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How has Vettel been so good? NBC F1 team attempts to answer

Nov 12, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT

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It’s been the story of the year, on track, in Formula One: how has Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull been so dominant?

A viewpoint form NBC’s Formula One analyst David Hobbs, himself a former driver:

“Sebastian Vettel is an outstanding young kid, from the time he was winning go-kart championships,” Hobbs said during today’s teleconference leading up to this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra).

“He was fortunate enough to be picked up by Red Bull. Then he was the youngest polesitter and youngest winner. Then he joined Red Bull and Adrian Newey.

“I’m not convinced Newey has brought Vettel up. I think Newey has used his genius and coupled it with Sebastian’s genius – somewhat like Colin Chapman, Jimmy Clark did 60 years ago. He used it to suit Sebastian’s driving style. Now he’s winning the championship by 200 points nearly.”

From Steve Matchett, fellow analyst and a former mechanic for the Benetton F1 team (now Lotus) when Michael Schumacher won the first of his two World Championships:

“The sport always throws up an incredible talent, be it a (Alain) Prost, (Juan Manuel) Fangio, Michael Schumacher again, and we now have another one,” Matchett said. “I worked with Schumacher, (Ross) Brawn at Benetton. That was 10-plus years ago. Now he’s come along in a heartbeat; now the sport’s ready for another incredible talent.

“He’s taken a lot of good advice from Michael. How to become a part of the team; become an intrinsic part. Schumacher did it with Benetton and Ferrari, and Vettel is doing exactly the same with Red Bull. The car is tailored toward his style – why wouldn’t they?”

Will Buxton, NBC’s F1 insider and pit reporter, sees Vettel on the ground at every event. He’s a humble individual out of the car, and unflinchingly focused in it.

“What makes him such a superstar? He’s humble, funny, engaging who’s enjoying every facet of life outside the car. And he’s a ruthless operator in the car,” Buxton said. “He’s likeable outside it. But he’s unflinching in his determination to obliterate the competition. He’s physically on top, mentally unchallenged, and from a driving perspective, a joy to behold week in and week out.”

Perhaps Hobbs and Matchett’s booth mate can sum it up best.

“It’s a question only Red Bull and Sebastian can answer,” NBC Sports Group lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey surmised. “Steve used the Tiger Woods analogy. How does Sebastian put two seconds on the field after every lap? How does he win by 31 seconds? Is he that much better? The car? The team? That’s the allure and attraction, and people are in amazement.”

Vettel seeks his eighth straight win – which would be the most in a row in a single season (the all-time mark of nine, set by Alberto Ascari, was done over two seasons from 1952 to 1953) – this Sunday in Austin. It would mark his first win at the track and end Lewis Hamilton’s run of back-to-back USGP victories.

You can see him go for it starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC on Sunday, with an hour pre-race, and lights out at 2 p.m. ET.

  1. mward5508 - Nov 12, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Lewis Hamilton was correct. Fans will lose interest in F1 because it has become boring. I love the sport, but have only watched a handful of races since June. The broadcasters have a job to do and they do it well, but it is hard to get excited about a the 10th and 11th place teams fighting to get their first point.

    My issues with the sport:
    1. The gap between the top team and the bottom teams is too great. How can Red Bull be half a minute faster than the next competitor? All cars share the same technology and formula specs and formula one is proud to say its drivers are the best in the world. Well, Is there some 30-second technological do-dad on Seb’s car that creates that advantage, or are the other driver’s skills inherently 30-seconds worse than Seb. The sport could use some parity (it works for the NFL). Maybe change the point system so that points for the the top five finishers in each race are a much tighter e.i, 10 for first 9 for second, 8 for third, etc. Additional fractions of a point could be earned for fastest lap, pole, quickest pit for tire change (puts additional pressure on pit crews), longest stint on hard, longest stint on soft.
    2. This year’s season seems very staged. I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but to me, it doesn’t feel like the season has played out organically, that every result was determined completely by chance, that the positions the drivers finished in each race was really the position they earned, that there was no man-mad interference or manipulation, what so ever. This season has that yucky, smokey back room kind of feel. Team orders certainly help create that feel, but there is something else. There is no way one Red Bull car could be so dominant, while the other could be so unreliable, or that week end and week out, strategies could be so different — one one the money, one way off the mark. Oh, well, what can you do?

    • lowboytrucking - Nov 13, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      Be careful, if you say anything bad about Vettel, the F1 police come knocking at your door.

      I for one have no interest in who wins or loses, it doesn’t phase me in any way. I do however, have interest in watching an entertaining race, not a convoy. I started watching in the late 80’s when I was old enough to understand it, so my pre 87-88 racing knowledge isn’t all that good minus what I can research. That scoring was ridiculous, the current scoring is fine, maybe a 5 point gap between first and 2nd.

      While I do agree this year does feel staged, I don’t think it was. It was just an excellent design, Seb is a good driver, not the best, but good. The difference is, even back when Senna and Prost were demolishing the field, they had to at least fight each other. They also had competitors in Piquett, Mansell, Hill. There were a few people that fought for the position every year.

      Its always been the car though. The team with the best car wins. For anyone to say its all the same is stupid. Explain how Caterham and Marussia are constantly 3-4 seconds a lap slower than anyone else.

      IF Vettel is the best, put him in a Marussa and see where he finishes. And no i’m not interested in the one race from 5 years ago he won in the Toro.

    • redrock81 - Nov 14, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      @mward5508 in F1 its about who can work the loopholes. RB has. Newey is back to his old glory days and has managed to design a car that is both reliable and fast. For now RB and Newey are peerless and Vettel is at the center of it all. No matter how people deny it. He is no. 1 driver there.

      Vettel is good but you have to wonder if it is more him or the car. He has been unchallenged this season. The reason why I’m so unconvinced with Vettel is that he hasn’t really shown any range other than just being fast. And I do agree that this season feels very staged.

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