The Scrutineering Bay is Badger’s way of taking a hot Grand Prix racing topic and getting people from the Sett involved to put their opinions across. From predicting races, arguing stewards decisions to just deciding who was/is/will be the best, anything is fair game!

We at the Sett can’t wait for the Spanish Grand Prix. Turkey may have been the start of the European season but we know, deep down, until a tyre turns at Catalunya in anger then F1’s not really in Europe! But, will it live up to the excitement of all the previous races, or will it be yet another dominant display from the reigning World Champion? Put simply, we’re asking:

“Who, or what, can stop Sebastian Vettel?”

The entrants into this week’s round table of debate are Adam Millenueve, Jimmy Von Weeks and, going first for once, is myself Craig Normansell:

Will Sebastian Vettel ever be toppled? Well, yes. It has happened once already this season in China and will probably happen again, as we all know the Red Bull isn’t exactly bulletproof and the team can’t call rain strategy right to save their careers. But if everything clicks and the track stays dry, can Vettel be beat? Barring any mishaps, probably not.

The fact of the matter is this: he is the fastest man in the fastest car and it’s a formula for repeated success. Mark Webber was there or thereabouts last season but this year young Seb has stepped up a notch and the Aussie has no response.

I also fear that any chance of Pirelli producing a shock result has already happened. China was the place that all the strategies collided and the four-stopper came out on top, only in the hands of Lewis Hamilton. Look at Turkey: Vettel took one run in Q3, got pole, and stopped four times. The optimum has been found and the fastest man made it work to perfection.

OK, it won’t be all doom and gloom. There will be rain (hearsay says this Sunday) and there will be traffic, breakdowns, poor set-up choices and pure bad luck. But they are all minor things really in the grand scheme of it all, the standard has now been set . If I was a boxing promoter, I’d bill Sebastian Vettel with the tagline “Ain’t No Stopping the Champ!”. Sure does ring true right now.

Up next to have a go is Adam:

Who – well this is Formula 1 and (107% rule pending) 24 cars will line up in Barcelona for the Grand Prix, so that’s 23 other drivers that could stop Sebastian Vettel grabbing another victory (F1 is ‘if’ backwards as Murray used to say – anything could happen!)

What – now, hmm to grab the ‘bull by the horns’ so to speak (pun intended) it will take something extraordinary to keep Seb from the top step of the podium on Sunday.

F1 is both a race on track and in the factories with the engineers.  On the latter front, Red Bull are clearly on a high at the moment. On track, Vettel is a very fast driver and has the edge over Mark Webber (sorry Mark fans, but it’s true).

The only thing in my mind that could stop another finger display on Sunday is if another driver (or two or three) gets off the line and scampers off ahead of young Seb. The “he can’t overtake” argument may have been put to bed, but Vettel hasn’t really raced to victory yet this season, more just cruised off in the distance.

So, to the question, the only thing that can halt Vettel’s pending domination of 2011 is being beaten off the line and having to actually battle for victory.

A good point raised by Adam there, if Vettel gets bogged down at the start, is that his chance for a race victory gone?

Finally, we have Jimmy’s go:

In all honesty, it’s hard to see Sebastian Vettel being beaten more than he already has been this season – in other words, once every four races. If, as you’d expect, Red Bull’s car remains the class of the field for the rest of the campaign there’s little hope for his rivals.

If this holds true the only way he can realistically be beaten is if his team-mate does it. And the only way that will happen is if Mark Webber beats him on a Saturday afternoon. Them’s the hard facts, Mark.

The Aussie isn’t that far off, but those few tenths – sometimes mere hundredths – that he’s missing in qualy are proving absolutely crucial. They’re allowing Seb to scamper off at the front, playing the race his own way whilst the rest of the field scrambles to outsmart him. Only once has anyone managed that in 2011.

And then there’s the question over Mark is getting the same crack of the whip as Seb. If the team don’t want Webber to win – as was the case for team-mates at Ferrari when Michael Schumacher drove for them – then we’re not in for a lot of competition at the front. Yes Lewis won in China and could probably do it again, and I’m pretty sure Fernando Alonso can ‘use all of his talent’ to grab a victory someone along the line, but we will largely spend this season watching Vettel win. The championship will be over early and people will complain.

But don’t blame Vettel. Ultimately the people to blame are Ferrari and McLaren, neither of whom built a car as good as the RB7. And perhaps Red Bull, if (and I’m making no claims either way) they are favouring the young German. Not because I think that’s unfair – if they’re doing it it’s entirely within their rights as a racing team to put their eggs in whichever basket they choose – but because they’ve made such a fuss about equal treatment in the past.

The season may still be in it’s infancy, and with a long way to go, but is it already wrapped up for the reigning champ. We’ve all had our say, what do you think?

 

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