Posts Tagged ‘lewis hamilton’

When Sebastian Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso the German media immediately christened him ‘baby Schumi’, hailing him as the replacement for the great Michael Schumacher.

It’s been a rapid ascent for the 23-year-old following that win at Monza but his sudden leap from the back of midfield to the podium and the switch to title contenders Red Bull may have come too soon. Eleven poles and six victories for Red Bull prove that he has the speed to make him a successful F1 driver.

But despite fighting for two championships, does he have the temperament to claim the ultimate prize?

Despite lying third in this year’s championship, Vettel is 31 points behind leader Hamilton after a series of costly errors, which also dented last year’s title bid. Last weekend’s smash into the side of Jenson Button’s McLaren at Spa was the latest mistake of a driver who is perhaps a little too raw to win the championship and showed he still is unable to master overtaking.

Out of control: Vettel veers into Button's McLaren at Spa

Five of his seven wins have come from pole position with last year’s win in Abu Dhabi (when pole sitter Lewis Hamilton retired) and a start line jump on Mark Webber in Malaysia in April being the exceptions. Vettel, unlike his rivals, has never had to fight his way from anywhere further back than third on the grid to take the top step.

Adrian Newey has arguably designed F1’s fastest car in the last two seasons and this outright speed has constantly put Vettel at the front of the grid where he’s not required to overtake as much.

But despite claiming so many poles, he’s often been unable to win the following day’s race.

Vettel also has a terrible pole to win conversion in 2010. Out of his seven P1 grid starts, he’s only gone on to win one race, at Valencia in June. And after some of his mistakes during the past two seasons it is easy to see why the man from Heppenheim has been unable to win so many races.

A collision with Robert Kubica three laps from the end of  last year’s Australian Grand Prix cost both driver a podium finish and handed the race to Brawn’s Jenson Button. That was the first of a series of errors which have hindered his championship challenges. A few races later Vettel slid wide into the barriers at Ste Devote as he chased the Brawn’s around Monaco’s streets.

His attempted block on team-mate Mark Webber at the start of this year’s British Grand Prix ended in disaster, as the young German found himself at the back of the grid with a puncture. Despite climbing back up to seventh he had his overtaking skills criticised by compatriot Adrian Sutil.

“I defended my position well against Vettel until the final lap, but then he just seemed to drive into me and I lost the racing line and had to move over – otherwise I don’t think he would have got past me,” said the Force India man.

Vettel must work hard for more moments like this

Vettels most infamous moment came at Istanbul in May where his attempts to overtake Webber for the lead resulted in his retirement and the Australian falling behind both McLarens to finish third.

A few laps later Button and Hamilton showed Red Bull how racing between team mates should be done as they battled firmly but fairly for the lead. The blame for this collision was laid at the feet of the young German by many in Formula 1, except by Vettel and the Red Bull hierarchy.

“I was quicker. I dived down the inside. I had the corner,” he said..

But after he careered into the side of Button six days ago, Vettel had no excuses and has come in for more criticism  and calls to calm down.

“It seems Sebastian is just too impetuous; look at the incident with his own team-mate, look at incidents that put him out of the race,” said Mclaren’s Former Team Principal, Ron Dennis.

“It’s good to push, it’s good to be competitive, but there are so many historical lines in motorsport and the one that fits him more than anything is, ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’.

“If he doesn’t win this year’s World Championship and he’s considering the reasons why, I think he should first consider his own actions.”

This criticism of the young German suggests a consensus amongst those in F1 that he is not yet ready to win the world championship. The pressure of fighting for championships when still relatively inexperienced in Formula 1 seems to be taking its toll on Vettel as a series of mistakes hamper his championship chances for another year.

His latest mistake leaves him 28 points behind Webber with six races still to go. Although he is still within touching distance, if he fails to close the gap on his team mate he could soon find himself playing second fiddle, hardly a situation he wants.

If he fails to win this year’s title, the winter break should present him with an opportunity to calm down, reflect on his driving this year and look at the mistakes he’s made.

Then he may be able to put in a real title challenge.

Photo courtesy of iragazzidiredbull

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“Not bad for a number two driver.”

Anyone who follows Formula 1 will recognise this quote from Mark Webber aimed at Christian Horner and the rest of the Red Bull team after taking victory at the British Grand Prix on Sunday. A simmering anger that has been building up for some time towards a team who appear to treat him at times as a rear gunner for Sebastian Vettel; something which first came to attention in the aftermath of the pair’s collision in Istanbuland came to a head on Saturday after the team took Webber’s front wing off his car and bolted it to Vettel’s.

Do you think it means much to Mark Webber? (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Red Bull aren’t the first team to have this problem though. Formula 1’s history is full of teams who have two drivers going head to head or a de facto number 1 driver with a second hired to support his team mate’s championship challenge.

1957: How do you think Webber would have reacted to this?! In the 1957 British Grand Prix, Stirling Moss was going for victory in the Vanwall when his car suffered from mechanical troubles and was forced to pit. A few laps later, team mate Tony Brooks was called into the pits to hand his car over to Moss who went on to win the race. Although the pair split the points for victory, you can’t imagine any Formula 1 driver today being so willing to give up their car (even if their team mate was able to fit in and drive it!).

