Sebastian Vettel is a very talented racing driver, there can be no doubt about that. On Red Bull’s payroll since the age of 12, he’s now one of the five clear contenders for the 2010 drivers’ championship.
As young as he is fast, most of Vettel’s records centre around his age. Youngest driver to score points, youngest pole position winner, youngest Grand Prix winner, the list continues. All of these records were taken from Fernando Alonso, and none of them look at immediate risk of being claimed by Jaime Alguersuari, the only current driver young enough to break them.
In 2009 Vettel was runner up in the driver’s championship, and Red Bull Racing were runners up in the constructor’s standings. Between the team, Vettel, and Webber, they’d shown that an independent team could hold their own with the big league – Ferrari, McLaren, and what was left of Honda.
Last year, nobody expected Red Bull Racing to do as well as they did. But this year, all expectations are on RBR to achieve great things. The pressure is on for Vettel to finish the next step up in the championship. The RB6 is capable of winning the championship. Twelve pole positions from thirteen attempts speaks for itself. Barring some minor malfunctions early in the season, the RB6 has also proved itself a solid car.
But recently everyone has begun asking a question: “Is Sebastian Vettel capable of winning the championship?”. If the championship were purely about desire, then Vettel would be right up there. Unfortunately, though, it’s not about desire, it’s about points and strong drives, and recently, Vettel has not been finishing race weekends with enough of those. Only once this season has he turned pole position into a win (in Malaysia he did get the jump on Webber to win from third on the grid, but Webber won’t be letting that happen again).
People are wondering if Vettel can handle the pressure and whether he has the mentality needed to be world champion. Hamilton, Button, and Alonso can certainly handle it – they’ve done it before. In F1, Vettel only has experience of finishing second, and that can only give him more desire to want to finish first.
Can Vettel handle the pressure of racing? Yes. He’s a racing driver – it’s what he does for a living. Does he have the right frame of mind to win the championship? Perhaps.
That Vettel wears his heart on his sleeve seems to be both a blessing and a curse. When he wins, he looks like the happiest man on the planet. He’s witty, laid-back, and can charm journalists like the best of them.
When things don’t go his way, however, and when he makes mistakes, he is not afraid to let his frustration show. Too often can he seen post-race looking like someone kicked his puppy and/or insulted his grandmother. It’s this ‘uncontrollability’ of his negative emotions that is causing people to question his capabilities to handle the fight for the championship. He can win well, but can he lose gracefully?
Georgio Ascanelli, technical chief at Vettel’s former team Toro Rosso says “the only way for a driver to find his limit, is to go over it sometimes”. This season, and especially in the races since Silverstone, Vettel has certainly found that limit. Mistakes, things he didn’t need to do, have proved costly.
A DNF in Turkey after crashing into his team mate, and his worst finish since China 2009 by finishing 15th in Belgium after crashing into Button, have not done his championship chances any good at all.
Vettel has everything he needs at his disposal to win the championship. He’s not topping the standings, and that’s nobody’s fault but his own. Bad luck haunted him at the beginning of the year, but that seems to have gone now. Now, it’s just about what Vettel can do with his car.
Sebastian Vettel can still win the driver’s championship this year. If he can keep his car out of the gravel, and out of other competitor’s sidepods, he can do very well. Now that’s he’s found the limits of his present capabilities, he needs to keep within them and have solid races. Otherwise Alonso, the two McLaren drivers, and most definitely Webber will take advantage of his weaknesses and beat him to the championship. It’s his to lose.