Sunday, 27 October 2013

Indian Grand Prix: A Champion is crowned!

The almighty young German has done it and becomes the youngest Formula One driver to win four World Championships and, perhaps even more impressively, back to back. He did it in style, his race engineers selecting an unconventional and, for all appearances, very risky strategy. At the end of only two laps, Seb was in to change his tyres from the quick-to-degrade soft tyre, to the far longer lasting hard tyre. It put him back in seventeenth place, with a large proportion of the field to pass. He managed it and ended up first, with only his teammate to challenge him. That challenge immediately evaporated, when Mark Webber's Red Bull was damaged to the extent that he was forced to stop.

Vettel made his championship win all the more special by adding a touch of the historic and emotional showmanship that we all love in Formula One. He has been fined €25,000 for his exuberant antics on the start/finish straight, but let us be grateful that we spectate on Formula One at a time when drivers are willing to incur some discipline for the sake of creating iconic footage and memories. Sebastian doing donuts, waving to the crowd and bowing down to his superior machine, will resonate for years to come.

Now, let me try and resolve some of the debate regarding whether Sebastian Vettel is one of the greats. I've heard people, TV pundits and the like, discussing whether greatness comes with merit and achievement or moments and instances of supreme performance. Also, whether the car does the winning, or the driver. When considering these questions, the same two names pop up, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Senna, despite achieving relatively few accolades, did things that were unconventional, memorable and at times downright scary. He was the man who, before pit lane speed limits were introduced, shot through the pits at racing speed, at Donington Raceway, to gain a handful of places. On another occasion, during qualifying for the French Grand Prix, he threw his racecar in to the wall on the start/finish straight, just so that he could exit the corner and cross the line a split second faster than everyone else. Alternatively, Michael Schumacher has achieved what almost everybody would agree is greatness, by winning seven world titles, five of which were consecutive.

The point is, do we have to pick one definition? Why can we not place them all under the same umbrella of 'Great'? As for the question of the car or the driver, it has always been the same throughout the history of Formula One. Some doubt Vettel's quality, claiming that he is in the fastest car. Interestingly, Schumacher was in a vastly superior racecar when he dominated for five years. That was clear, because his teammates, Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine, were both ahead of the rest of the field, albeit still in Michael's shadow. In contrast, Sebastian Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, regularly finishes outside of the top three, so its fair to say that he isn't getting anywhere near the superiority out of the car that Seb is. In my view Sebastian Vettel is one of the best there has ever been and it will only be a matter of time until that is the common consensus.

The Indian Grand Prix was chaotic, mainly as a result of the very poor soft tyre, which scattered the strategies all over the place. It meant that, by around lap ten, the only people that could have predicted the outcome were the strategists. There were some good fights in the final few laps, although none involved the four time world champion. He was well out in front and cruising to victory. The remaining races are sure to feature even more nail biting action. But the top prize has been claimed and has gone to a worthy winner.