PARIS, Dec 18, 2011 (AFP) - Sebastian Vettel proved he was no one hit wonder in 2011, the German in the rampant Red Bull cruising to a runaway defence of his title well before the season rounded its final bend.
Vettel, who clinched the 2010 crown in a nail-biting finale in Abu Dhabi, rewrote Formula One history with an ease that evoked memories of Michael Schumacher in his pomp.
As one previous holder of the coveted championship, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, struggled with problems both on and off the circuit, Vettel could barely do no wrong from flagfall on the streets of Melbourne in March.
He led his rivals a merry dance on the Albert Park circuit, and continued to out manoeuvre the chasing pack for the remainder of the year.
The carpenter's son went on to win in Malaysia, Turkey, Spain, a debut success at Monaco, Valencia, Belgium, Italy and under the floodlights of Singapore.
That last success, his ninth of the season, left him one point shy of the title.
A fortnight later, on October 9, he comfortably crossed the line in Japan, finishing third to Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, to become, at just 24 years and 98 days, the youngest back to back world champion.
He was joining a select club of nine including Juan Manuel Fangio, Ayrton Senna and Schumacher of drivers to successfully defend the title.
He also established a new world record for most pole positions in a season, his 15 (from 19 races) surpassing Nigel Mansell's previous mark set in 1992.
Vettel celebrated his title by belting out a karaoke version of the Sinatra hit 'My Way' in a local Irish bar, arguably the only false note he struck all year, a mid-season blip aside.
If Button and co thought he might take his foot off the gas with the championship wrapped up they couldn't have been more mistaken, as Vettel went on to win in South Korea - handing Red Bull their second successive constructors' title - and the inaugural race in India.
For Hamilton, 2011 proved a largely frustrating season.
He produced a brace of brilliant drives to win in China and Abu Dhabi but those peaks were far outnumbered by the troughs.
The 2008 champion cut an unhappy figure for much of the campaign, the split with his manager, father Anthony, and fiancee, pop singer Nicole Scherzinger, appearing to weigh on his mind.
And he became embroiled in a distracting feud with Felipe Massa, the friends colliding six times in Keystone cop-style over the course of the season.
Hamilton's roller-coaster year was summed up when he was forced to retire with gearbox trouble in Sao Paulo.
The 26-year-old Englishman, who finished fifth in the standings, promised to emulate the example set by his teammate, 2009 champion Button, for success in 2012.
"He's got his dad there, who is there at every single race. He's got his management there; he's got his friends; he's got his girlfriend there all the time.
"He's in a really, really happy place...he's got a great bubble around him which he's very happy with and, with that, he's able to just go out and perform without any worries on his mind.
"I did have that at one point, but I lost that bubble and I don't have that around me at the moment, but I'm working on having that for the future."
Button outperformed Hamilton to win in Canada, Hungary and Japan to take second in the title race on 270 points, albeit a yawning 122 points adrift of Vettel.
Vettel's teammate, the popular Australian Mark Webber, pipped two time former champion Fernando Alonso for third on the strength of his sole win in the season-closer in Brazil.
The year got off to a shaky start with uncertainty over the Bahrain Grand Prix, which fell victim to the civil unrest in the Gulf kingdom.
Bahrain is back in 2012 as part of what promises to be a taxing 20-race campaign, with Austin's Circuit of the Americas in Texas making its debut as the penultimate leg.
Next year will see the number of world champions on the grid swelling to six with the return after his rallying timeout of 2007 titleholder Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn signing a two year deal with Lotus Renault.