2012 F1 Driver Rankings #3: Sebastian Vettel

2012 F1 season review

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2012

Sebastian Vettel was made to fight harder for his third world championship victory than he was for the first two. The performance advantage he enjoyed throughout much of 2011 was gone.

Vettel hit a purple patch late in the season with four wins on the trot as Red Bull finally hit the sweet spot with the RB8. Even this was fleeting as McLaren asserted themselves once more before the season ended, and the RB8 was not the quickest car on average throughout the season.

But he took the opportunity to rise from the battle for second place and seize the lead of the championship. After that he narrowly prevailed in a nailbiting championship showdown, soaking up immense pressure from Fernando Alonso over the last three rounds.

As the season began the name of the game for Vettel was getting the best he could out of a car that was no longer the pace setter. He achieved this admirably in Australia, passing Rosberg in fine style early on and reaching the podium. But he faltered in Malaysia where another podium looked possible had he taken a little more caution lapping Narain Karthikeyan (who was penalised for the contact).

Beat team mate in qualifying 12/20
Beat team mate in race 11/17
Races finished 19/20
Laps spent ahead of team mate 865/1103

Anxious to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of performance, Vettel experimented with an earlier exhaust layout in China. But unusually he failed to reach Q3 and in a repeat of last year found himself slipping back late in the race, ending up fifth.

It looked like a return to business as usual, 2011-style when he won round four from pole position, coolly rebuffing an attack from Kimi Raikkonen. But Red Bull were off the pace in Spain and Vettel was outdone by Webber in Monaco.

Consecutive pole positions in Canada and Britain showed the team were on the right track. But they misread the tyre situation in Canada and had to make a late pit stop, though this at least ensured he finish ahead of Alonso.

In Valencia he was in crushing form until his alternator failed. That was a major blow to Vettel’s championship hopes, sending a 32-point swing in Alonso’s favour.

He took more than half of that back with his best drive of the season in a race he didn’t win. Alonso’s elimination in the first-lap crash at the Belgian Grand Prix gave Vettel an opportunity, but he was only 12th at the restart.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2012Vettel found it difficult to overtake other cars on Spa’s long straights due to his car’s poor straight line speed. But his commitment through the high-speed Blanchimont allowed him to make several passes into the chicane – including on his own team mate, and he rose from the field to take a valuable second.

Questions over Vettel’s capacity for racecraft are increasingly a thing of the past thanks to races like this and his recovery drives in Abu Dhabi and Brazil.

However he could have avoided penalties in Germany and Italy for errors while attacking and defending position respectively. His correct decision to cede position back to Romain Grosjean in Abu Dhabi having passed him with all four wheels off the track showed he was paying attention.

Vettel took some time to get the car to his liking in 2012 and did not always get the best out of what he had in the early part of the season. But by the final leg of the championship he was back in his comfort zone and it seemed nothing could put him off his stride.

His battling performances after being sent to the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi and knocked into a spin in Brazil demonstrated the speed, racecraft and rock-solid mental resilience of a triple-champion.

What F1 Fanatic readers said about Vettel

Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Spa-Francorchamps, 2012Here’s what F1 Fanatic readers had to say about Sebastian Vettel:

Vettel truly deserved his third title. He battled with a car that wasn?t to his liking at the start, and score important points.

When the car was to his liking, he dominated. When events conspired against him he put in awe inspiring drives in both Abu Dhabi and Brazil, under immense pressure. He battled for positions in many races, and dismissed the view that he wasn?t a real racer.

Vettel still has some maturing to do, with frustration clouding his judgement in a few races. The fact that he is still developing as a racing driver must be a sobering thought to his rivals.
@Colossal-Squid

I think many people, when comparing the Red Bull to the Ferrari, simply assume that the Red Bull is a brilliant car (Newey = genius, so RB8 = genius) and because Alonso and Domenicali said at testing that the Ferrari is awful, they assume the Ferrari is awful. Think what you want, but for sure Vettel?s performance this year is highly underrated by many.
@Andae23

Vettel had some stonking races this year, and proved his mettle more than once. Alonso was just up against it in worse machinery, that?s pretty much all the difference.
@Hairs

Notes on how the rankings are produced

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are my personal view on how the drivers performed across the entire season. Drivers such as Jerome D’Ambrosio who only competed in a small part of the season are not included.

Each drivers’ performance in all of the race weekends are taken into account and summarised. For more detailed views of how they fared in each weekend refer to the notes produced for each Driver of the Weekend article and the driver form guides.

A selection of F1 Fanatic readers’ views appear alongside the rankings. The full rankings will be published in seven parts, with individual articles for the top five drivers, after which there will be a vote for Driver of the Year.

Over to you

What’s your view on Sebastian Vettel’s third consecutive championship victory? Have your say in the comments.

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216 comments on 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #3: Sebastian Vettel

  1. Before every one suggests that Vettel should be higher than 3rd ask yourdelf: had Button’s car broken down on the last lap in Interlagos which given Mclaren’s record this year was possible, Alonso would be champion, in that case where should Vettel stand? Absolutely nowhere!
    He made all kinds of mistakes, he delivered the most pathetic radio message of the year as in “…do something” in Hungary, he made a mockery of the podium ceremony in Abu Dhabi, he had STRs and Schumi make way for him while giving a hard time to anyone else. But most importantly after 3 consecutive he has failed emphaticaly to win the hearts of the german crowd. Just remember the bright red grandstands and the Mercedes-BMW booing in the early noughties Hockenheim.

