Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2011

Is the Vettel era “boring”? Not even close

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2011
The championship is virtually over after Vettel's eighth win

If Sebastian Vettel clinches the world championship at the next race, he’ll have done so with five races to spare.

No-one has won a championship that early since Michael Schumacher’s dominant streak in the early 2000s.

Some people have told me this has made the 2011 season “boring” and that Vettel’s domination of the championship has made F1 as tedious as it was during the peak of Schumacher’s reign. But I don’t agree.

More real racing

The differences between Vettel’s situation today and Schumacher’s a decade ago are far more striking than the similarities.

For one thing, it’s far easier to appreciate just how good a job Vettel is doing. No tailor-made tyres, no team mate pulling over to let him win – Vettel’s victories haven’t been as easy as some of Schumacher’s.

In the days when refuelling was allowed, it was easier for the driver of the fastest car to rise to the front without needing to overtake.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2004
Hungary 2004: We could have been spared 70 laps of tedium by giving Schumacher his trophy at this point

Simply put a bit more fuel in the car at the start, make the first pit stop a few laps later than everyone else and come out in the lead.

This isn’t a criticism of Schumacher, it’s just how the rules at the time shaped the racing. Thankfully, this predictable strategic formula is a thing of the past. The refuelling ban last year played a major role in promoting better racing.

So, while Red Bull have held the upper hand all year in qualifying, that hasn’t meant Vettel has been strolling to easy wins on race day.

Even when he has been on pole position, he’s often had to make moves on track to claim victory. That was the case in the last two races where he made brave moves on Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso.

On other occasions Vettel’s had to withstand terrific pressure. He crossed the line in Spain and Monaco with his closest pursuers just tenths of a second behind.

F1 wasn’t anything like as competitive as this seven years ago when Schumacher won 12 of the opening 13 races. At his first win in Bahrain the nearest non-Ferrari was over a half a minute behind, and it didn’t get much closer in the following rounds.

Poor championship, great races

Bruno Senna, Renault. Monza, 2011
Pirelli tyres have improved the racing in 2011

The softer tyres supplied by Pirelli this year have allowed drivers to race each other more closely. Even when Vettel is up front, the action behind him is often terrific.

The championship may be one-sided but the races have been highly entertaining. The verdict from F1 Fanatic readers supports this view: the average Rate the Race score so far this year is 7.6 out of ten, compared to 6.7 last year.

The Chinese and Canadian rounds attracted particularly high scores thanks to something we’ve seen little of in F1 in recent years – late-race changes of lead.

The lead changed hands on the final lap in Montreal. In Shanghai Lewis Hamilton rose from fourth to first over the final 15 laps. He did it not through refuelling strategy nor even because the cars in front of him retired – he did it by overtaking them on the track.

Remember, too, the thrilling three-way scrap for victory at the Nurburgring between Hamilton, Alonso and Mark Webber.

The days of the races effectively ending after the last refuelling stops are behind us – and that’s obviously a good thing.

This year we’ve had battles for victory going down to the final lap, varied strategies, surprise wins and stacks of overtaking from the front to the back of the field. Through it all one man and one car has stood head and shoulders above the rest – because that’s the way sport is sometimes.

Fortunately in 2011 domination in F1 by one driver makes for far more entertaining viewing than it did in 2004.

That year stands out in my memory as the worst season of racing I’ve ever seen. What we have today may not be perfect, but it is incomparably better.


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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Ferrari spa / Ercole Colombo, Pirelli

182 comments on “Is the Vettel era “boring”? Not even close”

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  1. I think I prefer last year and ’07 to this year. The overall fight for the championship is the most exciting part of Formula One to me and without that this year, although the racing has at times been incredible I have often felt a bit flat after the race as (inevitably) Vettel again extends his lead.

    That is not to say this year has been boring, far far from it. Indeed the comparison to the Schumacher dominance of ’04 is no comparison at all. I (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) switched off during that period and only started watching again when Alonso arrived to liven it up, doing that now would be truly unthinkable.

    1. 2007 was one of the all time classics. Alonso the two times world champion against the bigest talent since schumacher.
      The cars were fast.
      There was drama, political monouvering, the bigest penalty the sport has ever seen. And the cliffhanger at brazil was amazing.
      I think you must go to 1986 to see something of that level.
      Of course it was better than this year. My humble opinion.

  2. The relaxation of the ban on team orders has led to Red Bull favouring Vettel over Webber, just as Ferrari favour Alonso over Massa. Only 4 of the top 6 drivers are racing each other which is a bad omen for the future. Team-mates should be obliged to race each other unless they can prove an exceptional reason why they could not do so.

    1. i dont think there has been any favoritism which has affected results.

      ferrari let alonso/massa race pretty hard at spa for instance.

      problems been that massa & webber have just not been fast enough to challenge alonso or vettel.

  3. Vettel is doing a great job, he’s killing his teammate, but yeah, I think the races this year are boring. I’m prepping myself for next year and only watching delayed highlights. I can’t break the addiction, but at least the boredom goes quickly.