1978: Possibly the fastest driver of the 1970s, Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson won 10 races between 1973 and 1978 for Lotus and March. In 1978 he signed for Lotus from March as team mate to Mario Andretti. Despite being renowned for his speed, Peterson spent most of 1978 following his American team mate, coming second in four 1-2s during the year with both his wins coming when Andretti ran into difficulty. It worked with Andretti claiming the 1978 championship. Sadly Petersen died the day after a startline crash at that year’s Italian Grand Prix and is now regarded as one of the greatest drivers to never win the world championship.

Petersen was a loyal number 2 until his death

1979: An almost identical situation occurred the following year at Ferrari. South African Jody Scheckter and young Canadian Gilles Villeneuve headed the drivers’ championship as the Formula 1 circus arrived at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Despite knowing that a win could help him put one on the championship, Villeneuve faithfully obeyed team orders and followed Scheckter home to allow the South African to take his only title.

1982: Ferrari and Villeneuve again, however very different circumstances. One of the most famous on-track duels between team mates as Villeneuve and Frenchman Didier Pironi battled for victory in the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix. Expecting Pironi to obey Ferrari team orders, Villeneuve expected his team mate to stay behind him. He didn’t and Pironi sweeped past the fuming Canadian on the last lap to take victory. The pair never spoke again and Villeneuve was killed 13 days later whilst attempting to beat Pironi’s time during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

1987: Two team mates who again never spoke to each other but helped to enthrall crowds during 1986 and 1987. Williams drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet were both in the running for the 1986 title but mechanical problems during the last race in Australia allowed McLaren’s Alain Prost to retain his crown. In 1987 though it was a straight fight between the two Williams drivers. That year’s British Grand Prix saw a classic fight as Mansell closed down the Brazilian’s 20s lead in 20 laps to sweep past in one of the most famous overtaking moves of all time, despite running low on fuel. A crash during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix ended Mansell’s challenge as the Englisman suffered a back injury and handed the title to Piquet.

1988-89: The most famous fall out between team mates in motor racing history. Double world champion Alain Prost was joined by Ayrton Senna at McLaren for the 1988 season and the young Brazilian quickly set about attempts to beat his team mate. There isn’t anything that hasn’t already been said about the two drivers. Senna won the 1988 championship whilst Prost won in 1989 after the infamous collision at Suzuka before leaving for Ferrari.

The moment the 1989 championship was decided

2000-2004: The Schumacher era. Despite having Eddie Irvine as number two from 1996-1999 at Ferrari (and numerous number two team mates at Benetton), it was the German’s five year championship winning streak which is most famous with one incident symbolising the whole era. The 2002 Austrian Grand Prix saw Schumacher’s team mate Rubens Barrichello out qualify the German and lead virtually the entire race when radio orders came through with eight laps remaining to let Schumi by. Arguments raged over the last few laps until Barrichello moved over on the start/finish straight. And for what? So Schumacher could extend his lead over Juan Pablo Montoya to 27 points rather than 23 points. The crowd booed. Ferrari got fined and criticised. Team orders were banned. And everyone was very embarrassed.

Woops!

2007: Perhaps the most recent dispute between team mates before Vettel and Webber. Fernando Alonso arrived at McLaren from Renault expecting to be number 1 whilst his rookie team mate, Lewis Hamilton, found his way into the sport. What Alonso didn’t count on was Hamilton matching his speed and becoming a championship contender. In Hungary Alonso became fed up with what he saw as preferential treatment for the young Englishman and deliberately mucked up his team mate’s qualifying and ensured he got pole, however he was later demoted five places and Hamilton took pole and the win. Alonso returned to Renault for 2008 whilst Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came up and nicked the title away from Hamilton and Alonso in the final race in Brazil.

So what has history told us? Well for the fans it will be far more interesting and exciting for both Webber and Vettel to battle it out on the track rather than have Red Bull decide who will be number 1. Although the team have been hinting at favouritism towards Vettel (who is effectively their answer to Lewis Hamilton), Webber makes it impossible for them with strong drives when it matters to retake the German in the championship standings.

However history suggests that this form of rivalry will lead to trouble and could potentially missing out ono one or both championships in 2010. With a fragile car and evenly matched team mates, there is the danger that they’ll just take points off each other, as well as front wings!

Since the infamous collision in Turkey, Red Bull appear to support Vettel more in the heat of the moment then attempt to come out more even handed a few days later, which does nothing for their PR machine and creates unnecessary tension.

Guys, watch where you're going! (EPA)

One thing the recent wing saga has done though is raised Webber’s credibility in F1 circles and he proved a popular winner at the weekend and proved that this will be settled on the track rather than on the pitwall. Three wins this season to Vettel’s two so far shows that the Aussie means business.

For Formula 1 and to be fair to both drivers, Red Bull must allow the two to race each other until one of them cannot win the title.. But they can’t pick a number one, so they should stop hinting at one otherwise they could lose more than just a championship.