Wednesday, November 7, 2012


A lot has probably been said about the recently concluded Abu Dhabi race especially Sebastian Vettel's abilities as a racer. He was sent to the back of the grid for fuel irregularities but started the race from the pitlane as that would allow the team to change the car settings to help him move up the field easier, which he of course did.

A driver is always questioned regarding their abilities. Especially if they are popular and rising through the ranks. Most times, they will still get questioned even after they have won a world championship. It is the nature of fans. Drivers are questioned about their abilities when they have a good car, a bad car, when they are just starting out in their careers, in the middle of it and towards the end. I suppose we can only find out if a driver is truly great after they have retired.

In the case of Sebastian Vettel, retirement is a long way away but the questions have not stopped. In fact, I feel it to be a bit premature to question whether he should or should not be tagged as "legend" or a "great" of the sport. He is still very young and has a long way to go. But maybe because he has already had 2 world titles to his name that this questioning of how great he really is just won't go away. In this sport, 3 world titles is considered great, a legend. So 2 is very near.

A driver is assessed on their "greatness" by what they achieve but to me it is more of how they achieved it. Did they do it in a very good car with regulation changes that benefited them or did they go against all the odds and still become great? Of course fans of each driver would have their own opinions which is stronger than hurricane Sandy so the divide will always be there.

All we can do is give opinions. One day in the future when Vettel has already retired we can finally surmise the truth. of course some die hard fans will never change but that is their choice. That is what makes our sport so interesting.

My personal opinion of Vettel's performance on Sunday in Abu Dhabi was that he was lucky. He displayed good racing and overtaking with all the tenacity needed of a hardcore racer but seriously without the 2 safety cars he wouldn't have made it to P3. Hamilton had the same thing in Barcelona this year where he started at the back of the grid, without changes to his car and no safety cars. he only made it to P8 at the end. I would like to see Vettel do the same thing in the same situation but we cannot arrange for such a thing.

Although an interesting analysis would be the next best thing. Here I have James Allen with his superb analysis of the situation on whether Vettel was lucky or was it down to skill. You can read his analysis here. Some interesting points he raised were:

Last weekend, the Abu Dhabi Safety Car struck again, this time to help his main rival. Red Bull had offered Ferrari an open goal by making a fuel load mistake in qualifying which demoted Sebastian Vettel to the back of the grid, but Vettel’s recovery was greatly helped by two Safety Car periods, which brought the strategy initiative to Vettel and allowed the German to make up ground and end the race on the podium.

And another:

The real stroke of luck was the second safety car. Vettel was very fortunate that just as he came out on fresh soft tyres the safety car came out and cut Button’s lead over him from 15 secs with 17 laps to go to nothing. That set Vettel up for the podium. Button gave him plenty of room when he made the passing move, not wanting to affect the championship. Had Vettel tried that move at the start of the season, he might have ended up off the track.

I have to agree as a safety car will cut down a lead from the car in front and even give an overtaking opportunity. If I'm not mistaken, at the second safety car Button had a 14.5 sec lead over Vettel which would take some time to reduce normally but because of that safety car, Vettel's job became easier. Safety cars always makes the job of overtaking easier as it erases the lead of the car in front. So, imagine if there was no safety car, how different the race would be and probably our view of Vettel as well. You decide.

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