No charisma, got the best car, just lucky... Vettel splits the field

As the German heads for his third straight title, opinion is divided on where he rates among the greats

Säo Paulo

According to German sources, Bernie Ecclestone thinks he lacks the charisma of the likes of James Hunt, Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda.

Others believe he lucks in too often, and that the image the world has of him is skewed because he always has the best car in the Adrian Newey-generated Red Bull that has taken him to the past two world titles and seems set to earn him a third at Fernando Alonso's expense this afternoon. Alonso, and Lewis Hamilton, widely regarded as the two best pedallers in the business, are seen to have lost out to him owing to his superior equipment.

It's not that Sebastian Vettel has suddenly become the man they love to hate, but there is a little bit of a backlash in some quarters against his seemingly inevitable success which, frankly, takes a little bit of understanding.

Michael Schumacher's arrogance has been legendary on and off the track. The schoolboyish Vettel is a very different character, even though there is a clear difference between Seb the winner and Seb the loser, as we heard over the team radio when Hamilton overtook him last week in Austin.

Ecclestone made his remarks to the German newspaper Bild Zeitung in a general broadside against the pampered nature of the current generation of F1 stars and the way in which the sport's governing body, FIA, seek to muzzle them. Not that that stopped Vettel from swearing on the podium in Abu Dhabi, for which he copped plenty of flak.

"It's a difficult question," Vettel muses about the F1 ringmaster's comments. "I don't know exactly what he said but maybe he was just taking the piss out of..." He corrects himself immediately after the sideways slide back into the vernacular. "Sorry, maybe he was just taking the mickey out of the newspaper, which is very possible with Bernie. But given what you just said that he said, I think generally it's difficult.

"Hopefully I have a little bit left in the sport so I can make up a little bit, but also I think these days are very different to the previous days in terms of the freedom that we have.

"To give you an example," Vettel adds, "imagine that you find all of us sitting here on Saturday night having a beer. Even if it's just one beer, it would be a massive scene on Sunday.

"Yeah, unfortunately it's not [as] easy as maybe it used to be in the past. The last race, we were in Austin, in Texas. The last winner in Texas was Keke Rosberg in Dallas in 1984, and he was having a smoke on the podium. I'm not sure whether people would be too happy with that today when they already get excited when sometimes the language is not appropriate after we have just got out of the car."

It's a savvy answer, which is what one expects from Vettel. Of all the drivers, he is arguably the most intellectual and the one who most goes out of his way to provide decent answers to the questions he is bombarded with in media conferences. Sure, there is the petulant side when things don't go his way, but generally he is urbane and considered in his thinking, and most times you sense he speaks from the heart.

For sure, luck smiles on him. But in this game you make your own luck too, and he hasn't won 26 grands prix and two titles in his five-and-a-bit years in the big league just because the gods are always smiling on him. Jim Clark and Alain Prost also had decent cars and used to make it look easy, and nobody suggested that they lucked in.

So how does Vettel feel when he doesn't necessarily get the credit that he deserves for what he does in the cockpit? "Well, I think if you look back there was never people, you know, who were really, really successful in a really bad car. I think it's a natural thing to happen that one day you have strong drivers in a strong team so you end up with a strong combination, and then obviously that is difficult to beat.

"I think it's natural to start in a weaker car, I think we have all been in that situation. Michael started in a Jordan which wasn't competitive but he set some highlights. Fernando started in a Minardi, set some highlights. Obviously in my case I started with the BMW Sauber, replacing Robert [Kubica] for one race, which was a great chance, and then afterwards I got the seat in Toro Rosso, which at the time was not a very competitive car but I think we did a very good job and even won a race. After that, to step up to Red Bull Racing and 2009 was a great and fantastic season for myself, for the team, for the first time to be competitive, finishing on the podiums, winning races, so I think it was a fairly normal way that I went."

After he helped develop the ground-effect Lotuses in the late Seventies and won the World Championship in 1978, Mario Andretti never felt he had lucked in, getting his backside into the best car and then driving it fast.

"That's what every driver aims for," he said dryly. "Why would you apologise for that? And you still have to make use of what you've got, no matter how good it is."

Vettel has demonstrated pretty conclusively that he is a master of that. If he is crowned again this afternoon, it won't be through luck.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape