it to be deemed detrimental to Vettel’s championships. It’s not just that a driver wins the world title because he’s in the best car; the best drivers usually drive for the best teams.
Vettel’s already established a legacy as one of the best ever, the question now is how much more will he achieve to add to it.