F1 Driver Review: Sebastian Vettel

1 Comment

After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship season, my colleague Chris Estrada and I are taking a look back on how each of the 23 Formula One drivers who took to the grid fared this past year.

We start, inevitably, with now four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel…

SEBASTIAN VETTEL

No. 1 Red Bull-Renault
2013 Stats: Champion, 13 Wins, 17 Podiums, 18 Top-5s, 18 Top-10s, 684 Laps Led
Average Start: 2.1
Average Finish: 2.6
DNFs: 1

DiZinno says: Look at Vettel’s past three titles, and then look at 2013 by comparison to see the decided brilliance that this year’s has accomplished by comparison. In 2010, Vettel won when Ferrari mirrored the wrong Red Bull strategy of teammate Mark Webber at Abu Dhabi. In 2011, Vettel was dominant, and pretty much unchallenged from the start of the year. A year ago, Vettel outlasted Fernando Alonso, who took a far inferior car within a single race and a handful of points from the title. This year, good but not great in the first half, and otherworldly in the second, it seemed as though Vettel was in his own class. He still has his detractors, but they are fewer by the day. Right now driver and team have maximized F1’s current formula; no one else has come close.

Estrada says: Things were looking good early on for a solid World Championship battle, but in the second half, Vettel proceeded to stink up the show with an incredible display of power. Clearly, the RB9 was loving the new tires rolled out by Pirelli in mid-season, but Vettel still showed how immensely talented he is behind the wheel. Following his win at the United States Grand Prix, Vettel asked his Red Bull mates to “remember these days.” Perhaps we also need to do that. Because right now, we are simply watching the best driver of his era continue to build one of the greatest careers in Formula One history.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.