    From the other 2 I’d go with Alonso for the simple reason that with Hamilton missing so much from the action due to his problems doesn’t necessarily mean that he would deliver on all these situations. Yes he would have more points but inevitably he would have made more mistakes or lose some battles with the rest of the grid tainting his year.
    As for Alonso I believe he was outstanding in every respect bar qualifying and that only occasionally. Yes he is a villain but I challenge anyone to point one a single race this year that he had the fastest car, save perhaps Monza. And above all he was taken 2 times by the Lotuses. Comparing these 2 with the 2 alternators is ridiculous its the RBR obligation to have a reliable car and it is fair when they pay the price for their failings, while on the other hand Ferrari couldn’t make Romain any less erratic.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th December 2012, 15:32

      @philby All that says is you don’t like the guy, it says nothing about his qualities as a driver. Why should I care about him sounding a bit whingey on the radio (as pretty much ever driver does at one point or another) or, in your view, people at his home race not cheering him enough?

      Vettel put in several brilliant performances this year and it’s getting rather tiresome the lengths some people go to ignore that.

      • @Keith, “Vettel put in several brilliant performances this year and it’s getting rather tiresome the lengths some people go to ignore that.” So did half the grid, there is not any sense in this.

        I didn’t go to any “lengths” I only stated some facts which don’t dispute.
        It isn’t that I don’t like him I just don’t rate him higher than Button and lower than ALO/HAM/kimi

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th December 2012, 16:24

          @philby

          I only stated some facts

          This stuff about the radio and the crowds and the podium is not fact, they are your opinions. Now, I don’t mind people sharing their opinions here – indeed I encourage it – but you won’t persuade people of your opinions by trying to claim they are facts.

          Particularly when the opinions you’re voicing aren’t relevant to his qualities as an F1 driver, which is the subject here. You surely don’t think I would write “I was going to put Vettel third but I thought his radio messages were a bit silly and he hasn’t got enough fans in Germany so I’ll move him down two places”, do you?

          • @Keith,

            For the radio yes it is an opinion and irrelevant agreed. STRs and Schumi making way is fact, you chose to ignore, his many errors also.

            “I was going to put Vettel third but I thought his radio messages were a bit silly and he hasn’t got enough fans in Germany so I’ll move him down two places”

            No I didn’t his errors should have sufficed.

          • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 13th December 2012, 16:48

            @philby
            And how is Schumi and the 2 TRs moving over for him Vettels fault?

          • Alonso THE Great said on 14th December 2012, 16:55

            Hi Keith

            Vettel was not that brilliant this season as people try to make it up

            He was easily out paced by webber earlier in the season and only remained in 5th position until summer break

            Only when RB8 became quickest since singapore vettel drove better.

            Besides this vettel failed to respect other drivers with his ugly comments (Malaysia, Germany, Abu dhabi, Hungary ETc)

            Vettel is simply a driver who is in RIGHT place at the RIGHT time nothing more than that.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th December 2012, 16:25

          @philby

          So did half the grid, there is not any sense in this.

          “Half the grid” didn’t perform as well as Vettel did they? Or perform well as often, now?

          It isn’t that I don’t like him I just don’t rate him higher than Button and lower than ALO/HAM/kimi

          Wow, just wow.

          • @ David -A, Yes half the grid did produce brilliant drives
            HAM, BUT, ALO, MAS, RAI, MAL, PER, KOB, HULK, SENNA, WEB, RIC,ROS,MSC and Vettel of course , that’s 14 did produce a brilliant drive most of them more than one so in my opinion this argument didn’t hold any sense,

            “Wow, just wow.”

            ditto.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th December 2012, 17:21

            @philby

            They may have produced brilliant performances, but the point raised by Keith is that Vettel’s performances, much like the other top drivers (RAI/HAM/ALO), stood out from the rest, which is why htey are at the top if the rankings.

            And Vettel not being any better than Button? How was Vettel no better than Button this year? I don’t remember Vettel going around 6 races where he only scored 7 points?

          • Maldonado’s in Spain, Perez in Malaysia -those stand out the most- in my opinion was equal at the very least to the best of Vettel this year.
            Certainly Vettel outperformed Button this year, my assessment though was voiced regarding their quality as drivers over the last 4-5 years not this year especially.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th December 2012, 17:54

            @philby

            Maybe in your opinion, but over the course of the season, the number of “brilliant” performances from most of the field doesn’t stand up to Vettel’s. Vet maintained a high level of performance, with a number of standouts (just like Ham/Alo/Rai) in order to win the title.

            And the only year Button could be argued to have been as good/better than Vettel was 2009 (first half). Even 2011, Button’s best year in many people’s eyes, was likely made to look better because of Hamilton’s underperformance, while Vettel romped away from the pair of them.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th December 2012, 15:46

      @philby

      Before every one suggests that Vettel should be higher than 3rd ask yourdelf: had Button’s car broken down on the last lap in Interlagos which given Mclaren’s record this year was possible, Alonso would be champion, in that case where should Vettel stand? Absolutely nowhere!

      That’s a rather big and pointless “if”. What about “if” Vettel’s car didn’t break down in Valencia, or “if” Button’s car broke down in either of the other 2 races he won (Vettel would have inherited the wins, from 6th and 11th on the grid, no less)? Vettel would still have been worthy of a high ranking, since he fought all season, in a car that wasn’t always the best, and had a lot of inspired drives.

