2011 F1 driver rankings no.1: Sebastian Vettel

2011 F1 season review

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea, 2011

Vettel won his tenth race of the year in Korea

Last year Sebastian Vettel won his first world championship in spite of occasional shortcomings in his driving and the reliability of his car.

This year the pair complemented each other perfectly: fast, near-faultless and, in Vettel’s case, utterly fearless.

At one point he remarked that the performance advantage he enjoyed with the RB7 this year was not as great as he’d had with the RB6 last year. Given that he won this year’s championship by 122 points and last year’s by just four, that may seem a surprising claim.

But looking at the relative performance of the cars it does appear to have been the case, certainly in the first half of this year.

Having won as he pleased in the first two races, he lost to Hamilton in China, running a weak strategy and struggling with KERS and radio problems.

Beat team mate in qualifying 16/19
Beat team mate in race 15/17
Races finished 18/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 918/1030

In Monaco and Spain he won after enduring massive pressure from the drivers behind him. He nearly won again in similar circumstances in Canada only to run wide on the final lap, allowing Jenson Button through to win.

Having made several more high-profile errors last year, this was about as bad as it got for Vettel in 2011 – and he still finished second. When he did crash the car it was almost always during practice – as happened in Turkey, Canada, Japan and Abu Dhabi – and it rarely hindered his performance.

In the run-up to the summer break Vettel’s win rate slowed – he won just one of the five races as McLaren and Ferrari seemed to be in the ascendancy. He never looked comfortable in his home race at the Nurburgring, where the team tried a new suspension configuration. It was the only race he finished all year outside of the top three.

He remained unhappy with the car in practice for the next race in Hungary and pressed the team to make wholesale changes overnight. These were done, and he duly put the car on pole position.

He finished the race second, and on the slowing-down lap, with the summer break ahead of him, he gave an insight into his uncompromising thirst for victory as he brushed off the consoling words of his race engineer.

“Just think how Hamilton and Webber must be feeling,” said Guillaume Rocquelin, “You finished ahead of Alonso, Hamilton and Webber today. It was a good day.”

“But I want to win,” replied Vettel.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2011

Vettel passed Alonso to win in Monza

Vettel returned from the summer break stronger than ever. Any hopes his rivals entertained that Red Bull might struggle at the high-speed Spa and Monza tracks were dispelled as he won both from pole position.

In these races he also gave the lie to doubts about his overtaking prowess. He danced around the outside of Nico Rosberg at Blanchimont at Spa. When Alonso forced him onto the grass at the outside of Monza’s flat-out Curva Grance, Vettel didn’t flinch, took the lead and was on his way to another victory.

After that he won as he pleased in Singapore and played the percentages in Japan to seal the title with four races still to go.

This was one of the earliest ever championship conclusions, despite the changes made to the points system. He also broke the record for most pole positions in a season and won more races than anyone bar Michael Schumacher in 2004.

But if the regularity of his success became monotonous, the often slender margin between him and his rivals in qualifying showed that this wasn’t just the case of a driver enjoying a significant performance advantage in his car.

The scale of his superiority over Mark Webber, who almost ended the season winless, rammed that message home.

It was by any measure a staggering performance. Vettel was a considerable force when he won his first championship but he raised his game in almost every area in 2011. The prospect of this man driving an Adrian Newey-designed car for the foreseeable future is a grim thought for his rivals.

Who do you think was the best F1 driver of 2011? Cast your vote here

F1 Fanatics on Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Istanbul, 2011

The finger held aloft as Vettel wins in Turkey

He won the world championship, making the best use of his machinery all season.

Sebastian showed that his racecraft has improved significantly (like passing Alonso at Curva Grande and Rosberg at Blanchimont), and he is capable of taking wins under huge pressure as well (Monaco and Spain). Asserted himself as one of the best qualifiers in the history of the sport. And still only 24.
David A

Just in a class of his own. You only have to look at the difference between him and Webber (who is no slouch) over qualifying and the race. It proves to me that it is not just the car that is quick.

What impresses me the most about Vettel is his qualifying speed and how he just turns it on when he needs to. Also the first few laps of the race he manages to pull out a gap of over a second normally which is just crazy.

I started the year in utter contempt for Seb who I thought did not deserve to be a world champion.

But as each qualifying session went by contempt turned into disbelief and disbelief into awe as each time he pulled something out of the bag to stand on pole and on the winners spot. Seb takes first place for me.

The sheer numbers of his season could be enough to put him in the number one spot. But to me, what really made him “the” driver this year is the way he dominated Webber.

It is easy to say he was just doing his job with in the fastest car of the field, but the way his team mate looked ordinary in the same machinery tells me that Vettel really made the difference and maximized the potential of the car. His ability to learn from his mistakes is simply incredible, and he can only get better.

Best driver all year by a mile. He did it all and dispelled all the aspects of his driving that some people were suspect about.

