Sebastian Vettel: the driver debates

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The debate over who is the most-hyped driver in Formula 1 is a short one. But who is the second most-hyped driver in F1 after Lewis Hamilton?

Sebastian Vettel may be a candidate. He arrived in the sport at a rude young age last year and is apparently already being considered for a promotion to Red Bull in 2009 from its Toro Rosso ‘junior’ team. What do you think of the young German driver?

On his way through the junior ranks Vettel achieved what must be one of the most dominant performances ever seen in a championship. In 2004 he claimed the German Formula BMW championship with 387 points from a maximum of 400, winning 18 of the 20 races.

He narrowly missed out on the 2006 Formula Three Euroseries title to Paul di Rests, but interrupted his campaign with a brief foray into the World Series by Renault, where he won on his debut.

Last year Vettel was on duty as a BMW test driver while leading the World Series, when Robert Kunica’s crash in the Canadian Grand Prix gave him the chance of a one-off start in the United States round.

In his maiden F1 race he qualified inside the top ten and, despite going off at turn one, brought the car home in the points on a day when few of the front runners retired. That made him F1’s youngest ever points scorer.

Vettel returned to F1 with Toro Rosso following the sacking of Scott Speed. Although Vettel had spent several years with BMW, it was Red Bull who had priority on his services for the future and he joined the team full-time for 2008.

The more experienced Vitantonio Liuzzi ran him close over the final races of 2007 but Vettel was in the right place at the right time to score a fine fourth place for the team in the Chinese Grand Prix with a masterful strategic call.

It wiped the slate clean a week after he had taken fellow Red Bull driver out of the Japanese Grand Prix while Webber was running second under the safety car and eyeing a tilt at race leader Lewis Hamilton.

An exasperating start to 2008 saw Vettel retire from the first four races, partly due to two first-lap collisions for which he was largely blameless. At Melbourne he qualified in the top ten.

Although he has comparatively few starts to his name he is already considered by many to be a star of the future. Even Michael Schumacher has spoken highly of him.

How do you rate Sebastian Vettel? Does he deserve a top-line drive in 2009?

Sebastian Vettel biography

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Sebastian Vettel: the driver debates”

  1. it is difficult to tell. he is in what is not the best car on the grid and the only indicator of his skill is his relative form to Sebastian Bourdais.

    To tell the truth I was expecting Vettel to outclass Bourdais at least in the early parts of the season, both in qualifying and in the races. This did not happen and I am not sure whether this is thanks to Bourdais adapting to F1 much faster than even he himself expected or Vettel being disapointing.

    Top drive in 2009 ? Hard to say, but without seeing him in a top machinery or at least next to a top proven team mate, it is difficult to tell how good (or bad) he is. (And the same would apply to Bourdais, who however is not the subject of this debate).

  2. We hopefully won’t have to wait very long to see him in a top car. If I remember correctly, his name has been linked to Ferrari, maybe when Raikkonen retires. But Vettel is definitely someone who’s championship-winning material.

  3. Am liking Vettel, I think he will have a fantastic future, and would love to see him at Ferrari.
    From watching him he seems to be a big team player and reminds me alot of Schumi, in the way he greets all of his team at arrival in the garage.

    Pity about this years DNF’s,largely not his fault..would like to see him prosper

  4. The lad is unassuming and goes about his business(at least so far), driving and very fast at that, without much of a brouhaha. So, i think he should be given a shot at a top-drive, sooner than later.

    Lest he becomes another Fisichella.

  5. Exceptionals drivers usually shows their skills since the first opportunity, no matter which car they have.

    Maybe is still too soon, but i don’t think he is as good as people says. Of course if he’d drive the best car in the grid, he’d win, but that’s no a superclass for me.

    Each season Schumacher talk about one driver who will win a lot of championships. He said it with Alonso, but he also said it with his brother. ;)

  6. I agree Milos, there is no doubt Vettel is a good driver, I am just amazed, Bourdais is able to keep up with him and even surpass his driving often. So its either Vettel has dropped in form, or Bourdais is a superb driver.

