Bien avant de s’illustrer chez McLaren, Ferrari ou Renault en F1, Patrick Tambay...
Struggling World Champion…
During the last four seasons we all have been witnesses of Sebastian Vettel domination, thanks also to an imperial Red Bull/Renault combination and a fantastic team that was at his absolute disposal.
After his formidable string of 9 victories in a row in the last 9 GPs of 2013, very few had little doubt that he was the best driver of the season and many pointed him as one of the best of sport history. Anyway, there was a kind of “tacit agreement” that Vettel should face not having the best combination and see how he was going to perform under such circumstances to give him the “legend” status… it was not other than Fernando Alonso the first one to say so.
Now, only five months after his 9 consecutive victories, we’re all surprised. I don’t think that there’s a single fan out there that could have imagined this situation. Yes, it’s just the start of 2014 season, but 4 GPs are more than enough to get some conclusions: one of them is that Vettel is being trashed by Ricciardo. We all agree, don’t we?
In raw speed, Ricciardo outqualified Vettel by 3 to 1. And the same happens in the fastest race laps department.
During two last GPs (Bahrein and China) Vettel was radioed to let Ricciardo pass him, as the latest was clearly faster. And two times Vettel initially defied the “order” but finally let Ricciardo move ahead. Anyway, Ricciardo had to muscle pass his team-mate in Sakhir (that was the second time during the race), where the current World Champion resisted as much as he could. So, “like it or not”, Vettel was forced to capitulate…
While Vettel trails Ricciardo in the Championship standings by 33 to 24, it’s pretty clear that it’s due to Ricciardo’s disqualifying from 2nd place in Melbourne and his retirement in Sepang, when he was on his way to fourth. It could certainly be 54 to 33 for the young Australian…
Today Christian Horner said that Vettel’s issues are down to set-up. And Niki Lauda adds that Vettel has forgotten how to drive other car than the best of the field.
Agree with these concepts or not, one has to accept that Vettel is surely the driver that is struggling most with these new regulations. Or, at least, that he’s the driver that has lost more competitiveness in this month and a half.
For those who relied on data, facts and numbers, I have another subtle issue. Leave apart the clear supremacy of Ricciardo.
Let’s think of past World Champions and ask which of them have been clearly outclassed by their respective team-mates.
I found that the most recent one is Jody Scheckter, back in 1980. But bear in mind that Scheckter was not only in his “retirement year” but also (and most) that his team-mate was the already established, fantastic, second to none in raw speed, Gilles Villeneuve.
Now, even if we can concede that Daniel Ricciardo is a very good driver, it’s also true that the Australian has yet to climb to a F1 podium.
A huge difference, I think!
Maybe I’m rushing a bit, but my feeling is that many “gave too many wings” to Vettel all these years. I conclude, as I did last year, that the current World Champion (x4!!) has all to be considered a great driver, but has little chance to be a true legend.
Time will tell…
Many thanks to Paul-Henri Cahier (www.f1-photo.com) for his kind permission to reproduce his photos.