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While calling himself “a big Sebastian Vettel fan,” Sir Jackie Stewart says people shouldn’t be crowing the two-time Formula 1 champ as an all-time great just yet.

“If you’ve got a superior car, it’s relatively easy to win the championship,” he told the BBC.

“To really show you’re one of the greatest, you have to deliver when you haven’t got the best machinery.”

And he added this caveat: “I have the highest respect for Sebastian, but he could not have achieved what he has without the [Red Bull design chief] Adrian Newey factor.”

Agree? Disagree? I wonder if your perspective has anything to do with how highly you rate Mark Webber, whom Vettel has out-classed on his way to those two titles.

Speaking of Mark, the BBC has posted his latest column, and he’s all measured:

“The three races in Asia – Singapore, Japan and Korea – have been good for my Red Bull team. No-one’s getting carried away but we are starting to find some form at the right point of the championship,” Webber writes.

“We put some performance on the car in Singapore, and that has started to unravel a few little paths for us in terms of upping our confidence level with what the car needed.

“It has been an up-and-down year for everyone.”

I think the following is the most interesting bit — racewise:

We, like the other teams, know where we were last year. That was a lot faster car because the regulations were looser.

Now the regulations are a lot tighter you want to get back to where you were, but the goalposts are different.

It’s like getting to the top of a tree and certain branches have been taken out. You’re trying to work out how to get to the next branch. When you do, that opens up another area, and so on.

This year’s RB8 might look similar to last year’s RB7 but it’s a very different racing car and things that work on this car would not have worked on last year’s car and vice versa.

It’s not just addressing the absence of the blown diffuser at the back of the car.

There have been areas of the floor, details of front wing, a little bit of the DRS overtaking aid. There are so many areas where you have to make small improvements, and that’s what the team have done.

I call that the most interesting racewise because Mark also gives us this:

Before going to Korea from Japan, I did a promotional event with Usain Bolt which involved me driving him from Tokyo airport into the city.

The event was based around Nissan’s GT-R sportscar, which Usain is a big fan of.

He was going: “I’m going to get one of these. What modifications should I get done to it?”

So I gave him a few facts about what’s important in a really, really quick road car.

I said: “Look, make it as light as possible. F1 drivers, we love cars to stop and accelerate and turn. It’s not just always about horsepower.”

Now he wants to make his GT-R even lighter than it already is, which will improve the brakes even more.

Webber also has his say about the Red Bull skydiving thing… you might have heard about it.

Back to Stewart. He thinks Vettel has the inside line on this year’s driver’s title, and he had a few things to say about Vettel’s rumored move to Ferrari:

“I think that’s premature. He would be mad to leave Red Bull at the present time.

“I know there would be a difference in their basic salary, but he’s in a position where he’s winning grands prix.

“He’s won 25 races and is going to knock me off my perch before the end of the season – but he’s only 25 and still has time to move.”

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  • Phil

    I don’t know about this. I believe that Adrian Newey is a great guy and Vettel has really benefitted from that. But how do we guys rate drivers? We compare them to their team mates since it’s all we have.

    – Bourdais -> clearly beaten by vettel, didn’t do too badly in IndyCar in 2011 and his position in the final results is just because he doesn’t drive on ovals thus he can’t pick up any points there

    – Webbo -> Vettel always had the edge. Mark did an outstanding job at Minardi, did well at Jaguar, beat Rosberg, who we all think is brilliant, at williams, and then agaiin outperformed Coulthard in the last few years of his carreer. Vettel? no chance, he had the edge at the beginning of 2010…

    since then seb has matured to an extent that his driving should not just be put down to the car. look where webber was in a few of the last races…

    • JTW

      ” … beat Rosberg, who we all think is brilliant …” Am I in the minority? Because I haven’t seen too much to tell me he’s brilliant.

      • Underwhelming is the term I’d use to describe Rosberg.

  • Given Vettel’s pole position statistics and record breaking achievements, I’d say that what makes Vettel superb is his uncanny qualifying performance. Couple this with a car that is heavily, heavily aero-dependent and you have a combination for getting in the front and pulling away at the front due to clear air. Mark’s biggest failures have been his qualifying inconsistency and his horrifically bad starts. He just doesn’t gain that clear-air advantage that a car like the RB8 excels in. There haven’t been too many races where Vettel has been able to make massive gains when he starts further back on the grid. Sure, there have been a few strong through-the-pack-drives, but not too many.

    I’d have to agree with Stewart on this one, and that’s not discounting Vettel’s qualifying skills, which are the business.

  • I think Sir Jackie has the right of it. Vettel has done great things in Formula 1. I still think his strongest achievement was his win from pole at Monza with STR. While at Red Bull, he’s consistently bested “Mawk Weebah”, but his overall fate on the grid has depended upon the strength of the RB chassis. Without Adrian Newey, we would still be talking about how good Vettel is, but I doubt we’d be calling him a two-time champion.

  • UAN

    Stewart is right to say that it is still too early to say Vettel is an all time great, but he’s really speaking bunk that it’s “relatively easy to win the championship” with superior machinery. Ask Hamilton and Button over at McLaren how easy winning the championship this year is. In fact, if either Vettel or Alonso win the championship this year, and it’s highly probable that one of those two will, they would have won without a car that was superior for the vast majority of the season.

    The fact is, most champions have won in the best cars on the grid. Senna, considered the all time best by many was also driving in the dominant car of its time. And when he wasn’t winning in a McLaren, Prost was — in a McLaren. In 1994 Senna left McLaren (and wanted to in 1993) to go to Williams to drive in the best car at that time (Newey designed as well). It’s really an iterative process. The teams with the best cars want the best drivers. The best drivers want to be in the best cars/teams.

