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. Rob Wilson said on 4th March 2011, 14:05

    Alright, who’s booking Victors funeral?

  2. Burnout said on 4th March 2011, 15:00

    It’s true, the continuity should give Vettel a good chance of defending his title. And as far as we can tell from testing, Red Bull haven’t dropped the ball with the RB7 so far.

    All of which makes me sad because I really want to see Schumacher win another title.

  3. I don’t see how he won’t be. Webber could have a stellar year but in theory he should be Vettel’s only opposition. The car appears very strong and if they’ve sorted out their reliability woes and their drivers don’t crash or fly through the air again then I fear we could be in for a dull season.

    Vettel made a lot of mistakes last year but he also had a heck of a lot of failures and really should have wrapped the title up long before the final race. Having a title already should probably make him calmer and he’ll have that extra faith in himself (a bit like when Prost said after his first win “before I thought I could do it but now I know I can”) so I think in theory, it’ll be incredibly tough for anyone to stop him.

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 4th March 2011, 18:43

      All the performance data on the cars that we have now has come from testing. I think we’re going to have to wait several races before we really see how fast the RB is relative to the other front runners and then we can stick our collective fingers in the air and say, Go …. ! Well that sorta depends on which finger we’re holding up doesn’t it?

  4. I really hope that Vettel does not take the title this year, he didn’t deserve it last year anyway. My view is that Vettel made too many mistakes. Hamilton was very unlucky last year with so many things going wrong with the car. I hope that Schumacher pulls himself together after the shocking season he had last year, hopefully he will be in the hunt for the title this season. If the MP4-26 is good it could be a very good story for Button with the factor of the Pirellis falling apart quicker than the Bridgestones last season. Hopefully either Schumacher or Button win the title this year!

    • foolsm8 said on 4th March 2011, 19:21

      They all made mistakes last year, alltogether Vettel was the best driver and deserved the title. And he has a fair chance to defend the title. Alonso and Hamilton might get a shot, but I see no way that the likes of Botton, Webber or Schumacher will have a realistic chance.

      • mash26 said on 5th March 2011, 1:01

        He was the best driver? On what planet? Do you really think Hamilton or Alonso, who both led the championships in inferior equipment, would have done less in an RB6?

  5. Leon said on 4th March 2011, 19:35

    Schumaker could just scare the pants off all of them late season is Brawn gets all his beans in a row at Merc.

  6. Leon said on 4th March 2011, 19:36

    …oops ! Should be ‘if Brawn’

    Sorry guys.

  7. Pink Pirelli said on 5th March 2011, 3:50

    Gawd I hope not, it was bad enough that he won it last year. I think Alonso and Webber will be his biggest challengers, although I am not getting my hopes up again for a Webber WDC. The disappointment last year was just too crushing. Besides, we all know that RBR has a different definition of ‘equality’ to the rest of us. I don’t think Webber will act like a number two driver, but I don’t think he’ll be given the equipment or strategy to act like the number one. And like others said, Webber will most likely take points of Vettel which would play into Alonso’s hands.

    • David A said on 5th March 2011, 13:16

      I don’t think he’ll be given the equipment or strategy to act like the number one.

      He will be, then he’ll use a Lotus as a launchpad for greater things.

  8. John Edwards said on 5th March 2011, 10:06

    If the Red Bull is as dominant in qualifying form as it was last year he’ll walk it.

    As long as he doesn’t need to overtake anything I can’t forsee a situation that any other driver will be able to deny him, particuarly given the run of form he had at the end of last season. Alonso is the only one I think who has a realistic shot at it.

    Its pretty obvious McLaren have produced another turd that is completely under developed and won’t do anything till Montreal. The other teams are too far back to close in.

  9. MclarenHistory said on 5th March 2011, 17:51

    Hamilton and Alonso are easily the best drivers today.Vettel has the better car.His chance to win it again is only because he has the best car.
    If Ferrari and Mclaren are close to Red-Bull Vettel will not win it again.
    Vettel in my opinion is overrated especially when you think that he is one of the worst overtakers.
    He is perhaps the worst WDC at overtakes of all time.
    Hamilton with a worst car schooled Vettel in China and in the first lap at Turkey.
    Alonso kept him behind easily at Hungaroring and at Singapore with a worst car too.

    I don’t want to see an overrated driver win in it again.I prefer to see even our true rival Alonso win it.

    • Stefanauss (@stefanauss) said on 5th March 2011, 18:49

      In China even Button could win. In Turkey there were 4 drivers in 2 seconds range, during the race.
      So maybe no, LH hadn’t the worst car in those occasions you’re trying to bring as arguments.

      By your standard, Alonso is easily schooled by Petrov. Just look at how easily he kept to stay behind Petrov with a far better car than his.

      • MclarenHistory said on 5th March 2011, 19:25

        In the first round in Turkey Ham schooled him and took back the second place and in China after the Pit-Stop destroy him with Sutil.

        As about Alonso kept him easily behind with a worst car.
        Vettel is ovverated.
        He was behind Webber in almost all season.
        And Webber isn’t even close to Ham and Alonso as a talent.

        So yeah Vettel won it only because he had the best car.
        He was dominant in Qualifying because he had that car.Webber also took 5 pole.

        It’s ridiculous to think that Vettel is close to Ham and Alonso.