      He made all kinds of mistakes, he delivered the most pathetic radio message of the year as in “…do something” in Hungary, he made a mockery of the podium ceremony in Abu Dhabi, he had STRs and Schumi make way for him while giving a hard time to anyone else.

      I’ll assume you wrote on Kimi’s article about the “mockery” he made of the podium as well. And “all kinds of mistakes”? Yes, he had a few, but he usually atoned for them, by finishing 3rd in Abu Dhabi, and 6th in Brazil, despite the damage to his car.

      And above all he was taken 2 times by the Lotuses. Comparing these 2 with the 2 alternators is ridiculous its the RBR obligation to have a reliable car and it is fair when they pay the price for their failings, while on the other hand Ferrari couldn’t make Romain any less erratic.

      Romain didn’t take out Alonso in Japan. Kimi and Alonso had contact, and it wasn’t really even Raikkonen’s fault. And since this is a driver ranking, while it may be RBR/Mclaren’s obligation to make a reliable car, it isn’t Vettel or Hamilton that are to blame when their cars do break down.

      • A) KIMI didn’t make a mockery “****” isn’t the same as “****” and he didn’t pour champagne on DC who is trying to do his job.
        B) Ok so what if I said Button making way as Schumi did? instead of breaking down.
        C) Yes in Suzuka is debatable but to say that ” it isn’t Vettel or Hamilton that are to blame when their cars do break down.” is ludicrous. They chose to drive for the Team that designed and raced an unreliable car. And if you don’t agree with me ask Lewis Hamilton who left Mclaren for this exact reason.

        • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 13th December 2012, 16:50

          It’s just a bit of fun though.
          (and it wasn’t champagne either)

          • @xjr15jaaag,

            For your previous comment in which can’t reply for some reason

            STRs and and Schumi moving over is a fault of his, is an unfair advantage he enjoyed whie his rivals didn’t thus undermining his success.

          • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 13th December 2012, 17:04

            That’s invalid; the variation in cars means people have advantages everywhere.
            And Vettel didn’t force them to pull over for them did he?
            he didn’t stop the car and run over to tell them to move out of his way did he?

          • @xjr15jaaag,

            It is not invalid it is unfair because in Vettel’s case it doesn’t happen randomly, and even if Schumi chose to do it for the Torro Rosso boys it’s safe to assume that he did tell them to move over, not in person obviously mr. Marko handles these things.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th December 2012, 17:33

          @philby

          A) KIMI didn’t make a mockery “****” isn’t the same as “****” and he didn’t pour champagne on DC who is trying to do his job.

          So what? Kimi still swore. Should that be ignored? And what’s wrong with the champagne antics? DC and Vetel are good friends (I believe), and it was all in good humour.

          B) Ok so what if I said Button making way as Schumi did? instead of breaking down.

          Vettel would have passed Schumacher anyway. He was around a second a lap faster. Alonso wasn’t faster than Button. He wasn’t faster than Massa in fact, who let him through.

          C) Yes in Suzuka is debatable but to say that ” it isn’t Vettel or Hamilton that are to blame when their cars do break down.” is ludicrous. They chose to drive for the Team that designed and raced an unreliable car. And if you don’t agree with me ask Lewis Hamilton who left Mclaren for this exact reason.

          lol, if Mercedes are unreliable in 2013? Do we blame Hamilton for driving that car then? If you’re going to down grade a driver for driving an unreliable car, why not downgrade them for driving a slow one?

        • Alonso THE Great said on 14th December 2012, 11:36

          Your are spot on Kim Philby

    • Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 13th December 2012, 15:50

      @philby – It’s also fair when Alonso and Ferrari pay the price for failing to produce a faster car.

    • Guilherme (@guilherme) said on 13th December 2012, 15:56

      Thanks for replying to this @keithcollantine, saved me quite a bit of time :)

      One thing I’d like to point out though, to @philby and to all those who shares his views on Alonso’s retirements – when will people stop blaming Raikkonen for their collision in Suzuka? Alonso had a full car’s width to his right, there was absolutely zero need to squeeze Raikkonen to the left, and Raikkonen, rightly so, didn’t have to yield. Blaming Kimi for that pretty much shows the length some people will go to justify Alonso’s season as absolutely inch-perfect, and to be honest this refusal to acknowledge the very few mistakes he made this season (something that does not detract from his great performance this season at all) is just as tiresome as the constant Samurai references :P

      • @Guilherme, There is still no excuse for SPA though, and also I never said Alonso had an inch-perfect year. He made mistakes, China for example from 7th to 9th trying to overtake a Williams, but it also happens to have had a better year than anyone else.

    • sumedh said on 13th December 2012, 16:19

      Before every one suggests that Vettel should be higher than 3rd ask yourdelf: had Button’s car broken down on the last lap in Interlagos which given Mclaren’s record this year was possible, Alonso would be champion, in that case where should Vettel stand? Absolutely nowhere!

      You are wrong in your first line itself. If Button’s car had broken down, then Alonso and Vettel both would have gained a position (1st and 5th) and Red Bull would have ordered Webber to drop two places so that Vettel would have finished 4th and still won the title.