His drive in Barcelona was absolutely top drawer, making critical overtakes after his pit stop and holding back Hamilton in a faster McLaren for several laps. Monaco was another lesson in calm driving to hold off faster cars, and his qualifying laps have been extra special. A real privilege to watch this year.
Dan Thorn

Vettel probably made the Red Bull look faster than it actually was this year. I didn?t even know that was possible!

The 15 poles and amazing composure in stressful situations has put Sebastian as a force to be reckoned with. With the exception of his last lap in Canada, and off day at the Nurburgring, Sebastian was flawless all season.

He was dominant, getting everything out of both himself and the car at almost every opportunity. Peerless in qualifying and a racecraft that has, in my opinion, become one of the top three with Alonso and Hamilton. A deserved second world championship, trouncing a tough team mate in Mark Webber to boot.
Colossal Squid

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

2011 F1 season review

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45 comments on 2011 F1 driver rankings no.1: Sebastian Vettel

  1. colinf (@colinf) said on 16th December 2011, 17:17

    I’ve noticed that Vettel is a very early braker. He brakes quite early and really throws the front end of the car into the corner so that he is set up for a really clean exit. This is the way most drivers drive in qualifying, but it leaves you vulnerable in the race as many overtakes happen under braking now a days (very much less so with DRS). I think what Vettel figured out is that braking early is a good idea, especially in qualifying, it works well with the new tires, and, that with DRS, he has a chance to overtake after a corner exit rather than force a move under braking. I wonder how many overtakes Vettel made before mid-corner this season?

    You can contrast this style with Hamilton who is famous for his late braking/trail braking technique. Obviously, that hasn’t worked out for him this season, albeit it has produced some quick qualifying laps. But, again, contrasted to Jenson who doesn’t trail brake and is extremely tidy on corner entry, it hasn’t been great for Lewis.

    There was a great article by Peter Windsor a while back where he talks about how Ferrari have “slowed down” the steering on Alonso’s car, as well, to try to get him to have smoother corner entries to save the Pirellis. Interesting stuff.

  2. The easiest driver to rank for me this season has been Vettel as he has just been superb this year.

    After winning his first title in 2010 he has cut out the errors that made last years championship such close run thing and gone onto another level. If Hamilton had managed something like this he would probably would have had another title to his name.

    After a series of top laps in qualifying sessions throughout the season, in most races he just seemed to manage his pace and put in the quick laps when needed.

    During the opening laps he usually pulled out a couple of second lead before DRS was enabled and then settled into a good rhythm. Whereas Webber’s season was blighted by not getting on terms with the new tyres Vettel seemed to be able to pit when he wanted a lot of the time.

    After Vettel’s success this season I have finally stopped expecting to hear the Italian national anthem after the German national anthem due to all the Schumacher Ferrari wins, however I suppose next I will start to expect to hear the Austrian national anthem after the German national anthem.

    If Vettel is to dominate F1 for years to come I hope he stops that finger celebration as although he seems a genuinely top bloke that celebration and some of the stuff he comes out with on team radio after securing the pole or a win can be irritating.

    • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 16th December 2011, 19:28

      maybe it is irritating but you can’t argue that he’s not savouring every minute of his success. F1 can change quickly and he may not win another race (like kubica, massa)
      although it must be nice to be 24, multi millionaire, back-to-back champ and to have career stats most F1 drivers would kill for AT THE END of their careers

  3. Mamma mia Seb! What a season you had!
    He clearly was number one all season, the Nurburgring stands out in my memory as a blip in performance but apart from that he was absolutely faultless.

  4. Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 16th December 2011, 22:10

    “Just think how Hamilton and Webber must be feeling,” said Guillaume Rocquelin, “You finished ahead of Alonso, Hamilton and Webber today. It was a good day.”

    “But I want to win,” replied Vettel.

    Firstly,You dont really know whata person is REALLY thinking

    Secondly, Seb you cant win them all;You win some you lose some regardless of how dominant you are.

  5. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 17th December 2011, 0:52

    Formidable performance from start to end. Absolutely everything about him improved from 2010 but he immediately struck me as a contented individual in Melbourne with a quiet but solid point to prove.

    His qualifying runs left little guesswork as to who would get pole, often teasing with average Q1 and Q2 results but knowing he can and will deliver in Q3. Getting on top of the tyres so quickly to be able to do that and have the confidence in himself and his rubber shows the kind of maturity that will serve him well throughout his career.

    His ability to negate a chasing competitors DRS within 2 laps always impressed me, equally so his ability to be able to hold back to keep the car in check but turn on his reserve tank when required. I almost feel foolish for believing anyone else had a chance at those times.

    An audacious over-take in Italy which screamed of a person feeling hurt that THEIR position on the track had been taken from them. It showed his all important human side throughout an otherwise exacting season.

    I feel privileged to have witnessed such a fantastic drive.

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