  4. And don’t forget the mid-field, year started with a bang for Renault and Sauber, gradually both slipped back, MGP were not consistent either, Force India had a sluggish start they peaked in Germany and Hungary, now STR is looking particularly quick.
    It’s just a shame that FOM understandbly covers top 5 but midfield deserves more coverage as fight is equally exciting over there.
    Keith, it can be a decent topic to report which team had the most coverage on screen as you did for Radio messages. Initial 2-3 laps can obviously be skipped.

  5. Well said! Whilst it is hard to avoid a slightly damp feeling on Sunday evenings thanks to Vettel extending his lead at virtually every race, they’ve all (with the exception of Valencia) been at least good, with several being fantastic.

    People will look back on this year as a year of vintage racing, where Vettel fought hard and raced well for a richly deserved championship.

  6. Lucas Alexander Munro
    16th September 2011, 16:21

    It is… end of story.

  7. I think the races have been pretty good, but the DRS continues to be a niggling point in my mind constantly during races. I know it’s tainting the racing and it makes it difficult to appreciate them to their fullest extent.

  8. There are many factors contributing to great races this year: tyres, refuel ban, drivers ability, KERS, DRS (even if I’d cut it off immediately).
    Another thing is that cars seem somehow to be able to follow each other with no major troubles. I mean, consider Monza last week: Hamilton was able to chase Schumacher from so close, even at Parabolica or Lesmo, or Ascari. Something simply impossible until few years ago (but also Silverstone or Barcelona or Shangai quick bends looked less “punishing” for the chasers this year). Wouldn’t know what this is due to, but it something you can appreciate at every race! Hope it is a symptom of a reduced aerodynamic importance in f1 race.

  9. i agree with you that now it’s better then in 2000-04. And you forgot to mention keith that red bull its dominating with more style, something ferrari didn’t in the past. Ferrari used all his political might to win. I remember in 2003 the michelin with of tyres afair. That was digusting.
    But on the other hand i remember watching quali laps of schumacher in the rain that were amazing.
    How do you rate the quali laps this season?

    1. I prefer qualifying now to the race-fuel qualifying that started to creep in from 2003. I prefer seeing proper, low-fuel qualifying laps and we’ve had some gems – Vettel’s at Monza last weekend for example.

      Schumacher had some very good ones of course – Austria ’03 sticks out in my memory.

      1. Remember the long qualy periods where Shuie went out in his traction control fez and zzzzz sorry dozed off. 2011 is not boring.

        1. He was referring to 2003, with one-lap qualifying. If you fell asleep, it’s your loss.

  10. The ‘Vettel Era’ hasnt even begun yet(IMO)well i would call it unspectacular,I wouldnt call it boring because we’ve still been entertained to an Interesting,Changeable & Epic Season despite Seb’s Dominance.

  11. I totally agree with your comment, Keith.
    I don’t understand why people are complaining about ‘boring’ championships. Is our attention span so short that we can’t stand seeing one driver dominate? As you have said, the racing is rather good, so no one can conmplain about that like in recent years.
    On the other hand, over 50% of all F1 championships were decided before the last race, but only one of the last five. And in recent years we really couldn’t complain about boring championships:
    2010: four-way title fight in the last race
    2009: Decided early, but seeing new teams at the front was somewhat refreshing.
    2008: Could the end have been any more exciting?
    2007: Three-way fight, won by the outsider
    2006: Arguably the two best drivers of the decade fighting it out until the end.

    So we all knew that this had to happen sooner or later – Exciting championship fights should be something special, not something you see every year.

    1. Really well said. That perspective seems to escape most people!

  12. Red Bull and Vettel have been excellent but this season has been ruined by the phoney and unfair overtaking created by DRS. The Pirelli tires have been rubbish too.

  13. I would have liked to know how many people would have predicted anyone other than Vettel to have won the title this season.

    In my eyes, this championship was decided after Abu Dhabi last year. We all knew Vettel would only get better after that race, and it was highly predictable that he would go and completely destroy Webber. I was expecting McLaren to be up there more but it was no surprise to me that the RB7 has been as quick as it has been. 13/13 poles so far this season gives that away.

    I was a fan of KERS. It provided some great racing in 2009 in the hands of Hamilton, Alonso (for a while) and certainly Raikkonen. I knew DRS would have teething problems but that will come good with time. The Pirellis have brought back another thing I loved about Formula 1 prior to 2010: strategy. We have seen everything this season, records broken, the longest race ever, 21st – 1st, Schumacher leading for Mercedes, big shunts (unfortunately), rookies giving respected teammates a run for their money, Hamilton cracking, Button charging, Webber frustrated, Alonso’s passionate drive at Silverstone, “Felipe was faster than you”, a new British star, a race decided on the last lap, Kubica missed, Senna scoring points, an explosion, fires, penalties left, right & centre, controversy, technical reshuffling making the silly season involve personnel as oppose to drivers and so much more.

    But through all this, Vettel has clearly had an overall edge on his opponents. He’s now driving like a champion.

    2011 has been so full of drama I can’t remember half the amazing things that have happened!

    I may just have to watch all the races again over Winter.

