For most of us, seeing Sebastian Vettel’s name right up there as the championship leader in this 2017 season is a surprise. After three years of Mercedes' unbelievable dominance, how did things turn around so quickly? What is Even more baffling is the fact that Vettel (and hence Ferrari) have only won four (out of eleven races) while Mercedes has won six — clearly, Mercedes has the quicker car and the more complete package. The answer lies in the man himself, Sebastian Vettel, one of the greatest champions the sport has ever seen. The numbers speak for themselves – as a quadruple world champion, he is in the league of legends like Michael Schumacher (7 wins), Juan Manuel Fangio (5 wins) and Alain Prost (4 wins).
What makes Vettel special
Call it relentless passion or German precision in action, but Vettel at work is something special. Much has been said about his hands-on approach to racing — an interesting example of this is when he chose to visit the Pirelli factory in 2011 (the only driver to find time to do so) to better understand what the tyres they had to offer. His working style includes a high level of commitment with an uncanny ability to understand all aspects of the car and engineering. Vettel has been known to tie together the entire team to focus on the entire package (unlike many other drivers who believe their role ends at just driving the car). The focus and commitment that Vettel brings to the table is also noteworthy. It is this very blinding focus that’s given Helmut Marko and Christian Horner reason to believe that Vettel will win the 2017 World Championship.
In stark contrast to Lewis Hamilton, Vettel is highly guarded about his private life. So much so, that he has no presence on social media! This creates an interesting portrait of the top title contenders – Hamilton (the public one) is emotional, flamboyant and raw while Vettel (the private one) is precise, focussed and yes, ruthless. In case you have any doubt about the ruthless bit, do us a favour and flashback to ‘Multi-21!’
That said, Vettel can be quite the joker when he wants. His impressions of other F1 drivers are top-notch – and he certainly exhibits a great sense of humour when he bestows his racing cars with remarkably racy names.
Why winning 2017 will be special
Without a doubt, winning the 2017 title will be extremely special for Vettel. Apart from earning a promotion in the Drivers’ Hall of Fame, it will be special as his first title for Ferrari. All four of his previous titles have been with Red Bull Racing, and Vettel has never won with a works team. Moreover, Ferrari has the distinction of being the most glorious constructors of them all – and winning a title with Ferrari is the ultimate dream for most racers.
Comparison with Schumacher
Numerous comparisons have been drawn between Schumacher and Vettel – both grew up in German villages and had their first taste of racing at the Kerpen karting track near Cologne. Vettel's unexpected win at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix led the media to dub him the "Baby Schumi" on account of their similar styles of driving and working. In fact, Vettel has been very vocal about the fact that Schumacher was a strong motivation for him to move from Red Bull Racing to Ferrari. It was an unpopular decision back then – and many believed that Vettel’s impatience with Red Bull Racing got the better of him. However, Vettel has quietly and consistently worked behind the scenes to bring lost glory back to the Scuderia. We got the first glimpse of this when Vettel grabbed P3 in the last race of 2016 – signalling the advent of the raging Ferrari.
What lies ahead
While Vettel has a decent lead (read: slight stretching room) this season is surely going down to the wire with both drivers matched blow for blow. The Mercedes may be the quicker car, but Ferrari seems to be able to deliver the complete package just as convincingly. The key perspective here also is that even at tracks that haven’t played to Ferrari’s advantage, or at races where things have gone against their plans, Ferrari and Vettel have lost lesser points than Mercedes and Hamilton and this was Hamilton’s parting shot before the start of the mid-season break. Vettel has managed to be consistent through it all – scoring eight podiums in comparison to Hamilton’s six (interestingly enough, Bottas has also managed eight podiums in the first half of 2017).
Vettel’s edge over Hamilton may come in the fact that Ferrari is certainly pushing him as their No. 1 driver (with Kimi Raikkonen being slotted as their No. 2) and have decided to put their might behind Vettel’s title bid. Mercedes, on the other hand, will be looking at the team’s glory rather than Hamilton’s alone, at least until they seal the Constructors’ title. At the remaining nine races, Hamilton and Vettel have a near-equal record of previous wins (barring Mexico which Vettel is yet to win at), which will only make the title battle more interesting.
Both Mercedes and Ferrari have approached the 2017 regulations differently and this has led to added to the season’s unpredictability. In a season as closely matched as this, we are lucky to be witnessing this epic showdown that will go down in the books as one of the greatest of all time. The story of the 2017 season could well be an inspiration for Rush 2, if not, it will definitely be one that you will relive with your grandkids!
Updated Date: Aug 20, 2017 17:16 PM