Vettel’s speed compared to other WDCs

This topic contains 49 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  mnmracer 4 years, 11 months ago.

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    This is a topic to discuss Vettel’s speed compared to other drivers that’s sure to bring more flames than all the barbecues in Austin:-)

    Even for F1 insiders, Vettel’s speed is a matter of controversy with just about anyone that’s not part of Red Bull extolling the car’s and Newey’s abilities more so than Vettel’s. In my own search for the truth, I’ve been trying to extrapolate Vettel’s speed by comparing his current and previous results to other drivers.

    Unlike other sports were we can quantify a driver’s performance, F1 makes it hard especially when a driver stays at the same constructor for many years.

    My approach is to look at Vettel’s present and past performance and his teammates and then try to determine his speed based on that.

    Here’s the link to Vettel’s career: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Vettel
    So far here’s what we know about Vettel’s speed:

    Chronological Results
    – In 1993, he beat his family in a cart:-)
    – In 2003 and 2004, he competed in Formula BMW ADAC, coming 2nd and 1st. That’s impressive. Credit to RBAlonso and Raymondu for pointing out that Vettel won 18 out of 20 races in 2004 displaying dominance.
    – In 2005, he competed in Formula 3 coming 5th – a very decent result matching Hamilton’s first foray into Formula 3.
    – In 2006, he competed in Formula 3 coming 2nd but was beaten by Paul DiResta. That’s a big question mark.
    – In 2007, he was leading the Formula Renault 3.5 Series when he left and is probably faster than Alvaro Parente and Ben Hanley – I’m not sure of the significance of that achievement.
    – The same year, he joined F1, scoring points in the USA race sitting in for Kubica at Sauber. Heidfeld’s car had hydraulic problems so we can’t compare him to Heidfeld.
    – The same year, he raced 7 races at Toro Rosso and did as well or slightly better than Liuzzi – when Vettel scored his first points Liuzzi came in P6 while Vettel was in P4 but Liuzzi beat him in the other 2 races they finished. The one victory gave Vettel more points though.
    – In 2008, he was definitely better than Bourdain who was his teammate at Toro Rosso.
    – Since 2009 he’s been paired with Mark Webber and we can say that he is overall a better driver although Webber has kept up with Vettel when the car lacks the characteristics that turn it into a WCC-winning car.

    – Vettel has a very strong pre-F1 career but he never won the Formula 3 and never competed in GP2. He certainly never displayed ANY domination in his pre-F1 career. Credit to RBAlonso and Raymondu999 He did show dominance in 2004 winning 18 out of 20 races.
    – Vettel might be faster than DiResta if he has improved since 2006.
    – Vettel is better than Bourdain.
    – Vettel is as good or better than Liuzzi.
    – Vettel is better than Webber but not always by the margin we expect- certain conditions need to be there for that to happen.
    – Vettel has the lowest time in Top Gear 1′ 44”. He raced in 2011 very seriously and beat Barrichello by 0.3 seconds and Hamilton by 0.7 seconds but Hamilton was in the wet and was cracking up while driving.. Still Vettel has a time that’s respectable.

    Now, am I missing any other facts that would give us an indication of Vettel’s speed? I’m guessing the Toro Rosso victory would be important.



    in 2004 Vettel won 15 of 16 races. Thats surely domination. Also, Top Gear challenges are not an accurate representation of driver skill.



    @freelittlebirds mate – he dominated F BMW, so that’s a factual error in your recap.

    Also I think the methodology isn’t necessarily the best to compare “speed.” Qualifying would be a better measure of that. Take McLaren’s drivers in 2011, for example, and you’ll see what I mean about this point.

    A somewhat-missing point is that on qualifying gaps IMO. For example (arbitrary numbers and example only, this is just to illustrate a point – ie I didn’t check to see if it really happened) if Vettel outqualified Liuzzi by a second, that in my book would be more impressive than outqualifying Liuzzi by 2 tenths.

    4 VERY underrated issues when it comes to comparing drivers (in the speed column) are:
    a) experience
    b) suitability
    c) setup
    d) development

    To be fair, to a certain point – setup doesn’t matter, because if you have Driver A constantly outpacing Driver B in equal machinery, it doesn’t matter whether that came from setup or driving – it just is!

    Experience and suitability are almost hand in hand. Put an experienced driver and a rookie driver in the same car (one that both have never driven before) and his experience is guaranteed to give a bit of an edge. The rookie might have more “speed,” but it remains to be seen whether that is enough to counter the old head’s wisdom. And yes this is still on speed, and not racecraft.

    Experience also counts in terms of the package. If you were to put two rookies into the same car at qualifying at Melbourne, but one did preseason testing and the other didn’t – I can guarantee you that the guy that did preseason will, 9 times out of 10, have the edge.

    Suitability, look at Webber v Vettel 2009 – 2011. Characteristics of the 2009 and 2011 cars suited Vettel more, and some characteristics of the 2010 car brought Webber into the fold too.

