Friday, 5 August 2011

Vettel's Red Bull Wings Him To The Verge Of Championship Glory

By Shane Thomas

Last year, Formula 1 started their season with what looked to be the most open championship race in history. With as many as six men being tipped for the title, anticipation for the sport was at its height. And it proved to be a thrilling title chase, with three men in with a chance to be World Champion in the season's final race. In the end it was Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel who grasped his opportunity to become Formula 1's youngest ever World Champion.

The 2011 season however, has been more of a closed shop. With Vettel being the shop's sole proprietor. For most of the first half of this season, Vettel has made the most of a car that is even better than last year's model to open up an almost unassailable lead at the top of the drivers championship. The inconsistent displays of his teammate, Mark Webber have mattered little as Vettel's dominance means that Red Bull already have one hand on the constructors championship for another season. Team principal Christian Horner runs a tight ship, and has his mechanics motivated to get the very best out of Vettel's car. And in Adrian Newey, Horner probably has the most accomplished technician in the pit lane right now.

However, Vettel has shown signs of vulnerability in recent races. The plan for this season has been to get the German on pole position, and then ensure he gets off the starting line quickly, giving Red Bull total leverage to control the outcome of the race. But there has been a steady improvement from the McLarens of Jenson Button & Lewis Hamilton. And the closing stages of the British Grand Prix showed that Webber refuses to play lackey to Vettel, regardless of what Horner says. If he can get his act together after the mid-season break, he could make things awkward for his teammate.

Sadly, for neutrals, making things awkward for the current World Champion is the best that can be hoped for. Hamilton & Button have pulled up tress over the past month, doing their best to disrupt the Red Bull procession to the title. They have shown great opportunism in unfavourable weather conditions to give Vettel a bloody nose in the past couple of Grand Prix's.

This season Vettel has proved that there is no better front-runner in Formula 1 right now. But when he has to scrap & scramble his way to victory he can be found wanting, and his inability to dominate when the rain falls is worrying for a guy who's ostensibly the best in the business. All the sport's great names tend to shine when the track gets damp, but the opposite seems to be the case with Vettel.

However, his points lead is so gargantuan that it would take one of sport's greatest acts of choking for him to fail to retain his world title. However, just as Formula 1 was looking to have as much unpredictability as a Kate Hudson comedy (the term "Kate Hudson comedy" may be an oxymoron), the likes of Button, Hamilton, Webber & Fernando Alonso have shown that they intend to make the German's path to the championship as arduous as possible. It looks as if Formula 1 may be worth watching again when it returns from its break in 3 weeks.

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