The Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship trophy is a thing of beauty. The likelihood is, however, that you may have never seen it before because, for reasons unknown, it is kept under wraps until the end-of-season FIA awards ceremony, which you’re not invited to.
Quite why it’s never presented to the season’s best driver on the podium of the title-sealing race is beyond me. It does seem rather preposterous that we do not see them receive what they have been competing for all year long, and that the driver is unable to soak up the adulation while showing off the elusive silverware.
Perhaps it was just me – I don’t think it is – but for a race that produced this year’s title winner, in the form of Sebastian Vettel once again, yesterday’s grand prix had a somewhat anti-climatic feel to it. A spot of WDC trophy waving in front his fans and groupies would have been a nice touch and would have certainly added to the occasion.
I’m pretty sure that Vettel – and any other driver for that matter – would share a similar opinion, and the fact his third place trophy sat languishing in the Red Bull garage long after the Japanese Grand Prix says it all.
But regardless of any tokens of victory, one point still remains: Vettel has joined an illustrious list of Suzuka-crowned F1 champions; the result of what has been a phenomenal season for the German racer.
There’s been nothing to stop Vettel from defending his title this year. He’s dominated the sport this season in a way not seen since Michael Schumacher in the early part of this millennium. Killer qualifying laps on Saturdays, race controlling romps to victory on Sundays, that’s been Vettel’s plan of action, and who wouldn’t prefer to lead from the front, rather than have to claw their way there?
Because of this, he still attracts plenty of criticism from many an armchair critic who are quick to mention his supposed weakness in the overtaking department.
It is, of course, difficult to pass people when you start the majority of your races from pole, but when he’s needed to make decisive manoeuvres to win, that’s exactly what he’s done.
His KERS-less overtake of Jenson Button at Melbourne, around the outside of the McLaren which ran ahead of him following his first pitstop, the two stunning quick fire moves on Button and Felipe Massa on his outlap during the Spanish Grand Prix and, of course, that overtake on Fernando Alonso which produced his finest win of the season in the Italian Grand Prix.
Despite clinching an unexpected pole, it wasn’t Vettel who lead at Monza, but Ferrari’s Spaniard driver. After five laps of being on Alonso’s gearbox, Vettel took to the grass on the exit of Curve Grande – at an estimated 160mph – and produced the most bottom-clenching moment of the season, before going on to win the race comfortably, and surely confounding his detractors who claim he can’t overtake as well.
Yes, he’s made some mistakes in 2011. The one everyone remembers is when he slid off during the closing stages of the Canadian Grand Prix and let Button by on the final lap – his tyres devoid of grip after having to attack in order to remain one second ahead of the McLaren when reaching the DRS zone. But there was every possibility that he might have been passed by Button later on that lap anyway.
That mistake, plus an early spin in the German Grand Prix, has been the only real blots on his copybook this year. He has otherwise been immaculate and not put a foot wrong, and the secret to his domination this season? Preparation.
A recent article on Autosport.com (subscription required) revealed that he was the only F1 driver to undertake a pre-season visit to Pirelli’s Milan base in order to gain an advantage over his rivals in understanding this year’s rubber. This, and extensive tyre testing in Abu Dhabi last year, appears to have paid dividends as he’s embraced the characteristics of the new tyres, while others (including his team-mate) have struggled to adapt.
Time will of course tell how exceptional Vettel is with the results he manages to achieve. What he has accomplished in such a short space of time is nothing short of amazing, and at barely 24 years old, there’s every sign of greater things to come as he continues to evolve as a driver and becomes an all-time great.
Grounded, motivated, and full of energy. There’s nothing to stop the lethal Vettel-Red Bull combination crushing the field once again next year, and the following year, and the one after that…