Saturday, 15 October 2011

Splash & Dash: Why Vettel's dominance is good for F1

The 2011 Japanese grand prix has been run and won with a beautiful drive from Jenson Button, while Sebastian Vettel earned the final point (plus a few more) to clinch the 2011 drivers championship, completing back to back world championships for the 24 year old German.  Vettel has been dominant in 2011, wrapping up the championship with 4 races remaining before the season ends.  He has been on pole for 12 of the 15 races to date in 2011, starting from 2nd twice and 3rd once.  He has finished all 15 races so far, being on the top step of the podium 9 times, 2nd place 4 times, 3rd place once and 4th place once.  These are inpressive statistics that support an impressive season of racing, and regardless of which team shirt you choose to wear on Sundays, the young man deserves the respect of all F1 fans.

What's more, Sebastian is entertaining, communicative, generous and humble in front of the press, and this is in his English press engagements.  He jokes with the press and the other drivers.  He thanks the team, and occasionally the sponsors.  If you want proof of this, read the transcript of the post-race press conference in Japan.  The banter between Vettel and Button is wonderfully refreshing following years of monotone commentary from the leading drivers. 

Vettel loves being in F1.  He loves winning in F1.  The only drawback seems to be The Finger, and perhaps this wouldn't be so offensive if we hadn't seen it so many times this year.  This is not to say that Sebastian isn't aggressive.  When things are not going well he gets angry, you can see it in his eyes and body language, however he keeps a bottle on it in the public arena.  I'd be very surprised if he maintains this same composure behind closed doors, but you don't become a world champion in any field if you happily accept failures.

Sebastian Vettel is a product of the Red Bull Junior Team, picked up at age 12 and sponsored by the energy drink company through his career to date.  The rumour goes that Red Bull did not seek their logos to be displayed on the young Vettel's kart or clothing as they did not want to be seen to promote their product to such a young audience. 

The Red Bull Junior program is designed to support future F1 stars and with Sebastian Vettel the program has realised its ambitions of having a Red Bull supported junior win the F1 world championship in a Red Bull car.  This is quite an achievement and has come at quite a cost for Red Bull.  Motor racing in all its forms is expensive, but none more so than Formula 1.  Formula 1 is even more expensive for Red Bull which is supporting two F1 teams.  The problem with the cost of an F1 program, particularly for an organisation that does not have F1 as its core business, is that if you do not achieve results, then it becomes questionable as to whether you are benefiting from your participation in F1.  Add to this the share of commercial revenues that each team receives based on their finishing position in the season and a lack of results becomes even more costly.  This is one, not the only, reason that we have seen Toyota, Honda, BMW and Renault leave the sport as manufacturers in recent years.

Red Bull is in a different position to car manufacturers in that their brand is not tarnished by failing to win.  In some respects just having a presence in F1 is enough to demonstrate a commitment to extreme sports.  However, as a winning team, Red Bull is much more likely to stay in F1.  Given that they have brought Sebastian Vettel, Sebastian Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne to the F1 grid in 2011 and in the past have supported Enrique Bernoldi, Karun Chandhok, Robert Doornbos, Patrick Friesacher, Narain Karthikeyan, Christian Klien, Vitantanio Liuzzi and Scott Speed we can only hope that Red Bull continue to develop talented youngsters and feed them to the F1 teams.

Between the drivers, the teams and the talented staff within those teams, there is a lot for us F1 fans to be grateful for in the existence of Mr Mateschitz and his energy drink company.

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