      • @sumedh, quiet possibly i must agree but then all this “the drivers are free to race at Redbull”, and the bashing for 2 1/2 years since Germany 2010 would make them big fat liars, and noone like a Liar.

        • sumedh said on 13th December 2012, 16:40

          @philby – In the Brazil race itself, Webber let Vettel through once. I am sure Red Bull wouldn’t hesitate to do the same once again.
          “Drivers are free to race” works as long as both of them are in mathematical contention. Once that is out, it is team orders at every team in F1.

    • had Button’s car broken down on the last lap in Interlagos which given Mclaren’s record this year was possible, Alonso would be champion, in that case where should Vettel stand? Absolutely nowhere!

      Umm.. I’m pretty sure that he would stand as runner up in the 2012 WDC. That’s not actually “absolutely nowhere”.

      I’ve never really understood the intense personal hostility some people seem to feel for Vettel, who strikes me as perfectly pleasant and engaging, at least by the standards of F1 drivers.

  2. TMF (@tmf42) said on 13th December 2012, 16:12

    no matter how you rank Kimi, Alonso, HAM or Seb – there will be controversy as either one would be a worthy #1.

  3. sumedh said on 13th December 2012, 16:23

    Initially, I was very convinced that Vettel should be 2nd or 1st in the rankings. But reading this paints a better picture. He did make some judgement errors early on in the season. I had completely forgotten about that German GP penalty.

    This actually paints a very dangerous picture for 2013 though. This was a year when Red Bull was 2nd fastest and Vettel also did a number of mistakes. But they STILL became champions. If both go up a notch – which they are certainly capable of – 2013 will be another 2011! That title will be fully deserved – as was this – but it will be boring for the sport.

  4. I’m surprised (in a good way!) nobody has mentioned things like ‘nationality-bias’ yet! We can have nice things.

    While I got a different order for the top 4, I can’t really argue with the reasoning, as it was very close. As for Vettel, I remember cheering when he won in Singapore, despite not being a fan at all, it was time for him to win again. I do wonder what his ranking would have been if Lewis didn’t break down in Singapore or Webber would be able to start properly, but that’s a load of ifs. His driving after the summerbreak was phenomenal, spare a race or two.

  5. katederby (@katederby) said on 13th December 2012, 16:29

    Seems fair, particularly when you compare Vettel’s qualifying record to his team mate, which has to be one of the fairest ways of measuring a driver’s performance. Alonso beat his team mate 18 times, Hamilton beat Button 16 while Vettel beat Webber 12 times and that was helped by Webber’s mechanical woes in Valenica and the team’s mistake in Q2 in Barcelona. Plus the average gap between VET and WEB was only 0.11 sec compared to Alonso’s 0.33 and Hamilton’s 0.27

    • I don’t think either Button or Massa is as strong at qualifying in general as Webber is. I know a lot of people like to talk about Webber as though he isn’t much of a benchmark, but he is actually a very good qualifier.

    • Those are some odd numbers you picked to measure a drivers performance.

      I would notice that Webber is a much stronger Number 2 then Massa or Button, and that Vettel still beat him over the course of the season by over 100 points. He had five wins to Webbers two, and ten podiums to Webbers four.

      Meanwhile Hamilton, who is presumably going to be ranked second here, finished the season essentially tied with his (more lower ranked) teammate in points and results.

      These lists are always basically popularity contests. If you want want driver A to rank higher than driver B there is usually some data you can point to support that conclusion.

      • katederby (@katederby) said on 13th December 2012, 22:22

        I don’t see how qualifying performance is an odd measure when it’s generally the one time team mates can be compared with more or less no outside interference, that you get in the race. Clearly Vettel has had a great season and I’m not arguing he should be ahead of anyone bar Alonso and Hamilton.

        • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 1:35

          @katederby

          And Webber had a good season as well. Or at least a much better season than Massa and Button. And as @aka_robyn pointed out, Webber is a very good qualifier. Massa and Button on the other hand aren’t.
          So no, comparing the difference in qualifying between Vettel and Webber to the difference between Alonso and Massa or Hamilton and Button isn’t a good yardstick.

  6. I personally believe it’s Ham at no. 1 over Alo.

    Correct me if I am wrong, I think both have been absolutely flawless apart from Alo spinning his car in Q2 in Australia whereas I can’t think of any driving error by Ham. In terms of racing, both are equally matched according to me.

    I think Keith ranks Alo no.1 so I’ll be really awaiting the reasons for the same if that’s the order

  7. sw280 (@sw280) said on 13th December 2012, 17:12

    Thank you, someone has not said Vettel did a brilliant job purely because he won. Whilst he made many good overtakes this year, I still don’t think he is in a HAM/BUT/ALO/RAI league. Some of the brilliant recovery drives he made were of his own making, it seems Martin Brundle is the only person to acknowledge that VET turned in on SEN putting him on the back foot. He also was the maker of much of his trouble in Abu Dhabi, damaging then futher damaging it by hitting a static object.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th December 2012, 18:46

      Making mistakes is one thing, atoning for them is another.

      And how would Button in the same league as those guys and Vettel not?

      • Guilherme (@guilherme) said on 13th December 2012, 19:51

        @david-a I admire your patience, mate, I really do :P Every time I see someone saying Vettel is not on the same league as Button it just reasures my belief that some people will never, ever regard Vettel as a Top 3 or even Top 4 driver.

      • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 1:37

        @david-a

        Because they don’t like Vettel. That’s all there is to it.

