Post Michael Schumacher’s reign in Formula 1, every German racer eying a spot in the sport was to be compared (positively or negatively) to the legend. It was their fate. Is Ralf Schumacher like his brother? Does Nico Hulkenberg have what it takes? The same thing for the other German Nico, Nico Rosberg. Can Adrian Su…no, he wasn’t compared, unfortunately. Neither was Nick Heidfeld.
Then, the next question is asked of our future Schumi candidates: When will they be ready? That is what we have been wondering about Sebastian Vettel for a long, long time. There are always bursts of performance, of experience and wisdom at the wheel that entertains our thought of him being the next World Champion. And then, it withers away in a spin, or a crash, due to a hot and impatient head.
Spa Francorchamps, August 29th, 2010, was a day Sebastian would prefer to forget. For several laps during the opening phase of the race, he was tucked behind Jenson Button (who had suffered damage to his front wing earlier in the race). He had been holding up a number of cars and Sebastian was getting edgy. Exiting Blachimont on lap 16, he thought he had seen a gap to jump (after contemplating a move in 0.2 seconds). Less than a second later – Sebastian prepared to dive and Jenson broke, preparing for turn 18. His braking area took Sebastian by surprise and as he swerved to avoid the McLaren, slid over a wet spot and lost control, whipping into the left side of Jenson’s number 1 car. 18 and 15 points were gone – instantly.
“I was close, I was faster than him. The moment Robert [Kubica] got close behind I knew that he could pass us on the straight because we are not the fastest on the straight. I was very close a couple of times, unfortunately never really close enough.
“I tried to out-brake him on the outside. When I changed from the inside to the outside, I lost the car under braking on the bump and then I then I couldn’t really control it anymore and unfortunately crashed into him,” read Autosport.com.
Ever since his win at Monza in 2008…in a Toro Rosso, the world was able to confirm their belief in the talents Vettel possessed. He was to shine and everyone wanted him to shine the moment he stepped into the bigger, more prestigious shoes at Redbull Racing.
We forget that he just turned 23 on July 3rd, 2010. We forget that his whole career has only spanned as long as some driver’s have spend in Formula 1 (fifteen years). Barrichello, for example has been with the sport since 1993. We forget the kinds of things that are asked of him at 23, the kinds of things that are expected of him at that age. At 23 I remember worrying about my Sophomore Rhetoric English Reading courses and what girl to befriend next. Vettel is expected to win this year’s championship and is, clearly, the number 1 driver at Redbull.
“I think Sebastian Vettel is the only driver able to t-bone another car while in a straight line. Not deliberate but reckless,” said Gary Paffett, DTM driver and McLaren test driver on his Twitter account.
Because of his rapid rise to stardom, we didn’t realize that the experience curve was not rising at the same rate. Fine, Hamilton managed to grab a championship title within two years of joining the F1 circus. Not everyone is him. And, keep in mind, he is two years older. You need a certain temperament to win a championship, a specific level of understanding. You need to know when to jump and when to sit still, when it is necessary to take risks, and when it is not.
He needs to keep his head together for the remaining races. After all, a champion can be seen from afar, but it is what resides within that defines a champion a champion.
Is it time to deliver?