Team boss Christian Horner is quick to defend his team leader.
“What a lot of people don't realize is just how good Seb is,” Horner says, “and how much effort he puts in. Sure, when he came to Red Bull from Toro Rosso he was raw, and actually it took him a while to learn about F1, even with the BMW Sauber outing in 2007 and then his first drives with Toro Rosso. But he improved with them during '08, and again with us in '09 when he curbed his impetuous streak. By 2010 he was becoming more rounded and today he is a very technical driver who really understands the car and just how to get the best out of it. Yes, we have a very good car, but the McLaren was a better one last year yet Seb was able to beat them for the championship. He should never be underestimated.”
Martin Brundle, the former grand prix racer and World Sports Car champion, says he has become a firm Vettel fan.
“I happen to think that Mark Webber is pretty handy, but he's usually been around 30 percent down on the points that Sebastian has scored each year. Seb gets the quali lap in, he gets the start nailed and he builds the gap, and he's brilliant at managing the tires. The more I talk to the other drivers, the more I realize how hard that is. But he doesn't lock the fronts, he doesn't spin the rears, he manages all these things, and you can't fail to be impressed by that.
��I used to rave about such things with Michael and Fernando, and now about Seb. And people say he hasn't won in another type of car, but he won from pole at Monza in 2008 in a Toro Rosso when that wasn't a winning car, so as far as I'm concerned, he's checked that box. With all of the great drivers, most of the work is done outside the car so that the work that needs to be done inside it is easier. That's part of the skill, collecting and motivating the right people around you. The great drivers attract the great designers and engineers because it's inevitable that they'll want to work with them. That's not something to boo people for.
“Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have all wanted around them the fastest but most subservient teammates who are fast enough to help them but not fast enough to cause them any grief. And you aren't looking for people to be mates with down at the bar. The nicest guy is not going to be a four-time world champion by the age of 26.”
And then Brundle adds something shocking, almost heretical, that really makes you think. “Vettel is turning into the complete driver. And if you had him and Fernando Alonso in a Red Bull, I honestly don't know who would win.”
Vettel is happy to explain his driver's creed. "You need passion to succeed,” he insists. “Yes, being a racing driver is a special job but, generally, if you don't like what you do then you're not going to be very good. You will face a point inside you where you think: 'Is this the right thing? Why am I doing this?' If you go to work every morning just because you need a check at the end of the month, it's not great. Money can be a motivation but it will never make you happy. Obviously, racing in F1, all of us are very fortunate because we're doing something we loved as a child and now it's our job – and we earn good money. So for us, as drivers, it's great. And when you're successful it becomes even better.
"What Stirling Moss said is very special. I was pretty surprised by it. But I've met him a couple of times and he's one of the first heroes of F1. So it's a very big honor he mentions me in the same sentence as Fangio. Obviously I've heard about how special Fangio was. What Stirling saw back then with Fangio was pretty incredible and so, for me, it's a great compliment."
But here's perhaps the best judgment of Vettel. What means more to him: going down in history with the likes of Fangio and Schumacher, or standing atop every podium?
“I think I prefer the second thing!” he laughs, completely unable to suppress the racer's instinct. “What's happened over the last couple of years is amazing but nothing has changed in the way that I still love racing. I love the challenge, I'm still nervous when I wake up on Sunday. We leave the hotel, we get great respect from the fans, they're cheering, they're shouting our names. That's what I'm looking forward to most, and obviously trying to do it again. I love trophies so I don't mind collecting a few!”