        • sw280 (@sw280) said on 14th December 2012, 9:27

          I don’t dislike Vettel, but there can be no denying that Button has only once caused a collision in the last 4 years of racing and whilst not as fast as Vettel is much safer in wheel to wheel action.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th December 2012, 11:39

            By that logic, Hamilton isn’t in the same league as Button either, based on the collisions Hamilton caused in 2011.

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 1:42

      @sw280

      it seems Martin Brundle is the only person to acknowledge that VET turned in on SEN putting him on the back foot.

      How exactly does a driver whose got an inside line turn in on another driver on the outside? Vettel would have had to steer away from the corner to do that…

      Vettel passed Senna into the hairpin but because of the Williams straight line speed Senna was able to retake Vettel. Vettel went to the inside (as he’s got every right to do) and kept his line while leaving plenty of space on the outside for Senna and making the apex. So Vettel didn’t understeer into Senna or made a move towards Senna.

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 2:14

      @sw280

      Never mind, I was thinking about Abu Dhabi. You were refering to Brazil.

      Although I do have to say Senna lunched up the inside of two cars before getting halfway next to Vettel. So It would have been impossible for Vettel to have seen Senna there.

  8. crr917 (@crr917) said on 13th December 2012, 17:18

    So Vettel became a champion with slower and not that reliable car, beating better drivers? In fact, beating the same two drivers three(four) times in a row? I am pleased, Vettel should be pleased, too.

  9. Not sure why some people are getting so steamed over this ranking business – not just Vettel, but the whole list

    It’s just one person offering his opinion, after all. I don’t happen to agree with Keith, but it’s not that big a deal.

  10. wheresF1gone said on 13th December 2012, 19:51

    Was gonna argue the wheres or whats. But the photo at the top is…….awsome.

    To capture the Pirelli logo as a ring while the car looks static is quality.

  11. auto_freak (@auto_freak) said on 13th December 2012, 19:52

    I agree with this ranking, to be frank Keith has always ranked drivers from the top drawer very accurately throughout the whole season. Vettel drove immaculately throughout the middle and end part of the season but where was he at the start? That’s right not too close to the front of the grid.

    • Not sure what you mean by “not too close to the front of the grid”. If you mean his qualifying position, it was a bit poor. But in Alonos’s case his poor qualifying position seems to be regarded as an actual point in his favor, so I don’t see why it’s held against Vettel.

      In you mean his race performances, after five races Vettel was leading the WDC standings. He must have been doing something right.

  12. wheresF1gone said on 13th December 2012, 19:56

    Ooops, closer inspection looks like a painting,

    heading for the wardrobe…..

  13. dragoll (@dragoll) said on 13th December 2012, 20:08

    The 1 stat I look for in the year when trying to rank who drove better in a season, is just how often drivers beat their team mates, which is something that @keithcollantine has already provided.

    Looking at the top 3 and how many times they beat their teammates in the race, 1. Alo (17/17-100%), 2. HAM (9/13 – 69%), 3. VET (11/17 – 64%)

    It does indeed show how close the race for 2nd/3rd was…

    Note: Even though Kimi was up 88% on Grosjean, I don’t think Kimi was a top 3 driver this year, I still feel that the Lotus/Kimi/Gro combo let a great opportunity go, much like MERC/SCH/ROS in 2011.

    • The 1 stat I look for in the year when trying to rank who drove better in a season, is just how often drivers beat their team mates

      That’s a meaningless statistic for many reasons. It assumes that the gap in skill between drivers and their teammates is roughly equal across teams, which is obviously not the case. It also does not take into account team orders – over the last several races Massa looked to have the beating of Alonso, by quite a margin in some cases. But he dutifully allowed Alonso to finish ahead of him to maximize his points total.

      • Brace (@brace) said on 13th December 2012, 22:18

        It was just 2 races, which would still mean better percentage then the others. I agree this not the most accurante thing and shouldn’t be used soley to determine who drove how well, but just pointing out that Massa in reality only two times gave position to Alonso. (USA and Brasil)

        • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 1:49

          @brace

          What about Korea then?

          And I found it quite suspicious that when Ferrari/Alonso actually needed Massa, or rather when Massa would no longer harm Alonso’s chances, Massa ‘suddenly’ rediscovered his form and even started beating Alonso in outright pace.

  14. AlexFerrari said on 13th December 2012, 20:12

    I’d love to hear from Newey which driver he prefers. He has said many, many times how hard worker and technical Vettel is and his ability to tell exactly what he needs from the car. Many people believe a world champion is only about how they perform in the track.
    Alonso is more aggressive, Hamilton may be faster (in 1 lap, specially). Vettel is both and work better and harder, it seems.

    • Brace (@brace) said on 13th December 2012, 22:30

      I think you can find the same things being said about Alonso, even way back in 2005 or 2006. There was some comment from James Allen or Ted Kravitz about it and about how McLaren’s practices might differ from Renault’s and that it could be slightly frustrating for Alonso not being able to work as fast with engineers and be involved with them as he used to be in Renault.

      • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 1:54

        @brace

        Ted Kravitz? The man convinced Button would have won Monza 2011 if not for being stuck behind Schumacher for 20 laps? That Ted Kravitz?
        The Ted Kravitz who always tries to take a dib at Vettel’s on or off track performance?

        Sorry, that man is a joke. A biased joke.