        Give Kubica or Rosberg RB6 and they would be better than Vettel.Let alone Ham & Alonso.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th March 2011, 20:31

          He was behind Webber in almost all season.

          Largely thanks to the three wins Vettel was denied because of his car.

          Vettel had the best car of course, but it depends on whether you utilise what you are given. He did so, which is backed up with his 5 wins and overall points tally. That’s what seperates the top drivers from the Webbers and Barrichellos of the world.

          My opinion, is that Vettel isn’t as good overall as Alonso and Hamilton. His overtaking skills leave a lot to be desired. However, if you have the speed to take pole and win from there, then the guy who got 38 points in a Toro Rosso certainly isn’t too far away from being the best on the grid.

          • MclarenHistory said on 5th March 2011, 21:15

            He is far away from being the best on the grid.With Alonso & Hamilton on the the grid yeah he is far away and he will neber be.He hasn’t the skills to be the best.

            If Ferrari & Mclaren are close with Red-Bull Vettel can’t beat Alonso and Ham.
            Alonso has still many years and Hamilton is still 26 so he would be on the grid for many years.
            Hamilton is the most skilled from his day one on the Grid and Alonso the most experienced,smart driver.

            And give me Rookie 2007 Hamilton(and any version of Hamilton) and 2005-2006 Alonso over 2010 Vettel any day of the week.

            Vettel’s skills nowhere near to Hamilton and Alonso.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th March 2011, 21:27

            It’s undeniable that Vettel has bags of natural speed. That is why he is nearly the best on the grid. He was the wins, poles and world title (despite the unreliability) to back it up.

            Vettel is 3 years younger than Hamilton. He has a great capacity to improve further.

            And repeating yourself with Vettel being nowhere near the best without much evidence (aside from the overtaking stuff, which I countered) doesn’t make it true.

        • Stefanauss (@stefanauss) said on 5th March 2011, 21:02

          You know, just re-stating things doesn’t make them any more true.

          Hamilton overtook Vettel. That’s the end of it, it doesn’t mean Hamilton taught Vettel how it’s done, or “destroyed” him.
          You said LH did such things with a worst car, but he hadn’t when he allegedly did such things.
          The easiness in keeping Vettel or anyone behind is meaningless if took and considered alone, completely. Circumstances change all the time, sometimes defending is the easier task, sometimes is not. Abu Dhabi teaches.

          You can go on forever with the “what ifs”. It’s fine, just don’t take them as arguments.
          Maybe Alonso and Hamilton are the best, it is entirely possible.
          Thinking Vettel is close to them maybe be correct or wrong, but is not ridiculous just because you say so. We are nowhere near the conclusiveness of stating that Vettel is better than Webber, after beating him with the same equipment and higher failure rates for 2 seasons. That would be ridiculous.

    • Mads (@mads) said on 5th March 2011, 20:34

      You have to remember that a car that is faster then the others on the straights is easier to overtake with then a car which only advantage is in the corners, so when he is behind another car the aerodynamic downforce is reduces greatly reducing, on some tracks even removing the advantage, even more so because in the really fast corners where the Red Bull will still have the edge it is impossible to overtake.
      You could see that in Abu Dhabi, to use your own words Alonso were schooled by Petrov, who had a car that were much much slower then what the Red Bull were faster then the Ferrari’s and McLaren’s.

  10. MclarenHistory said on 5th March 2011, 21:37

    @David A
    I was thinking exactly the same as about your opinion.
    And repeating yourself with Vettel isn’t too far away from being the best on the grid.Doesn’t make it true.
    Yeah he is far away.And again Hamilton 2007 was against the 2 time WDC with the same car and most of the times was faster.
    Alonso 2006 beat Schumacher and schooled him at Hungary.
    Vettel last year didn’t do anything special except 10 pole with by far the most dominant car.
    He had a teammate who is nowhere near to Alonso,Ham Kubica and Nico.

    • Stefanauss (@stefanauss) said on 5th March 2011, 21:58

      Ok, it’ now clear. With that Alonso-Schumacher thing it’s absolutely clear you’re bouncing between rewriting and making history up, just to “prove” what you want.

      Nomen omen.

      First of all, in 2006 Alonso didn’t make it into Q3. It was beaten by Schumacher. So you don’t know history.
      Assuming you meant 2003, which you probably were, where Alonso lapped Schumacher, you are completely failing to mention it was much much much much more Michelin schooling Bridgestone: The first seven cars both in Q and race were Michelin, and were miles ahead in terms of pace. So you’re rewriting history.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th March 2011, 22:17

      And repeating yourself with Vettel isn’t too far away from being the best on the grid.Doesn’t make it true.

      I backed up my words with evidence that Vettel is good. The vast majority of fans, drivers and F1 staff do appreciate his talent, and see him as one of the best on the grid.

      You keep posting “he is far away” and all this “schooled” nonsense, while repeating your identical points that have already been defeated.

      Point is, he could’ve taken 8 wins last year if not for mechanical breakdowns. Two of those were handed to Alonso and 1 to Button. I won’t harp on about those, but the most important thing is, with an excellent drive in Abu Dhabi, he still won the title, which most in F1 (including Hamilton himself) didn’t begrudge.

  11. MclarenHistory said on 5th March 2011, 22:15

    No you don’t know history and you know nothing.Who speaks about Q?

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