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. Excellent article, Keith.

    I’ve spent a lot of time defending Vettel this year, for a few reasons. For one, because there is nothing we can do about his dominance so it makes no sense to get upset about it so just enjoy it!

    The sport has the formula pretty much bang on at the moment, like MG said above. Even DRS is a step in the right direction. For those who seemingly want to slate it, they should appreciate that the sport is at least listening to the fans and reacting. Please, don’t be so harsh.

    One thing that stands out in my mind is peoples short attention span. 2010 was a fairytale race for the championship yet people act like Vettel already has the dominance that Schumacher enjoyed. Sometimes, just sometimes, someone is actually good enough to absolutely decimate the field and I believe Vettel is that man. Enjoy it!

  2. “I don’t understand why people are complaining about ‘boring’ championships.” Is like saying I don’t understand why people complain about a lack of overtaking.

    The problem is there is a lack of competition in F1 compared to other motorsport categories. F1 is the Spanish League of football, only two teams are good enough it lacks competition.

    It really says something when bookies are handing out money after the spanish grand prix! I’ll say this if next year vettel dominates again like this I won’t be too bothered about seeing 10 races per year on the BBC.

  3. What people forget is that not that many had internet access in the 1990’s,especially Europe was way behind USA and Australia.Also we didn’t have sites like this one to discuss F1.Only the TV and radio and magazines.

    Mansell,Senna,Hill,part of Schumacher careers etc~~ fans couldn’t discuss F1 at all,only in letters printed in the racing Magazines.

    There was a long gap between Schumi’s WDC’s,because after Bennetton he went to Ferrari,and he struggled for years to bring that team to where it was when he left.So let us not be critical about Vettel but it would be nice to know which team he will “choose”go to post RB.:)

  4. Not boring for me even Vettel is dominating, as I’ve taken it race by race which helps a lot though. Felt there were many good races. Singapore should be exciting. Six more races and 2012 will be here all too soon.

  5. Webber’s on notice …
    F1 is too, drop the software starts and engine “drive-ability” cornering.

    1. “Webber said the majority of fans wouldn’t understand the technical complexity involved in making a start in a modern seven-speed formula one car.”

      Try us Webber!

      But its probably Webber who doesn’t quite understand the technical complexity involved. He also claims that the driver has no control over the temperature of the clutch! Of all drivers I get the impression he has failed most starts this year and he also failed some last year.

  6. Still hate the tyrewear & DRS.
    The tyrewear creates too much marbels which reduces the chance of overtaking.
    And DRS is just silly. Why not have a monkey press a button and have a random car slowdown for 3 seconds.. Much more exciting.

  7. Its boring in a way as he wins all the time that factor is boring but the races for 2nd and 3rd and so on are exciting but it would be nice if there more even and had more of a challenge in the title race rather than vettel just winning most the time

  8. I don’t think Keith has time to waste referring to a site of clowns.

  9. The races aren’t boring (far from that), but the championship itself – is. It’s not even close to what we had since – at least – 2006 season. But things like that happen. I hope FIA or FOTA (or whoever) won’t decide that the rules must be changed (again) to remedy that; let McLaren & Ferrari chase that RedBull team.

  10. I’m a massive vettel fan but I believe its premature to call it a ‘vettel era’. Its been one year of dominance, but he has fought for his wins!! In monza the top D drivers were all world champions which shows the calibre of the grid at the moment. The racing was electric and the overtakes (including sebs over alonso through curva grande) shows that they are all still fighting for wins even if the championship is pretty much over!! With the standins as we are we could be left with a boring procession of cars unwilling to fight as they don’t see the need, and a world champion about to clasp his 2nd title not willing danger his points haul so sits back and just takes what he can!! This year we have seen competition not just between teams but team mates too. Jenson Button has proved worng those that said he will be number 2 to Lewis. We have had a season showing just how strong the young talent is out there with rookies like paul di resta and sergio perez!! Formula 1 is exciting even with the championship nearly over!!!

  11. Bay Area F1 Fan
    18th September 2011, 6:15

    Seb has it in the bag this year, no denying it.

    But, I have to say that the top 4 teams have had an incredible combination of driver pairings as of late:

    Seb = Young, lucky, fast
    Mark = Old, unlucky, disappointing (for someone piloting Red Bull’s phenomenal car)

    Lewis = Surprisingly disappointing this year, given his talent and strong performances since his rookie year
    Jenson = Surprisingly awesome, cool, mature drives in almost every race. One is left to wonder what he could have achieved had he not wasted a decade screwing around at BAR/Honda and other “also ran’s”

    Alonso = Getting more out of his car than what the car is worth
    Massa = Disappointing, as usual. What a waste!