    • Switchbacker (@switchbacker) said on 14th December 2012, 0:56

      Interesting point, but Id be amazed to hear that Hamilton and Alonso don’t do everything possible to win every race.

  15. William Brierty said on 13th December 2012, 22:12

    I love this. Its one of the great pub debates of the land. Sebastian Vettel: benchmark or beneficiary? OK, I’m getting off the fence. I see no legendary qualities in Sebastian Vettel. For me, I have always stuck with the concept that a great driver is a driver that does well in a poor car, no matter what the balance. You may say, look at Monza 2008, and yes he did do well in a midfield car, but a car that was good in the wet because of its tendency to over-heat its tyres in dry. And Vettel had the best car in ’09, ’10 and ’11, and even though the McLaren was faster this year, it was so unreliable Lewis lost two victories, and probably a further two to operational issues and contact in Brazil.

    Also, in manner comparable to Button and Massa, his performance falls off the cliff when his preferred balance isn’t there. In the first half of the season Webber fundamentally beat Vettel, because it seems that Vettel lacks that versatility that makes Alonso and Hamilton, in my view, the finest drivers in the world.

    Now personally I don’t subscribe to this view that Vettel can’t race. He is fantastically accurate and sometimes very aggressive wheel-to-wheel racing, but is lacking that confident intensity that enables Button, Alonso and Hamilton to swarm all over the car ahead overwhelm them and pass them. Actually I would compare his racing style to Raikkonen’s; sometimes spectacular, always accurate, but also hesitantly intelligent. Actually Vettel and Raikkonen are hugely similar in driving style. Both have great race pace, both are accurate racers, both are great on their tyres, both are clean in the wet and both can control a race from the front comfortably and calmly. Vettel wipes the floor with Raikkonen in qualifying though, which gives him great grid positions, and also the undesirable statistic of never winning from outside of the top 3 on the grid.

    Don’t get me wrong, when I say there’s nothing legendary about Vettel I’m not doing him down to Raikkonen/Button/Rosberg levels, he’s still one of the “big three”, I just think that the greater versatility of Alonso and Hamilton put them that one step ahead. I’m also not saying that Vettel will never be legendary, because most of these phenomenal feats performed by my personal top driver, Alonso, are as a result of his huge experience, which will come to the tender 25 year old in time. So maybe, at the end of his career Vettel will be able to raise that finger confident in the knowledge that he is a legend of Formula 1 and the equals of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, but he has a way to go yet.

    • Switchbacker (@switchbacker) said on 14th December 2012, 0:59

      Great comment

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 2:10

      You may say, look at Monza 2008, and yes he did do well in a midfield car, but a car that was good in the wet because of its tendency to over-heat its tyres in dry.

      And what excuse do you use for his excellent dry performances in that same Torro Rosso? Wait, let me guess; “It was a Newey car”.

      And Vettel had the best car in ’09

      Did he? Did he really? Red Bull started the season slower than Brawn. Then they gained the upper hand. But along with their succes came a resurgent McLaren who were just as quick if not quicker. And then there were plenty of races where the Brawn was quick(er) as well. Valencia and Monza for instance. Button hit the ground running but lost form halfway through the season. When Button wasn’t scoring Barrichello was. And good points I might add.

      In the first half of the season Webber fundamentally beat Vettel

      Newsflash, fundamentally now means three times out of 10!!
      So Massa fundamentally beat Alonso in the second half of the season?

      and also the undesirable statistic of never winning from outside of the top 3 on the grid.

      As opposed to Hamiltons amazing statistic of never having won from outside the top 4. Because that 1 place makes all the difference.

      • William Brierty said on 14th December 2012, 8:52

        OK, you asked for it…
        1. The STR3 was very solid car, which explains Vettel’s fourth place in Shanghai, but also explains why Bourdais showed flashes of pace. Its nothing to do with with fact that it was “a Newey car”, it was just a good package, and could be mentioned in the same sentence as the Renault R28, or mentioned in the same sentence as the McLaren MP4-23 in the wet.
        2. I knew I’d get picked up on this. When I say Vettel had the fastest car in 2009, I mean the raw pace at the final races. Now its right that you query that, because Hamilton was on pole in Abu Dhabi, but remember you can read less into qualifying in 2009 due to the fuel loads. Also the MP4-24 was very track specific and struggled with high speed corners, explaining Hamilton’s poles at the point-and-squirt tracks like Valencia, Monza, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, and you may say that Hamilton won at “Red Bull tracks” in 2009; but remember Vettel cocked up qualifying at both Hungary and Singapore. I would imagine that the average percentage deficit to pole position of the Red Bull was the smallest of any ’09 chassis.
        3. Before the German Grand Prix this year, Webber had more wins, more points and had beaten Vettel in qualifying in 5/9 races.That’s pretty fundamental for me.
        4. What I was illustrating with that statistic is that Vettel seldom has to fight for his wins. How many Vettel wins can you think of when he was under real pressure? I got Spain ’11, Monaco ’11 and Bahrain ’12. How many races has Hamilton fought and won the race? US ’07, Monaco ’08, Germany ’08, Turkey ’10, Canada ’10, China ’11, Germany ’11, Canada ’12, Hungary ’12 and US ’12. I rest my case.

        • Oli Campbell said on 14th December 2012, 10:24

          nonsense mate….

