Will Vettel be first driver in five years to keep his title?

2011 F1 season preview

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2011

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2011

Not since 2006 has a driver successfully retained their championship title. Can Sebastian Vettel buck the trend this year?

Fernando Alonso won back-to-back trophies in 2005 and 2006. But he couldn’t retain his title in 2007 following a turbulent season alongside Lewis Hamilton.

The following year Kimi R??ikk??nen failed to carry his championship-winning momentum into 2008 and let his crown slip. Hamilton’s title defence in 2009 was scuppered by an uncompetitive car.

And last year Jenson Button was beaten by Hamilton – and Red Bull – when he came to defend his title.

There are two compelling reason why Vettel stands a better chance of scoring back-to-back title wins than these drivers did.

He has the vital advantage of continuity. And – no less important – he will be driving what should be the fastest car in the sport once again.

In the Red Bull RB5, RB6 and RB7, Adrian Newey appears to have hit the same form he did with the Williams FW14s and FW15 and McLaren MP4-13 to MP4-15.

While Vettel’s fundamental pace is exceptional, key weaknesses in his game were apparent last year. Particularly when it came to overtaking, which led to disastrous errors in Istanbul and Spa.

The new Drag Reduction System may prove just the ticket for a driver who is no Hamilton or Kobayashi when it comes to overtaking.

Vettel was rock-solid over the final four races of last year and would have won all of them but for an engine failure in Korea. If he can string together a full season of races like that he will be hard to beat.

Team mate Mark Webber, however, saw his title hopes crumble as Vettel dominated him in the final fly-away races.

Webber will do more than just keep Vettel honest this year. He had a strong middle part of the season last year and was a dependable points-scorer – something which is more important than ever in F1 at the moment.

Having referred to himself as a “number two driver” during one of his rows with the team last year, Webber’s defeat means he now has the number painted on his car.

Red Bull have pledged they will continue to support both drivers on equal terms. But with the team orders ban scrapped, and rivals such as Ferrari clearly happy to use such tactics, Red Bull may find themselves under even greater pressure to choose one driver over the other in 2011.

Compare Vettel and Webber’s form in 2010

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76 comments on Will Vettel be first driver in five years to keep his title?

  1. verstappen said on 4th March 2011, 12:39

    The question is whether he has matured since winning his championship. The last – what was it? – 5 races last year showed a more mature Vettel.

    However, he was still not like Alonso, who really tries to get everything out of every situation, while maintaining that a chamnpionship is won by points and not by a single risky overtaking action. Eg. had Vettel been in Alonso’s position in Abu Dhabi, I think he would’ve gone off together with Petrov.

    So if he listens to the pitwall and takes a deep breath before doing something stupid (including making gestures) he definitely can clench the title. Without overtaking anyone but via pitstops.

    • F1iLike said on 4th March 2011, 16:21

      If he would’ve gone of together with Petrov, the difference would have been 0 to what Alonso achieved.. So I can’t say I understand that point. I like risk takers. We need them and they’re fun to watch and they are the ones that deserves titles more than cowards. ( Not saying Alonso is a coward! Certainly not! )

    • patrickl said on 5th March 2011, 0:13

      He wasn’t more mature. He simply was never under pressure.

      Well he was in Singapore when he needed to make a quick pitstop to get past Alonso and in his panic he pulled away in the wrong gear and hit the anti stall.

  2. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 4th March 2011, 12:43

    Maybe he can – but one thing’s for sure: with five World Champions and a rulebook that allowed for very competitive racing in 2010, it will not be easy.

    • BBT said on 4th March 2011, 12:50

      …or maybe it will be easy (or easier than 2010) if three of the 5 don’t have a WDC winning car. Unfortunately for Vettel it looks like Alonso does.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 4th March 2011, 12:57

        That would only be a problem if there was only one race. Both McLaren and Mercedes hve made it their mission to find a little more pace in time for the Australian Grand Prix. They’re not so easily written off as that.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th March 2011, 15:11

          I agree with you, that it is very unlikely that only Red Bull or Ferrari will be on top everywhere this year.

          For Vettel it is key to take the lessons learnt last year until Spa and carry that over to this year with a strong start.
          After that, McLaren and Brawn will be working hard to be on the top step at least somewhere and it will be about maximizing the points.
          Personally I think Alonso is better at that game, but Vettel might prove us wrong.
          Or just win the first 4-5 races and make it a walk over for RBR.

  3. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 4th March 2011, 12:58

    If the car is good then he can but he needs to improve his driving skill.Saying that he needs to be aggressive & needs to calm down when things aren’t moving for him.But if the car is good just like last year the fastest machine then I think there is no stopping him.

  4. Zarathustra said on 4th March 2011, 12:58

    My money goes for Alonso this year, if his car will be competetive then Vettel can say goodbye for title hopes.

    I thought Kubica could be major player this year, but we all know what happend.

  5. tony said on 4th March 2011, 12:59

    Ha, Didn’t realise Webber would have No.2 on his car until just now. Will cause no end of jokes

  6. It has always been harder to keep a championship than to win it in the first place. The fact that he is the Champion means that there will be a lot of additional distractions that Vettel will have to learn to cope with. While the Red Bull still looks superior, and Vettel will surely win races this year, if Webber is given equal treatment by the team, he’s my tip for 2011. With Vettel number 2 or 3.

    • David A said on 4th March 2011, 13:03

      I just don’t think Webber has the natural speed or consistency that Vettel has (except when Seb is trying to pass). 2010 was his best chance.

      • Eggry (@eggry) said on 4th March 2011, 13:12

        I agree. but who knows? No one hav thought Webber would be the title contender someday until 2010. If he’s more competitive than Vettel this year? even though it’s unlikely.

        • Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 4th March 2011, 13:30

          Even if Webber can’t beat Vettel over they course of the year, the likelihood they’ll take points off each other surely hands the impetus to Alonso, providing Ferrari are relatively competitive.

          It almost happened last year despite Alonso pretty much ruining the first half of his season…

      • Andy C said on 4th March 2011, 14:35

        If they both get a reliable car we’ll see this year.

        I often wonder whether those suffering reliability bring it on themselves. (i.e one driver has more failures in theoretically the same car).

    • Ace said on 4th March 2011, 23:34

      Last year, Webber was 13 kg’s heavier than Vettel. Considering that massive weight difference (and the advantage Vettel had with 13 extra kg’s of ballast to place wherever it was best in the car) their times were very close.

      I can’t be sure, but Webber looks a lot slimmer this year.

  7. Eggry (@eggry) said on 4th March 2011, 13:08

    Unlikely. It’s not 2000s, but 2010s. even if he’s much greater than Senna, Schumacher, Alonso, he cannot get 5 titles in row unless car is not good enough. Is it possible that Redbull(or whatelse team) could make very competitive car for 5 years as Ferrari did in 2000? I don’t think so.

  8. earnst said on 4th March 2011, 13:15

    imo Alonso has a bigger chance than Vettel for this year.

  9. Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 4th March 2011, 13:21

    Hope so, since it will just get harder for vettel next year when Kubica comes back, Perez and Di Resta get a full year of racing, mercedes getting stronger every year, Alonso having ferrari built around him.

    Every era for a great driver has a beginning and an end for their career so vettel has to make the most of it until somebody else get’s their chance/or chance again.

  10. Cole (@cole) said on 4th March 2011, 13:23

    I normally cheer for pilots, not manufacturers.
    Used to be a Alan Jones, Prost, Michael, then Alonso fan, but as I had links with Red Bull in the past and I had passes to the hospitality and the garage during Catalunia grand Prix 07, I started cheering for Red Bull after that. Having Adrian on the Team was another decision maker, as sooner or later, they would deliver…
    Terefore I started 2010 season cheering for Vettel, as I suposed was the best shot at DWC with Red Bull. But very quickly realised that Mark was up there too, and his personality is so much nicer. After Turkey and Silverstone becamed Mark’s fan, and a little disrespect for the managing of Red Bull (Specially Marko)started to grow in me.
    I will keep cheering for Mark until he retires, and will go back cheering for aonther driver from then on.

  11. NIck said on 4th March 2011, 13:24

    you forgot to mention MASSSA failed to defend his 30 second title in 2009. lolololol.

  12. mad79 said on 4th March 2011, 13:30

    he has everything at his disposal,car,team,talent but when hes not in front he’s an avarage driver so my money is on webber,alom=nso ,hamilton and button.Lets not forget Heidfeld!

    • RaulZ said on 4th March 2011, 14:02

      I think that RB’s cars are average cars when it’s not in front. I think its aerodynamic is made to work properly in the front. Webber had the same problem. It’s a very dependant car on aerodynamics. It needs clean air.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th March 2011, 15:15

        Judging on last years form, that is true, the RB car wants to run in clean air. So a lot will depend on weather someone can trump the RBR in qualifying regularly or pass the in the first corners before it gets to far ahead.

  13. Andy C said on 4th March 2011, 13:35

    Will Vettel be first driver in five years to keep his title?

    Quite simply, no.

  14. Rob Wilson said on 4th March 2011, 13:41

    Yeah i think Vettel probably will become double world champion this year and i think we are entering a Red Bull phase in F1, i just can’t see anyone having the better car in the forseeable future, maybe Ferrari will come close, McLaren will attempt to cling on but It’s going to be Red Bull, I’m thinking similar to 2010 but with less reliability issues and mistakes.
    Personally as a Hamilton fan i hope i’m wrong and would be extatic if Red Bull don’t have the fastest car and McLaren turn up in Melbourne and get pole, but i just can’t see it happening. I can see there being a big scramble for Webbers seat when he retires, are the Toro Rosso guys ready? Time for Lewis to move if McLaren can’t build a winning car? I think so.

    • Andy C said on 4th March 2011, 14:23

      The Toro Rosso drivers sound like they’re already looking over there shoulder.

      Good old Helmut Marko again. Get the best out of your people by standing behind them with a loaded gun.

      Like you, I’m clinging onto the hope that with the last test, McLaren dial in the car and get into mix for race 1. But I think it might be catchup.

    • Stefanauss said on 4th March 2011, 18:20

      I don’t think changing teams is a suitable philosophy for a winning driver, not anymore. If Hamilton will do something like this, it will play against him, overall.
      If you look at the last decade in Formula 1, you can see Williams, Renault and now Red Bull had their 2-3 consecutive winning/winnable season, when they successfully jumped on the back of a shuffle in established values due to, mainly, regulation and sporting changes.
      But now, what? Williams has not challenged for a WDC/WCC in 7 years, Renault in 4 years.
      We don’t know what RB will be like, we all know that just two teams had what it takes to stay on the cusp of the sport or in its surroundings, with just a few hiatuses: Ferrari (contender for 12 of the last 14 championships) and McLaren (8/14).
      Either Lewis is a sort of an oracle, able to predict those unpredictable shuffle (unlikely, judging from how worry he seems to be these days) and choosing accordingly over the summer driver-market, or he better have the big-picture in mind, and stay at McLaren.

  15. Victor. said on 4th March 2011, 13:56

    If Vettel wins this year’s title I’ll shoot myself.

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