    I’m not sure which current driver, except for Kimi in 2007, won in a car that wasn’t the best overall? 2007 also is further proof that having superior machinery doesn’t make winning the championship easy. Ask Alonso and Hamilton about that.

    Vettel owes a lot to Newey for sure, but the same aero that helps the Redbull run fast in clear air also makes it much much harder for the car to move up through the field. The reason why Vettel is in the position he is this year is because he’s done some excellent drives from far down the field to score decent points (China and Monaco come to mind). In 2010 he had a first lap puncture at the beginning of the first lap at Silverton putting him dead last, yet he came back to finish 7th, without DRS and with the bullet proof Bridgestones everyone was running. He should also get better in the years ahead.

    Right now the only current driver who is an all time great is Schumacher. I think Vettel, Alonso, and possibly Hamilton would fall into the category of being “potential all time greats”.

    • dude

      I’ve already pre-announced Vettel as 3 time world champions and RedBull manu of 2012 after Korea, but I can’t place him in the same league as Senna, even different car and era asides.

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      Agreed…. (mostly).

      Although I’d have to point out that the cars of Senna/Prost times compared to today’s era are totally incomparable. A large part of the aura of respect for the genius of Ayrton Senna was his ability to wrestle the non-traction controlled – modest aero – manual gear shift – turbo monsters (Lotus 97T/98T McLaren MP4-1 etc) with a 1000 bhp engines around the track (wet or dry) seemingly ‘over the limit’ of possible cornering grip; and yet storm past mere F1 mortals. Estoril – Portugal 1985 and Brands Hatch – UK 1993 in the extreme wet – come to mind especially. It is hard to know if the current format of F1 car engineering would 1) suit Ayrton’s raw go-kart like talents at all, or 2). if Ayrton would even want to bother to stay in Formula 1 nowadays – given the type of tamed-car and tyre regs he’d have to put up with. Ayrton Senna was close to leaving F1 when the cursed ‘active suspension’ and driving aids wars broke out in 1992-1993. It wasn’t just becuase the Williams and Benetons were unfairly advantaged – Senna lost the passion for raw driving in that F1 epoch. I wish he would have driven in Indy with Haas-Newman in 1994 myself (20-20 hindsight n all).

      Jack Flash.

      • Christian

        “Ayrton Senna was close to leaving F1 when the cursed ‘active suspension’ and driving aids wars broke out in 1992-1993. It wasn’t just becuase the Williams and Benetons were unfairly advantaged – Senna lost the passion for raw driving in that F1 epoch. I wish he would have driven in Indy with Haas-Newman in 1994 myself.”

        Though he did complain about the abolishment of these driving aids when he himself had moved to Williams. ;-)

  • TurboPhoenix

    I can’t say if Sir Jackie is right or wrong on this one, but one thing I would like to see is Vettel in a not-so-good car at this point of his career. See if he can do what Alonso did this year.

  • Philippe

    All I have to say is: Give a great car to most F1 drivers and they’ll win a lot of races. Give a great car to Vettel and he’ll dominate. (Not unlike a certain Schumacher…)

    It’s one thing to have the best car, but you still have to deliver. That’s something that Button said last year regarding Vettel’s dominance and I’d say he’s pretty spot on. Espacially when you look at what he and Hamilton have done with what has been the best car for the majority of this season: Currently 4th and 6th in the standings…

    The guy won a race in a Toro Rosso when he was 21! That was the 6th fastest car that year, that means 10 drivers in better cars. McLaren, Ferrari, BMW, Renault and Toyota all had better cars in 2008.
    Last year, 11 wins. The only other driver to win that many races in a season is Schumacher.
    Today, at 25, he already has 25 wins (winning 25% of the Grand Prix he’s raced).
    Sure, he’s had the best car in 2010 and 2011, but guess what, so did Alonso in 2005-2006, Senna in 1988, 1990-1991 and the list goes on.

    This season is far from over, but IF he is champion (wich would mean winning the championship without the best car since McLaren had it for the majority of the year) he would join Fangio and Schumacher as the only drivers to win 3 titles in a row.
    And he is still so young, he’s still improving. Can’t wait to see this guy at his peak.

    The BBC has a F1’s Greatest Drivers list this year and they placed Vettel 8th (in front of Alonso 10th and Hamilton 15th). Personally, I agree with that. But I would have put him 7th in front of Jackie Stewart… ;-)
    By the end of his career he’ll probably be in the top 5 of all time greats.

  • Rik

    I get tired of hearing that the “he has the best car” or “thank god for Newey” when in fact that the driver, barring a huge crash, that wins, wins because he has the best car. PERIOD.

    People have been saying this crap for decades. They all said the same thing about Shumacher at Benneton when he won, he didn’t have a Williams or McLaren. Then they said cry’d the same song for Alonso at Renault, he did have a Ferrari nor McLaren. Yet they won and won again and it’s because they had a damn good car.

    Secret to success in racing. Have a Damn good car and Don’t Make Mistakes! The rest falls into place at the finish line. No one wins with a POS car, Shumacher prove’d that with the Mercedes the past three years and Vettel proved that the first 1/2 of the 2012 season. The depressing thing is that Red Bull took it easy for the first half of the season and then turned the light switch on and put themselves on top in only three races. (Yes at the expense of Alonso’s bad luck as the Ferrari is not a slow car. Alonso has been on the podium for the past 5 races minus his DNF’s. That doesn’t happen with an HRT nor Force India)

    Vettel has a damn good car “at times” and he makes few mistakes. When these two things are present he wins the race. The team also has to be given respect as the have to produce and factor into the “mistake” department. Look at Hamilton in Singapore.