April 12th, 2013 (F1plus/P. Godley).- Sebastian Vettel. Say and think what you will about him, there can be no denying one thing; the boy is one heck of a driver. You don't have to be his biggest admirer nor do you have to even be a fan of the 25-year-old German to realise what a supreme talent Sebastian is. Youngest World Champion, youngest double World Champion, youngest triple World Champion; the list of accolades and achievements at his age is nothing short of remarkable. But - and this may appear a little odd to begin with - has his awesome success, particularly since 2010, paved the way for what we're currently witnessing before our eyes at Red Bull Racing?
In fact, scrap that.
Has the success of Sebastian Vettel been to the detriment of not just relationships within the RBR squad, but the chances of younger drivers further down the Red Bull pecking order, even those beyond junior outfit Toro Rosso? Red Bull has, within Sebastian Vettel, seemingly produced the perfect Formula 1 machine. Much like previous greats of the sport (Senna, Prost, Schumacher et al), Vettel has that ruthless streak. That spark that makes him want to win. That little noise in the back of his mind that makes him have to win. Formula 1 is about winning.
You can throw all the classic, iconic quotes at it all you want; at the end of the day this is an arena of and for winners. Win at all costs? Not necessarily. But if there's just a sniff of a victory, a chance of climbing on the top step of a Formula 1 podium, a glimmer of hope that you score 25 points instead of 18; who are we to judge if a driver, one of the best on the planet, wants to win?
Here's my two bob's worth on the events at Malaysia. Sebastian Vettel won; Mark Webber finished second. It may not have been a moral victory, but it was a race victory; a Grand Prix victory at that. He won't have gained too many admirers following his actions in Sepang; but will, or should, he care?
The other day I picked up a copy of the excellent GP International magazine. An intriguing piece on the phenomenon that is Kimi Raikkonen dominates the front cover; but an interview with Helmut Marko entitled "Up close with Dr. Evil" had the corner of my eye hooked (not literally, ouch).
Here Marko discusses Mr. Vettel with David Tremayne:
"First of all for his age he is unbelievable all round. Normally this knowledge you have when you are ten years older. So that's to start with. Then he goes into each detail, and he never gives up. He looks what was on the car and what was happening in the pits. He sees the overall picture and he prepares mentally. He hardly reads any comment in the press, because he knows what he has and what he has to deliver."
The perfect Formula 1 driver? Perfect is a tricky word; a tricky phrase. Perfection. Something we all strive for but will we ever achieve such a state? What makes the perfect Formula 1 driver? That desire to win. Ruthlessness. Speed. Bravery. Commitment. A natural talent. All contributing factors, and something that all drivers share; to differing levels. In Sebastian Vettel Red Bull have made that driver, that winning machine that the Red Bull Junior Programme set about to do. But now they've found, made and developed it; what does the future hold?
We've seen a number of fellow hopefuls arrive and subsequently leave the Formula 1 paddock, desperate to become that driver. Klien, Liuzzi and Speed prior to Vettel; Buemi and Alguersuari post Vettel. The yardstick has been set. But is the yardstick the actual problem? You may think I'm bonkers, spouting rubbish left, right and centre. After all, this is a team that have won three consecutive Drivers and Constructors Championships for heaven sakes. But, and it's a big but, there are cracks appearing. They started small. They started a few years back. They've grown. We're now in 2013 and the cracks are big, very big.
Success can often not only bring with it more success, but more demand for success. Look at any sport. Look at any business. The more successful you are, the more that becomes expected of you and the more you expect of yourself. This is a team sport; and within a team you have two drivers. Two drivers that both would love to win. Two drivers that would do anything to win. Yes? There's no 'I' in team, but there is one in machine. Apologies, that's dreadful. But it works. You breed and nurture a machine to win; in this case a Red Bull machine. He's programmed to win. He wants to win. He does win. The team should and will always come first; but when you have a driver such as Vettel who is all about winning, you'd be silly to let that talent (that talent you'd developed) leave. A driver like Vettel makes a team like Red Bull successful. They both need each other; for the moment at least.
Vettel signing autographs for the fans in Shanghai (Getty)
I guess in a way highlights the problems at Red Bull. You have two drivers from very different racing backgrounds. One driver that came through the team's own junior programme and one that very much didn't. They may both want to win; but it's how they go about achieving that aim that sets these two apart. How would another driver from the programme fare against Vettel? Will one even be given the chance? As mentioned earlier in the piece, we've seen many drivers come and go that were touted for greatness.
A lot was expected of current duo Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, but have they delivered? Have they been given the chance to deliver? The car is certainly not as competitive as the one Sebastian himself enjoyed whilst at Toro Rosso, but can just the car itself be blamed for the performances of the aforementioned pair? Many felt it was harsh to oust both Buemi and Alguersuari beforehand, and having arguably not shown as much as those two, could we see the Formula 1 careers of two more Red Bull juniors end this year? Neither has stood from the other; and with plenty of other juniors waiting in the wings, what chance do they stand?
There are a lot of grumblings about Antonio Felx da Costa at the moment, the man who would appear next in line to be given a chance at Toro Rosso. Whilst I fully believe he is a very, very good prospect; it's not the first time we've been here and heard those kind of claims. The same was said of Buemi, of Alguersuari, of Vergne and of Ricciardo. Two have gone, could two more follow before they're given a serious chance? Formula 1 is ruthless, a word I seem to return to often, and if you don't take your chances you're out. Simple. Red Bull are here to produce race winning and Championship winning drivers for their team. They're a business. They do what's best for business. You and I may always like or agree with it, but at the end of the day it's their decision.
Could two Sebastian Vettel's work alongside each other in the same team? Unfortunately we can't definitively answer that as we've not seen such a situation arise yet. Is the current situation working? Would it work with Kimi Raikkonen there? Lewis Hamilton? We just don't know. We can speculate and imagine of course, as we all love to do. But based on the evidence of not just this season, but of the past few seasons, Red Bull have a real dilemma on their hands. Where to go next?