  14. I prefer exciting races to exciting championships.

    2005 Japanese GP is the best example for me. The championship had already been decided and yet we had action action action in that race, one of the best races ever.

    On the other end, we have the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP – An absolute nail biter in terms of the championship, but in terms of racing, it was just dull. Had the championship been decided already at the point, then that race would have been completely pointless to watch.

    The excitement of a close championship is more of an icing on the cake for me. 2011 has been awesome, and every race has kept me on the edge of my seat, I don’t care if the championship situation is boring, the racing is what matters.

    1. True and one plus point is that after Vettel wraps up next week, at least nobody will have to play safe in terms of points. Should be enjoyable.

  15. I always believed that from a marketing aspect of the sport, A dominant winner is always good for the “publicity” of the sport…I repeat for the Publicity of the sport. He/She or the team always makes it more popular and hence a better sell-able entity.

    I remember during Schumacher era even though my mom who was not quite interested in F1 would ask “Did Schumacher win again today” or she would say is’nt it the sport that Schumacher always wins. I myself started watching F1 in those days because of Senna’s Heroics. It has been the same with Golf where Tiger woods made it really famous. So is Nascar where Jimmie Johnson kind of blew the wind out of everybody as far championship is concerned or Australia dominating Cricket or Brazil dominating Soccer or most importantly Steffi Graf/ Fedreer dominating Tennis.

    From a Media, Publicity and marketing perspective it is always a good Anchor and a corner stone for the sport to have dominant team/Sports(men/Women). These domination causes either Strong Likes or Dislikes which helps in creation of fans who either Support or dislike the character/team. Naturally that will bring them back to the sport. These personalities and teams becomes brand ambassadors.

    For example there are lot of people who hated Schumacher and a lot of loved him because of what ever reasons. Now F1 was winner because it created a great Fan base. Many came back to watch the sport to see Schumacher Lose and the vice versa. I believe F1 would not have been so popular in Asian countries if not for Schumacher and Senna. The Former in Particular.

    Same is happening today. There are many who don’t like Vettel and many who do. To me because of this F1 is a winner as it adds to the publicity. Lot of People will tune in to Qualifying and the race hoping to see Vettel losing or not capturing the pole !!!!!

  16. I just wish Mark Webber was sharing some of the success the RB is giving Wettal, but they make sure that won’t happen.

    1. Webber makes sure it won’t happen. If he’s going to win, he’s got to be faster.

      1. Exactly, Webber has got one MAJOR problem. Sebastian Vettel is in the same car.

  17. 2011 has had a wealth of on track action though sometimes a bit contrived. Despite the great races, the championship (non) battle has rendered much of the racing empty feeling. The wealth of direct confrontation on the tarmac between the top drivers is lacking in tension because they seem to have little context.

    Compare this to the racing in 2010. Overtaking moves, however sparse they were, had an extra quality of tension to them because they were significant in the grand scheme of things, the championship. As anticlimactic as Abu Dhabi 2010 was, something like watching the most hyped World Cup final ever, only to see it resulting in a 1-0, the only goal being an own goal, the race was still dramatic due to its significance toward the ultimate prize.

    As close as the battle for 2nd is in 2011, as competitive if not more competitive than in 2010, 2nd place is still infinitely less glamorous than 1st.

    I do believe fans of F1 have been a little spoiled by the gem of a championship that was 2010. We must be thankful that a season like 2010 occurred and unfolded organically, the only interventions carried out by the teams, the drivers, chance, and thankfully not the FIA (it’s not 2003 or 2006 anymore!).

    Let’s hope everyone steps up their game. Remember that no team stays on top forever.

  18. The races have been OK… but Vettel’s race is boring because all the races he won are practically won from the first 5 laps and then he races into the distance all by himself… nobody to battle with.. all alone until the cameras come back on him at the finish line..

    BOOOOORING!!! (For Vettel that is).

    Give me some Hamilton fighting Alonso any day over this!

    1. What about Vettel vs Alonso at Monaco, Hungary and Italy?

      1. Refresh our memories. I can’t quite recall those forgettable moments, those were “fights” or just one guy punching the gas and letting the down force do the work? heh.

        1. They were fights, and the only reason to claim otherwise is to fuel the tired belief that he can’t win under pressure/overtake.

  19. From a Schumacher fan’s perspective, I obviously didn’t find 2000-2004 boring at all. :D

    But even then, I’d agree with Keith’s main point, and you’d have to be blind to think 2011 isn’t better in terms of racing and excitement that you’d find for most of that period (late 2000 being a key exception). Yes, both saw tough midfield battles, but 2011 battles feature proper overtaking instead of flimsy passing in the pits.

    That said, I do disagree with Keith’s point that it’s easier to appreciate what Vettel is doing. Both Vettel and Schumacher prefer controlling races from the front, thanks to a very quick car and a team molded around them. Some of the circumstances may have changed (like the single tyre supplier we have now), but I think most fans wouldn’t see the two drivers’ approach any differently, and both are appreciated (or criticized) equally.

  20. One thing for sure in 9 years of watching F1 I can’t remember a better F1 season with so much on track action then 2011.I hope the momentum continues.

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