Is Vettel's success all about the car?

Sebastian Vettel and his No. 1 Red Bull Renault team go onto Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix with the...

Sebastian Vettel and his No. 1 Red Bull Renault team go onto Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix with the opportunity to become the sport's youngest three-time winner, but Vettel's detractors suggest his suggest is do more to his car than his skills. (REUTERS)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:48 PM ET

Sebastian Vettel and his No. 1 Red Bull Renault team go onto Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix — the finale of the 2012 Formula 1 season — with the opportunity to make history.

Should he win the F-1 world driving championship — and with a 13-point lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso he is the heavy favourite — Vettel, at 25-years-old, will go into the record books as the youngest three-time winner in the sport.

Yes, younger than Michael Schumacher and younger than Juan Manuel Fangio.

Yet on he cusp of that achievement talk in F-1 circles is that Vettel’s success has more to do with the Red Bull Renault race car he drives than with the talent he possesses.

This isn’t just coming from the travelling media fan clubs that populate the F-1 press tents — you knows those, English, French, Italian and German cheerleaders disguised as journalists.

It is coming from fellow drivers and they are not hiding under the cowardly cloak of anonymity.

This week McLaren’s Jenson Button spoke out about how he figured Alonso was a much superior driver to Vettel and would be this year’s champion if it were not for the under-performing F2012 Ferrari.

When asked directly who he thought was the better driver, Button answered: “Probably Fernando, because he’s been there from the word go and he hasn’t really made any mistakes this year and he’s been consistently quick.”

The addendum, of course, is that Alonso is the victim of Ferrari’s inability to give him a fast car.

“He’s done a very good job in the car he has,” Button said.

However, he had no similar praise for Vettel.

“Seb’s been more inconsistent this year,” Button said. “The last few races he’s been fantastic with a great car.

“I think if you look at the season as a whole, consistency does mean a lot, and it’s good to see that Fernando has been that good at every race. Very impressive to see that performance every race.”

The McLaren driver lamented the fact that Alonso was so handicapped in the fight with Vettel for a third championship.

“I said at the first race I didn’t think (Alonso) had a chance,” Button said. “He was a second off in qualifying, or even more.

“They’ve done a good job, and he’s done a great job.”

Was this just a case of sour grapes that Button and his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton have not been able to consistently beat Vettel over the past two seasons?

Vettel thinks the whole premise is suspect. Upon hearing Button’s point of view the young German asked when was the last time a champion won in a less than dominant race car.

“I think if you look back I don’t know how far, as far as I can look back, there were never people really, really successful in a really bad car,” he said.

“It is a natural thing to happen: One day you have a strong driver in a strong team so you end up with a strong combination and that is difficult to beat.”

Vettel said that he, too, has raced cars deemed back markers — first with BMW Sauber and then with Toro Rosso.

“We have all been in that situation,” he said.

Michael started in a Jordan, which was not competitive, but had some highlights, Fernando started in a Minardi and set some highlights.

“I started at BMW replacing Robert (Kubica) for one race, which was a great chance, and then afterwards got the seat in Toro Rosso, which at the time was not a competitive car, but we did a good job and even won a race.”

Vettel said this shows he was not handed his championships on a silver platter but and to prove himself to earn his advent to Red Bull.

“The step up to Red Bull Racing was great fun and a fantastic season — the first time to be competitive; to finish on the podium and win races,” he said. “It was a fairly normal way I went.”

It is important to remember that before Vettel arrived on the scene, Red Bull did not show the dominant form that started in 2010, in Vettel’s second season with the team.

That aside, it is difficult to imagine why Vettel is the victim of this kind of criticism. All he has done is win and rather than the dour personalities of many past champions — like Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen — F-1 now has a truly gregarious champion.

MONEY TALKS

A pair of Canadian youngsters have won major racing championships in Europe over the course of the past two seasons.

There was Quebec’s Bruno Spengler, who slayed the mighty Mercedes factory team this year in the DTM Touring Car championship in his first season with BMW.

And last season Ontario’s Robert Wickens won the Formula Renault 3.5 championship.

In both cases the achievements should have led to a Formula 1 job, or at the very least, a reserve driver role.

Certainly if Spengler, say, grew up in Milan instead of Saint-Hippolyte, just north of Montreal, or Wickens had be reared in Paris, instead of Guelph, both might be in F-1 this season.

So it was not much of shock to learn Friday that two drivers of lesser talent and accomplishments — Mexico’s Esteban Gutierrez and France’s Charles Pic — will be in F-1 next season with Sauber and Caterham respectively.

It will be a first season for Gutierrez and a second season for Pic.

What Pic and Gutierrez have that Spengler and Wickens don’t, however, are backers with very deep pockets.

Gutierrez has Carlos Slim, Mexico’s wealthiest man, writing cheques to Sauber and Pic has the international sports agency Lagardere Unlimited — which also represents golfer Phil Mickelson and NBA star Ricky Rubio — on his team.

 


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