June 17th, 2013 (F1plus/B. Dixon).- “Just a formality.” The words spoken by Christian Horner regarding Sebastian Vettel’s contract extension. Perhaps the most undisputed words to be spoken this season? Did anyone ever really believe anything different?
Beating all records previously set by Formula One greats is a high priority for the unstoppable German, and with five consecutive driver’s titles claimed by Michael Schumacher undoubtedly creating a tantalising force, is something he continually strives for. He is content to win the easy way, made clear in Malaysia this year; therefore staying with the best car is inevitable.
Although Sebastian clearly wants to be a winner and be the best of all time, his racing and persona seems void of passion. Being graced with a cacophony of boos on the podium in Canada last weekend demonstrated that he is fast becoming as disliked as Michael Schumacher at the height of his career. Vettel’s charming, cheeky nature has been usurped by an unrelenting, ruthless one. Drivers who are dominant and winning consistently will always entice the haters, and being liked is probably not high on his agenda, but moving to a different team would perhaps give him more respect.
There is no disputing his talent, outshining Mark Webber in the sister car. His win in Monza did reveal what he is capable of, but it was a win in wet conditions, which throws up all sorts of unpredictable results. There will always be that piece of the puzzle missing until he consistently shows his mettle in a car not designed by Adrian Newey, a car that isn’t superior to all other contenders. It is the missing piece of the great champion jigsaw.
It is widely believed that Kimi Raikkonen will take Mark Webber’s seat at Red Bull for 2014. While having a teammate as competitive as Kimi would reveal another layer to Seb’s talent, it would be determined by Red Bull’s stance on whether they would ever allow their drivers to race properly. In Canada, team radio revealed the message given to the McLaren drivers permitting them to race each other despite the rather unpredictable nature of Sergio Perez’s overtaking moves. It has always been a facet of the way McLaren run their team.
All Formula One teams respect the importance of the Constructors title, it is where the money lies, but there always seems to be a desperate aura around the way Red Bull approach their endeavours towards achieving it. Letting their drivers race each other is too risky for the Austrian team. It just seems inconceivable that Kimi and Seb would be able to challenge each other freely without ‘Multi 21’ type codes in place.
Even if, by some miracle, they were allowed to battle for supremacy, or whether their shared penchant for disobeying rules arouses fiery wrangling on track, Red Bull is still the best car. There would still be that missing piece in the Vettel jigsaw. Kimi Raikkonen has proved himself in a substandard car. Since the idea of Kimi and Seb swapping seats flickered into my mind, it has grown and become increasingly candy coated. It would simultaneously give the Finn the chance to gain more success, while handing Vettel the opportunity to complete the true champion jigsaw.
With Vettel committing himself to Red Bull, the rumours about a partnership between him and Alonso at Ferrari are now quashed for the foreseeable future. At present, Ferrari are not competitive enough to entice him and with the Spanish Bull commanding the Prancing Horse, were those rumours ever to be believed anyway?
In 2014, Formula One enters a slight unknown courtesy of the engine changes coming into force. If the new turbo era doesn’t treat Red Bull well, maybe Sebastian Vettel could prove he is a great champion while still at the team. Christian Horner has dismissed speculation surrounding the contract being a single year extension only, referring to his loyalty to the team when talking to Sporting Life,
“The fact he has signed this extension shows his commitment to Red Bull, and hopefully the relationship will go beyond 2015.”
In short times when Red Bull haven’t been performing at their usual expected level, Vettel has been clearly frustrated, would his loyalty be so steadfast if the team weren’t providing him with the best car on the grid? Will the partnership be just a formality then?