    Nico = Strong start, fading away
    Michael = Weak start, coming back closer and closer to the podium

    Pretty rare to see the driver pairings have such a contrast for most the top teams

  12. yeahh it is tooo boring…he fight and overtake with DRS and KERS not by their skills…they must use back 2008’s regulations, no drs, no kers, no traction control…just pure skills of the driver…

  13. yeahh it is tooo boring…he win by using DRS and KERS and the stupid blown diffuser not by his skills…they must use back 2008’s regulations, no drs, no kers, no traction control…just pure skills of the driver…

    1. They didn’t have traction control in 2008, either.

      They had a lot of dull races though. The 2008 Chinese Grand Prix is one of the lowest-rated in Rate the Race:

      F1 Fanatic readers rate the last 50 races

      This year’s races have had consistently higher ratings.

  14. themagicofspeed (@)
    19th September 2011, 22:21

    I agree that this is not an era, and i hope it doesnt turn into one. while the Schumacher era was boring because of the domination, at least it was my favourite team winning(!), i hope his domination doesnt last long. im hoping Red Bull make a total dog of a car for 2012, not going to happen though. maybe extreme members of the mafia who are Ferrari fans should kidnap Adrian Newey and force him at gunpoint to work for Ferrari…just one of many strange dreams i’ve had.

    I still insist that Vettel is no Schumacher, and hes definitley not a stitch on Senna. His success this year has been 80% the car and 20% him.

    On the subject of his domination, it IS boring on weekends like Monaco, where he simply turned up, set fastest times in every session, got pole, and wi- oh, oops, add in a bit of FIA result fixing – wins, and goes home. Nobody else even stands a chance. Several times this year i’ve either not bothered watching at all once i find him on pole with the Ferraris nowhere near him, or switched off half way through. It just doesnt hold any interest at all.

    1. why is it with Vettel it’s always the car and never him? For instance, Schumacher had the best car for those 5 WDCs starting in 2000.Probably had the best car in 2005 and 06, but Alonso was younger and better.

      Look at 1993 and 94 with Senna and Prost and the Williams. Williams had the best car and Prost had a contract that forbid Williams from signing Senna in 93. Senna wanted to go to Williams. Why? They had the best car in the field. In 1994 Senna could move to Williams and Prost retired. Why did Senna go to Williams? To win the WDC. In the best car. Yet no one bats an eye at how great Senna is, except he could quite get it done unless he had the best car under him (/sarc).

      WDCs have usually been in the best cars. If Lewis and Alonso are so much better than Vettel then they don’t need the best car. Hamilton was leading the WDC last year and you could say he drove himself out of contention (finishing 4th in the points in Italy and Singapore would have given him the WDC).

      And if it’s the car, the question is why Webber isn’t at least 2nd in the points by a wide margin. Instead McLaren has 4 wins this year.

      The car certainly helps, but the driver wins the championship. Webber shows exactly where a solid Tier 2 driver puts the RB7, number 4 in the points. That Vettel is a hundred plus points clear of Alonso shows how good Vettel really is.

      Alonso putting the Ferrari, the 5th best car on the grid, into 2nd place in the points also shows how good he is. I’d say just by their performances this year and last year (not to mention Vettel was 2nd in the WDC in 2009), would put Alonso and Vettel a level above everyone else.

    2. A Ferrari not winning at Monaco doesn’t mean the race was fixed.

  15. Vettel’s driving is boring, so the races nowadays. And why the hell did you compare Vettel to Schumacher, huh? BOTH were driving in the same F1-era (paddles and tons of downforce). Please, compare that to the 80s, and then you’ll have a boredom in its finest thanks to modern F1 and Vettel’s constant driving. Thanks.

  16. I loved F1. Sadly, no more. I cannot get excited about who might come second after watching Vettel out front. Teams don’t even bother with Q3 anymore as they’d rather save the types. Dominance is impressive in any sport, it just isn’t fun to watch unless you’re a fan of that team. I’m not a fan of Red Bull so will be tuning out of F1 from here on in. Adios amigos.

    1. Praveen Titus
      16th October 2011, 19:54

      I fully agree with hguui78’s comments – I feel just the same. I’m no Vettel fan and I’m just hating this. I’m looking for a Ferrari renaissance so I may see Alonso win. Just hope it ain’t wishful thinking.

  17. Vettel is World Driver’s Champion, but as the title suggests, hes only been a driver, not a racer. He hasn’t done much real racing and his only great overtake was against Alonso at Monza. Seb is dominant, but overall one of the most boring on the track. I’m certain Jenson did more legitimate overtakes in Canada than Vettel has over the whole season. The guys battling for second have mostly been the real racers and the ones who are able to save the season from being a snore.

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