    Finally development. This is something a lot of people don’t think about. Different drivers (like people) mature at different rates. Some, in a way, never do. Di Resta beat Vettel in their F3 teammate year. That is a fact. But if you put them in those F3 cars again today, things might pan out differently.

    IMO Vettel’s speed is not something that is of doubt. I’m not sure who tells you that his speed in F1 circles is in doubt – but whenever I am in the paddock everyone I talk to certainly doesn’t doubt his speed in the slightest.

    I hope that the discussion in this thread can be conducted in a civil manner, and let’s keep fanboy drivel away from the thread.



    @rbalonso I think you mean 18 out of 20 races no? That’s the FBMW season right?



    @freelittlebirds oh and another factual gripe – Vettel’s Toro Rosso win was in 2008, not 2007.



    @freelittlebirds I don’t know what’s with me today. I keep forgetting little things.

    If your objective is to measure raw speed – I don’t think this methodology is the right way to go about it. Speed certainly doesn’t mean results. Maldonado only has 14 more points on the board than Senna – and I certainly rate his SPEED (not his racecraft) as “only” 14 points more – if you catch my drift. If you want to look at speed alone, in a way you have to phase out the mistakes, such as the potential podium in Fuji 07, etc etc.



    @raymondu999 I appreciate all the information – keep it coming. I will update the main topic giving credit to the contributor.



    @raymondu999 I appreciate all the information – keep it coming. I will update the main topic giving credit to the contributor.



    Such a discussion can only be done right including what might best explain this subject:
    Toro Rosso’s technical director Giorgio Ascanelli (Ayrton Senna’s old engineer) explained said that something changed at the European Grand Prix in Valencia: “Suddenly Vettel understood something about how to drive an F1 car quickly. It made a huge difference – not only to the speed he could unlock, but also to his ability to do so consistently.”



    And @mnmracer beautifully adds to my point on driver development – clearly then Vettel made a step forward.



    Let’s focus on the Formula BMW ADAC. I don’t know anything about it. Who competes in that? Are the cars the same spec?

    Is it comparable to Formula 3 or GP2?



    Knowing this topic will continue anyway, might as well throw some more ideas in.

    – There’s little actual information on what Vettel did in go-karts, but when he started his first competitive season (you can start at age 8), they said he won everything there was to win (in Germany/Norther Europe I presume) in Bambini karts (under 8).
    – While Paul di Resta seems to want to build his entire career on ‘I beat Vettel in Formula 3’, there are plenty of examples why junior formulae results have (close to) no value once they have reached and showed their stuff in Formula One. Or should we mention that Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle were pretty even in Formula 3, or that Mark Webber beat Fernando Alonso in Formula 3000? Certainly being able to focus on just Formula 3 makes it easier then when you’re driving Formula 3, Formula Renault 3.5 (on par with GP2) and Formula 1 test drives. And if Vettel’s skills in lower formulae were so questionable, certainly BMW could have picked another test driver? Similarly, there are plenty of examples of drivers doing fabulous in lower formulae that couldn’t drive for shit in Formula 1.
    – If you question his record against Liuzzi, what should we think of Alonso’s record against Tarso Marques (who makes Karthikeyan look like a champ).
    – Also, if you consider Top Gear worth mentioning, 5-time consecutive Race of Champions with Schumi is worth a mention.



    @freelittlebirds another point that I forgot to add (it’s like I haven’t taken my coffee or something! – which I have) is suitability is not only between driver and car. It’s also between techniques/tricks racing lines on a circuit.

    For example, some circuits have corners where the grip is in weird places, making the racing line somewhat unconventional. Then it becomes knowledge vs speed.

    (For the purposes of this discussion, I’m defining speed as the ability for a driver to maximise “grip”).

    One such example is Suzuka’s Esses. The racing line there is not an obvious one, and is not, in fact, the line you would imagine you take if you were to look at a layout map of it. What if Driver A hits the grippier line, but doesn’t maximise the grip? What if Driver B drives a more conventional line, but is closer to the limit of grip? What then?



    Formula BMW Adac (won 5 out of 19 in first season, 18 out of 20 in second season) is a feeder spec series to Formula 3, like Formula Nissan (Alonso won 6 out of 15 races in first season) and Formula Renault 2000 (Lewis won 4 out of 17 in first season).




    All other top drivers ARE known quantities. Alonso has raced with Hamilton. Button has raced with Hamilton. Hamilton – no comment necessary. Vettel is the only driver who is an unknown quantity.

    No one’s saying that Vettel’s not fast. As we’ve shown his range of speed is slightly ahead of Webber to close or equal to Hamilton. We are just trying to come up with the likely speed range by reviewing what we know.

    All the points you’ve made about experience, suitability, setup and development are valid and make this harder. The drivers improve over their careers and also get worse at points and with age. No doubt Vettel is an early bloomer – the stats support that and a quick learner and is dedicated and all that good stuff. There’s also no doubt that he’s improving although he did make a few mistakes yesterday just like any top driver may have .

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