It’s almost a fortnight since Sebastian Vettel ended his fourth consecutive F1 title-winning season with victory at Interlagos in the Brazilian grand prix. Getting those winter F1 withdrawal symptoms already? I’d wager you’re not – Vettel’s nine straight wins since August has divided F1 fans.
Some say it’s a return to the bad old days of Schumacher whitewashes and processional races for also-rans; others that we’re watching the consolidation of an all-time sporting great. After all, few chastise Lionel Messi for his footballing genius, neither has Roger Federer been roundly booed while picking up any of his 17 grand slam titles (to date).
Super-Seb has, though, and no amount of post-race donuts can disguise the fact he isn’t adored by fans the same way we fickle F1-watchers hold Raikkonen, Kobayashi, and (dare I say it) Alonso dear.
So, in the wake of Vettel’s relentless march into the F1 record books, here's a batch of reminders that behind the pointy finger and tearful team radio exchanges, he’s still fallible and occasionally prone to error behind the wheel…
1) Don’t crash into the boss
Long before Vettel got his chance in the cockpit of a bona fide Red Bull, he raced for its sister team, Toro Rosso. At a soaking 2007 Japanese GP at the Fuji Speedway, third-place Vettel stuffed his car into the back of Red Bull overlords’ car Mark Webber, punting them both out of the race – and costing Webber second position. Webber was later quoted as saying ‘It's kids isn't it... kids with not enough experience – you do a good job and then they f**k it all up.’ Vettel was filmed crying after the incident, horrified he’d cost points for both Toro Rosso and the Red Bull teams.
2) It’s not over until it’s over
The 2011 Canadian GP was a chaotic, delayed, deluged affair – and F1 entertainment at its very best. McLaren’s Jenson Button survived a collision with teammate Lewis Hamilton, a drive-through penalty, and the worst the Montreal weather could throw at him to find himself placed dead last after a collision with Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on lap 37. Yet in the closing stages he cut through the field, chased down the struggling Vettel, and bullied him into losing his bottle within just a few corners of victory. One of the all-time great motoring racing climaxes – unless you’re a Vettel fan.
3) Not such a nutcase after all
Frenchman Romain Grosjean did much to repair his damaged reputation during the 2013 season, after several first-lap incidents caused him a one-race ban in 2012, and Mark Webber to brand him ‘a first-lap nutcase’. Yet here he is in an identical KTM X-Bow to Seb, taking him on at the 2012 Race of Champions. As Vettel slews around the circuit, clipping barriers and smoking tyres, Grosjean’s neater style humiliates the German fair and square. Maybe it is all down to Adrian Newey after all…
4) Whose fault was that?
The incident at the 2011 Turkey GP arguably marks the point where Red Bull’s teammates truly became best of enemies. Seb dives up the inside of Mark over a crest, but then appears to subtly feint back across the track once his car’s nose is ahead. Bad move. Webber holds his line rather than taking avoiding action (as the rules state he is entitled to do), and he loses the lead. Vettel’s race is over, Jenson Button profits, and you can bet it was hell of a frosty debrief after the press conference.
5) Multi 21, Seb…
Bookending Vettel’s switch from tearful Webber protégé to arch enemy is this infamous incident from the 2013 Malaysian GP. While we respect Vettel’s ruthless desire to win, his blatant disregard for team orders, for team spirit, and his aggressive driving did absolutely nothing for his fragile relationship with the F1 fans who begrudge him the dominant success sustained since cracking that first title in 2010. When Vettel’s career is considered after his retirement, this Malaysia incident may well be looked at as his ‘Schumacher versus Villeneuve moment’ – a poor sporting gesture that poisons his well of record-breaking greatness. Cracking entertainment, mind…
>> Does Sebastian Vettel warrant a claim as the greatest racing driver of all time? Declare your support (or otherwise) in the comments below