After winning the Singapore Grand Prix with a magnificent display of his brilliance, Sebastian Vettel took to the podium to accept his winner’s trophy. And then the crowd booed him. Again.
Booing Vettel has become something of a trend in 2013. It started in Malaysia, where Vettel ignored team orders and passed Mark Webber to win the race against the instructions of his team. The crowd did not appreciate what they saw as a lack of fair play by Vettel, and booed him on the podium. While booing is never a positive thing, at least in Malaysia there was a catalyst.
But it didn’t stop in Malaysia. When he won in Canada, Vettel was booed on the podium. Boos also greeted the victorious Vettel in Belgium, although those could have been related to a Greenpeace demonstration that was timed to coincide with the podium ceremony.
When Vettel won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, he was jeered so loudly that it became difficult for the podium interviews to continue. It’s understandable that the Italian fans would be disappointed to see their hero, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, beaten by Vettel in a Red Bull, but it was also unlike the tifosi to boo the winner on the Monza podium. They love motor racing, and normally applaud the winner, even if it’s not a Ferrari driver.
Most recently, at yesterday’s Singapore Grand Prix, Vettel was booed again on the podium. And for the first time, the podium interviewer reacted to the jeering. Martin Brundle was clearly unimpressed at the reception Vettel was receiving and said to the crowd, “Please don’t do that. That’s not correct.”
Exactly why Vettel is being booed is not entirely clear. It could still be partly due to the manner of his Malaysian Grand Prix victory, which was perceived as underhanded. But that was a while ago. It could be, as Vettel himself as suggested, that there is a travelling band of Ferrari fans who continue to instigate the jeering. Perhaps the crowds are tired of Vettel’s dominance. After all, he is looking set to take his fourth consecutive World Championship and is so far ahead that Formula One has become predictable and (dare I say it?) a little bit boring. It could be that it’s just caught on and the crowds now boo Vettel for their own entertainment.
Whatever the reason, the crowd in Singapore missed a trick yesterday. They failed to appreciate that they had just witnessed arguably one of the greatest victories in the history of the sport. Vettel completed the rather unusual Grand Slam – he took pole position, won the race, set the fastest lap and led every lap (some might argue that the Grand Slam does not apply as Vettel lost the lead to Nico Rosberg for a few metres on the opening lap, but that’s just getting too technical).
When Vettel needed to push, he pushed. And when he did, it was mesmerizing. At a few different points in the race, he was over two seconds per lap faster than anyone else. His fastest lap of the race was over a second quicker than anyone else managed. When the safety car came out, it really did not suit Vettel’s tyre strategy. So what did he do? He put his foot down and pulled out a large enough gap to allow him to pit and rejoin the track still in the lead. He pulled out a 30 second lead in just 14 laps to make that happen.
And then, when his final stop was done, Vettel felt the need to push again. So he finished the race 32.6 seconds clear of Fernando Alonso, a gap that he created in just 17 laps.
Vettel is almost certainly going to win his fourth consecutive World Championship this season. And he deserves it. He’s shown over and over again this year that he’s the best driver in the field and certainly one of the greatest in the history of the sport. He’s in unbelievable form, and is extracting maximum performance from the admittedly superb car his team has produced.
What Vettel deserved after yesterday’s Singapore Grand Prix was a resounding standing ovation. What he got instead was a chorus of jeers. And that’s just not right.
In recent years, a number of Formula One drivers have turned to TV commentary in their retirement. Michael Schumacher does not look set to join them.
Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill are among the well-known names of Formula One racing who will feature in British Formula One coverage this season. Their expertise will certainly add to the experience of watching the BBC and Sky English language feeds throughout the world. Perhaps German broadcasters would like to have a similar offering in their home language.
Schumacher retired from Formula One for the second time at the end of 2012, which makes him an obvious target for any broadcaster looking to improve its offering by adding a driver expert to its panel of experts. As the most successful driver in Formula One history, Schumacher would have invaluable insights into what goes on in the cockpit and, perhaps more importantly, could provide detailed understanding of race strategy – after all, he and technical genius Ross Brawn used brilliant strategies to their advantage during Ferrari’s dominant period from 2000 to 2004.
But the seven-time champion is not interested in joining the media. In an interview with German newspaper Bild, he said he would rather spend time at home with his family, which he was unable to do as much as he might have liked during his long racing career. And, as he himself has said, why would he go into commentating if he were following the Formula One circus around the world? Driving would be more fun.
Schumacher has spent his time since retiring assisting his wife Corinna, who breeds horses and markets her own range of horse blankets. But while he is not maintaining any active involvement in Formula One, his interest in the sport remains. He will be watching the opening race on Sunday from his home in Switzerland. He thinks “the season’s going to be really tight.” Let’s hope he’s right.