Saturday’s qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel break yet another record. Vettel took his 15th pole position of the season yesterday, which beats the previous record of 14 set by Nigel Mansell in 1992. Sebastian Vettel is firmly writing himself into the history books of Formula 1, motor racing, and sport as a whole.
For a racing driver, Vettel is still very young. At 24 years old, he finds himself on top of the sporting world. He is now the youngest driver to take pole, lead, score points, stand on the podium, win a race, win a championship, and become double world champion. In addition to all of the other records he’s broken this year, if he wins this afternoon he will have won 10 races from pole position this season, another record (he currently shares the record of 9 with Mansell, also from 1992).
The reasons for Vettel’s dominance are fairly clear. He has the best car, and he is the best driver. The car is obviously quick. Red Bull have occupied the front row at most of the races this season. 3 of the pole positions that haven’t gone to Vettel have been taken by his team-mate, Mark Webber. The car is visibly quicker through high-downforce corners than the rest of the field and has no trouble getting tyres up to operating temperature.
Vettel himself, however, seems to add just that little bit more that makes him untouchable. He has outqualified Webber for almost the entire season, and has won 11 races, when Webber has not yet stood on the top step of the podium this year. Vettel has been in control of almost every race, and has been able to put in quick laps whenever required. His personal dominance of the season has gone completely unchallenged, and that is remarkable considering the calibre of opposition he faces. Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Webber are talented, experienced, fast racing drivers. They must be scratching their heads.
For some time, Vettel has been compared to Michael Schumacher. It is only natural for Germans to look for the next great champion among themselves, and Vettel fits the mould easily. Certain figures in Formula 1 have compared Vettel to Ayrton Senna, referring to his raw talent. However, Vettel has now reached the stage where comparison is no longer valid. He is not like Schumacher or Senna. There is no point comparing him to the greats of the past. He is Vettel. He is already among the great drivers of Formula 1. The greats of the future may be compared to him.