  7. I find Vettel’s bad luck very frustrating. It makes it impossible to make a fair judgement on him when he’s been involved in accidents and/or technical problems every single race of 2008 so far. With 2007 so inconclusive, I feel I cannot make a proper judgement on him. Surely any good team would have to conclude the same – a possible candidate of unknown suitability to his current position, let alone a better one…

  8. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    15th May 2008, 13:05

    i also heard the rumours about vettel joininf ferrari in 09 but ferrari have already said they are happy with what they have got and kimi and felipe are contracted until 09 and 2011 respectfully. I wouldnt be suprised to see him go to red bull next year, after all they are paying for him to be at torro rosso and dc’s contract expires at the end of this year and hes hardly had a great start to the season mark webber is wiping the floor with him.

    Bu back to vettell, i think, like someone said earlier, the great drivers shine no matter what car they start in, you only have to look at senna, schumacher, alonso to see that they all started in uncompetitive machinery yet their talent showed through that. Vettel did that last year, he was awesome in qualifying in australia and hes had some bad luck since then at the start of races and i think he may be over-driving at the moment but he definitley has alot of talent just hope he gets into a good team sooner rather than later or hel end up like fisichella.

  9. Vettel achieved some fine results last season although the cynic in me did wonder about Toro Rosso’s end of season upturn in form after the focus on their identikit Red Bull chassis had faded somewhat.

    Nonetheless, his performances speak for themselves and I think a Webber/Vettel combo at Red Bull Snr for 2009 is the foregone conclusion of the season.

  10. A lot of nice reading above, most thriving on HYPE ! Show me the performance. Out driven by Luizzi 5 of 6 races last year. Out driven by Bourdais 4 of 5 this year. He may move to Red Bull but not due to his outstanding record but rather due to Coulthard retiring !!!!! Ferrari ??? Ferrari never hire deadwood, Vettel is going to have to REALLY ‘up his game’ to earn that seat!

  11. For me, the final question is easy to answer: NO.

    One more difficult would be “Does he deserve to STAY in Formula 1 in 2009?” And I would say, not too much convinced, “YES…”

    I still think he was promoted too early and what looked like to be the most promissing pairing (Bourdais-Vettel) may be a bad choice for both of them: Both are great drivers, who need to gain Formula 1 mileage… Vettel is the big promisse, Bourdais is the estabilished ‘foreign’ driver. And, for them both, it would be better to face a more experienced team mate, to learn from him and to fight him, like Hamilton did to Alonso.

    I think Vettel’s debut in BMW was as dissapointing as, for example, the part-season races Mika Salo did for Ferrari in 1999, or Pedro De La Rosa did for McLaren during a couple of years: Vettel was off pace in qualifying, had a shameful start, losing several places, and drove only a normal race to end up eight, with a car normally capable of scoring 5th and 6th places…

  12. We mustn’t forget that Vettel, despite not technically being a rookie for 2008, has not been around most of these tracks properly, and his over-hyping may be due to the fact that he had a couple of blistering years in a short period, which made everyone think that he’d made his rookie mistakes. If he is to come good, it’ll probably be later in the season, at the tracks he gained experience of last year. I also reckon Bourdais is better than he’s shown this year, but that’s not for this debate.

  13. “If I remember correctly, his name has been linked to Ferrari”

    if you believe all the rumors, then Ferrari will have to field 10 cars in 2009

    If you look at the drivers that Ferrari have signed in the past 20 years, none of them had less than 3 full seasons of experience. The drivers they sign (Räikkönen, Massa, Schumi, Rubens, Irvine) are usually solid, consistant and experienced drivers. They also have a clear 1-2 driver system, and recently have very rarely modified their lineup

    I think Massa suits Ferrari very well as their #2 driver – and we probably wont see any change there until Räikkönen retires. By that point a lot of the rookies from this year and last year will have good experience and it will probably be clear as to who would be their next #1

    I am also putting my money on Webber/Vetel at RB next year, and I can’t wait to see it. RB are constantly improving and Webber is really shining this year in a car that has been solid. Pity DC isn’t picking up points at the same rate, otherwise 4th place would be a lock for RB.

  14. I think he is a very good driver who has had alot of bad luck,hope to see him in a Red Bull but,he belongs in a BMW.

  15. In terms of Vettel’s performance, he has out-qualified bourdais 3/2 so far this year. He reached Q1 in Australia in an awesome session. We all know how his racing has been so far..

    In comparison, Trulli has 9 points this year over Glock’s zero. Trulli qualifies on average 6 places ahead of Glock so far this year.