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th December 2012, 11:47

          1. The STR3 was very solid car, which explains Vettel’s fourth place in Shanghai, but also explains why Bourdais showed flashes of pace. Its nothing to do with with fact that it was “a Newey car”, it was just a good package, and could be mentioned in the same sentence as the Renault R28, or mentioned in the same sentence as the McLaren MP4-23 in the wet.

          You’re overrating the STRs there. STR and Red Bull weren’t particularly good in 2008, clearly only capable of being 6th/7th fastest over the course of the season. The MP4-23 was always fastest or 2nd fastest, and the R28 fourth (maybe even 3rd near the end of the season, when Piquet had good pace, and BMW switched toward 2009).

          3. Before the German Grand Prix this year, Webber had more wins, more points and had beaten Vettel in qualifying in 5/9 races.That’s pretty fundamental for me.

          More wins and points because of Vettel’s alternator and Narain Karthikeyan respectively. Otherwise, Vettel was almost always faster, and the fact htat Webber was only ahead in races he won, suggests that Vettel was better when the car wasn’t that good.

        • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 21:59

          it was just a good package

          No it wasn’t. In normal conditions it was the 6th fastest car at best. The McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, BMW and Red Bull were all quicker in outright pace. In the wet it was indeed a better car but then the difference was still made by Vettel who outqualified Bourdais by almost a second in Monza and who drove past Bourdais in Spa while battling Kubica on slicks making Bourdais look like he was standing still.

          Also the MP4-24 was very track specific

          As was the RB5 and the Brawn GP. The difference however between all three cars is that the Brawn GP was the only car to enjoy a clear advantage over the rest for half a dozen consecutive races. Which was one third of the entire season.

          Before the German Grand Prix this year, Webber had more wins, more points and had beaten Vettel in qualifying in 5/9 races.That’s pretty fundamental for me.

          Webber had one more win which would have been equal if not for Vettel’s alternator trouble. That’s also the reason Webber had more points. Vettel outraced Webber in 6 of those 9 races and when Vettel won he absolutely dominated Webber. When Webber won however Vettel wasn’t far behind.
          Also, you say Hamilton is of legendary status. But he has been outraced by his teammate more than Alonso and Vettel combined. Sorry, I fail to see your ‘logic’.

          What I was illustrating with that statistic is that Vettel seldom has to fight for his wins.

          That’s his strength and also shows why many consider him to be (already) greater than Hamilton. It can’t be Vettel’s fault that nobody can touch him once he exits the first corner in first. Also, Hamilton has had plenty of races where he should have done what Vettel has managed to do so many times. The fact that Hamilton hasn’t been able to do that is very telling to me.

          At the end of the day this is just a ranking put forward by an F1 Fan. Many will agree with it, many will not. What matters is what is achieved though. In the past four years Hamilton has finished fourth or lower. And that’s not just because his car wasn’t up to the challenge.

  16. Andy (@turbof1) said on 13th December 2012, 22:29

    Just to make a statement: I think most people who agree with his ranking, will mostly also agree that Vettel’s 2012 campaign was one of the best in recent years. There are only a handfull of drivers who drove better the last 5 years or so. Unfortunaly, he met some of those this year. Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton all 3 drove really superb. That also means though you will have to judge them on the smallest mistakes. In that aspect it is Vettel who felt short, so in the end his ranking is fair. Harsh, but fair. I have to add that if you put those 3 in any order, you are never far away from the truth. Very little to choose between indeed.

    • Brace (@brace) said on 13th December 2012, 22:41

      I was thinking the same. Just 2 years ago they all fought for the championship, but the way they drove that year was ridiculous compared to this year. They all had more then few off moments.
      Any version of this three from 2012, driving in 2010 against older versions would have been champ easily.
      Shows you just how much they progressed in just 2 years and the quality of top drivers this days.

      I remember in 2006, after Schumacher crashed out of Australia, he said that every driver has to make one such a mistake a year, and that when Alonso does it, he will catch him.
      Little did he know, that Alonso’s mistake never came. The worst Alonso did was perhaps his 5th place in Indianapolis. That year I became a diehard Alonso fan, even though I was huge Kimi fan year before and wishing all the misfortune on Alonso in 2005. :)
      Kimi on the other hand got my respect with his 2003 drives and I so hope that guy comes back. One of the best, definitely. That’s the guy who could mix it with the top 3 of today.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 13th December 2012, 23:02

      Yes, I’m totally with you on this – excellent comment. It was a great season in terms of standard of driving, especially when compared to 2010 as brace mentions. In all honesty, Vettel Alonso and Hamilton could all be tied in 1st place it’s so close, but if I had to choose which one to put in 3rd I would put Vettel there. Alonso and Hamilton didn’t drive into other drivers (as Vettel did to Senna at Brazil) as far as I can remember.

  17. Switchbacker (@switchbacker) said on 14th December 2012, 0:53

    Vettel didn’t achieve much in the early part of the season, when he didn’t have a dominant car. That says it all really, Alonso did.

    That he could gain many places, when out of position due to penalties or incidents, is surely only what we’d expect of a top driver (that he clearly is) in one of the best 4 cars on track, and is not proof that he can deal with pressure – which for me is fighting and beating rivals in similar cars. He didn’t beat Webber by a lot despite being number 1, clearly had a better car than Alonso, and only beat Hamilton thanks to the latter’s ridiculous misfortune and mismanagement.