    Piquet qualifies on average 8 places behind Alonso, and also has zero points to Alonso’s 9

    So out of the rookies, pound-for-pound Vettel is doing very well. I can only imagine given a Toyota or a Renault that he would have easily out-performed both Glock and Piquet

    Since Kovalainen is frequently mentioned as a rookie who had a tough start but has come through now and matured as a good driver, we can compare Vettel to his start last year..

    Heikki out-qualified Fisi twice out of 5, and had 3 points with no DNF’s. He also finished a couple of places away from Fisi in races. If that is considered a ‘tough’ start to a season, then Glock and Piquet are in a lot of trouble..

    otherwise, despite the race problems, Vettel is looking pretty good.

  16. i think the Webber/Vettel pairing at Red Bull for 2009 is a foregone conclusion.

    For me, though, remains to be seen if Vettel is Ferrari material. Lets see the lad actually complete more than one lap, and I’ll decide then

  17. Nik, the other rookies (Glock and Piquet) are up against seasoned racers, while Vettel is against Bourdais, another rookie. You can’t compare them like for like.

  18. Out-QUALIFYING one’s teammate is meaningless.
    Out-RACING one’s teammate is performance.
    Bourdais 2, Vettel 0

  19. Vertigo: The other comparisons are more about the rookies up against those in the same car as them.

    Hamilton was a rookies last year, and in the same car as Alonso did much better than what these guys are

    I dont think team bosses expect rookies to be a second or two slower than team mates in their first year, since most of the guys have done at least a year of testing and are supposed to be good enough to get a car around a single lap fast enough anyway

    Number 38: Qualifying is just as important at most tracks, like Catalunya, Monaco etc. Show me a rookie who is 1-2 seconds slower than a team mate but is then about to ‘out race’ them

    Who wants to wager wether or not Piquet will still have his seat at the end of the year? There is no doubt that he in theory is a capable F1 driver, he just isn’t showing it. Renault are depending on him to bring in points if they want that 4th place..

  20. Nik – considering what happened at McLaren when Hamilton showed he was equal to Alonso, I don’t see Renault allowing Piquet to show how good he is this season, although they are probably expecting better than they are getting from him, but why should he bother?
    Vettel – Have you seen the announcement that because STR are debuting the new car this weekend, Vettel has to take a penalty for effectively ‘replacing his gearbox’. Is his bad luck or a stupid rule? Haven’t the FIA Officials noticed that the whole car has been replaced too? He should be able to start again from zero, surely?

  21. DG – I think while having Piquet obviously eases internal tension, but I can’t help to think that Renault would at least like to see Piquet within a few 0.1’s of Alonso, and at least able to race the car. It must be embarresing for them having their #2 driver fighting with and bumping into STR and Force India cars while at the same time they are trying to claim the #4 constructor spot.

    There is no way they will lead the midfield with Piquet performing as he is now, they need him to start bringing in points otherwise they might as well have a one car and one driver team.

  22. @DG – It does seem fairly harsh on Vettel but I guess it would be unfair on the rest of the grid racing with used gearboxes if he turns up and races with a new one penalty-free. He shouldn’t worry though. Starting at the back at Monaco can help avoid the mid-rear pack chaos at the start. And lets face it, Seb can’t really afford another lap one shunt.

  23. Pete – to quote the official F1 site ‘Vettel’s team mate Sebastien Bourdais will escape sanction, however. The Frenchman failed to reach the finish in Istanbul Park, meaning he is free to start his first Monaco Grand Prix with a new gearbox.’
    So perhaps Vettel should have crashed out in Instanbul too, since he knew the new car was coming? Its one thing to escape a penalty when you deserve one, but maybe his old gearbox was good enough for a 4th race anyway. This seems to be a rule to stop teams introducing new cars part way through the season – its going to affect all the teams unless they get the timing right!
    Nik – I agree with you about Piquet, having seen how well he performed in GP2, I am very surprised at his lack of ability so far. Renault do need him, but something must have made him decide it’s not worth it, otherwise he would be on Alonso’s tail I’m sure.

  24. Retiring would have been an easy thing for Vettel to do – it would have been quite plausible to pretend that the first-lap crash with Sutil caused terminal damage. Of course, as a proper racer, Vettel never would have considered doing that…

    It underlines the stupidity of the multi-race component rules.

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