    Brilliant series of articles.

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 14th December 2012, 2:25

      @switchbacker

      I agree, one second place in Australia splitting the faster McLarens, one potential fourth (and maybe even a third place as he was catching Hamilton) in Malaysia, victory and a championship lead in Bahrein some 40 seconds ahead of his much better team mate…

      If you think about it, it’s unbelievable that Vettel got back from such a poor start to the season… But that’s Adrian Newey for ya.

      He didn’t beat Webber by a lot despite being number 1

      So true, just a measily 102 points… If he had outscored Webber by 200+ points maybe he would have impressed me. Still, even if he had we all know that’s only down to Red Bull favoring Vettel and Webber getting a dead Kangaroo stuffed in the car every race.

      • Switchbacker (@switchbacker) said on 14th December 2012, 3:07

        I didnt say he was better than Webber, I said it was relatively close (12/8 is close in my book even if Vettel’s victories and Webber’s more frequent misfortune make the points gap, as you point out, significant.), and as a number 1 driver he has a clear advantage, even if Red Bull handle it more diplomatically than to stuff a kangaroo into Webber’s monocoque. He’s a tall guy there isnt space. Or remove a gearbox seal.

        I was arguing that he was not as good a driver as Alonso or Hamilton, and indeed his success in those 4 was helped by the misfortune of who else but Hamilton.

        As for Alonso, most agree that his Ferrari at that time was slower, so admitting I phrased my point clumsily, it stands.

        Vettel clearly had a great season, I just think Alonso and Hamilton were better. Sorry.

        • Here you must Compare his Age and F1 Experience I don’t think neither Alonso nor Hamilton was as Matured as Vettel was in 25 Do they??
          Vettel was Just getting Better and Better. Webber out scored Vettel in First 10 races but remember Vettel has 2 Zero Point Finshes Compared to webber in Spain.
          Vettel was equal to Lewis and Alonso Just edges the both in Experience.

    • Deb Luhi (@debeluhi) said on 18th December 2012, 23:35

      Vettel may have been a bit slower at the start of the season but he was fast when it mattered the most. On the other hand Alonso was the one that failed under pressure at the end of the season when he was slower than Massa. It would’ve been interesting to see what Massa could’ve achieved if Alonso was not slowing him down in the last couple of races. At the moments when Vettel was leading the championship he was still risking his wins chasing the fastest laps despite the calls from the pit wall to slow down. For me that is a racer. On the other hand at the last race, with nothing to lose, Alonso still didn’t have the balls to take more risks and try to win the race. Instead he chose to play it safe and wait for others to make mistakes.

  18. Oli Campbell said on 14th December 2012, 10:20

    Absolute rubbish….. I really enjoy this website but i have to disagree with this one I’m afraid (I have agreed with the others especially the Hulk coming 5th). Vettel needs to be second or 1st. Simply because Hamilton was excellent, and yes he got the most out of the car and didn’t make mistakes, but so have a lot of other drivers in slower cars. All I need to say is, if Hamilton had vettels season this year with all the wins, poles, overtaking and drama (even in one of the fastest cars) he would have unquestionably been hailed the greatest F1 driver ever by all the British press! Therefore why cant Vettel receive this praise….

    • JerseyF1 (@jerseyf1) said on 14th December 2012, 10:40

      You can disagree without having to say this is absolute rubbish. I disagree with the ranking too, but the fact is the top 3/4 drivers were all good and could reasonably have been ordered in any way. I would rank them differently and put Vettel higher too but I think Keith has done a good job of explaining his personal rankings and given the slim margins I don’t think that’s at all unreasonable or surprising.

  19. Jimmy Clark said on 14th December 2012, 10:30

    Too much argument about who is the best… I admire the fact that Vettel make his victories or other achievements look “easy made”.He is great,taking the results he wants,exactly when he wants them by taking out the best of a really good car…and he never make to much noice about himself like “l am a great driver but the car was awful”…l am not Vettel s fun but he is the champion.

  20. kkarl (@kkarl) said on 14th December 2012, 10:33

    always a lot of excuses for hamilton, poor hamilton suffered a failure, his team let him down.
    it’s called racing people, it happens to all drivers.
    to reduce what a driver has achieved by winning a wdc to simply who designed the car belittles the efforts of many in a team and particularly the driver. All great F1 drivers have benefited from car design in the past and will continue to be the case in the future. Button 2009, and a certain championship in 2008 springs to mind, along with schuey, mansell, senna, prost and alonso, stewart, clark. Does it make what they achieved any less significant. the answer is simply no.
    for me, alonso was the best driver in the field, vettel was able to mix it with him, kimi was great first year back and I looked forward to them all again hitting the track in 2013

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th December 2012, 10:45

      @kkarl

      it’s called racing people, it happens to all drivers.

      Of course it does, no one is saying otherwise. But it does not happen to all drivers to an equal degree, which is where differences arise.

      • kkarl (@kkarl) said on 14th December 2012, 11:09

        whom then determines equal degree in motor racing. to me, that then becomes based on a person’s opinion, biased or otherwise about what the result might or could have been. we don’t operate in such a world. results are results based on what happens on the track. It may appear overly simple, but it is what it is.
        of course I’ve mentioned the ‘b’ word. I’m not suggesting a biased, I appreciate your efforts greatly for the comprehensive articles and information you gather for people like me.

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