Sebastian Vettel will go down as one of the most successful, talented racing drivers to have ever lived when he finally hangs up his race suit. It seems you either have to love the guy or hate him but one thing that everyone can agree on is just how quick he is.
Some drivers engineer a race win though pitlane tactics or good weather predictions, Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg offer a fine example of this if we look back to Interlagos last year when neither driver pitted for intermediate tyres and the result of that call saw them some 40 seconds clear of the field. Now if it hadn't drizzled and thrown some of the teams into panic regarding their pit tactics would we have seen these two drivers so far in front? Lewis Hamilton had been blisteringly quick all through te race until he pitted early, drove an incredible race to close back up to the leaders only to have a very unfortunate moment of contact with Hulkenberg that forced him to retire. Button also produced another fine example in Canada back in 2011, he may have had a fair amount of luck with the changing conditions but the team and Button himself made the right calls when it mattered also. Vettel's slip in Canada may have helped Button, but back to Interlagos he wasn't even a factor in deciding the race winner, he was nearly out but in ususal fashion made a charge through the field. He came home 6th to win his 3rd consecutive world championship, hard to believe that on lap one he found himself stone dead last. So what is it that Vettel has that the other drivers are missing that causes him to be so successful, and whatever it is can the ther drivers close the gap?
Some have argued that Vettel is lucky but how can one driver be so lucky across the entire season, he may have one or two moments that he has been lucky such as the Interlagos example, but when you break it down we believe it isn't luck or the car he drives that has given him this edge on the other drivers, it is his presence both on the track and within the Red Bull Racing team. He finds himself in a similiar position to Michael Schumacher, driving what is seemingly the best car on the grid and he has the entire teams support to help him sort out the car if it isn't performing quite how he wants it to. Mark Webber may have an equal car supposedly but then why can't he replicate the seering pace that Vettel produces? His input on the car will of course be listened to but when the team have a proven three times World Champion in the team hey are far more likely to follow his instruction as he has the results to back it up-he is the safer bet to produce the performance when it is needed. Alonso does have a similiar setup at Ferrari with the team very obviously gathering around him to try and spur on his championship chances but the thing with Ferrari is that the team, as it rightfully should in some ways, is bigger than the driver. If Alonso doesn't like it they won't struggle to find a replacement. This is why he has struggled to have the some impact on the grid as Vettel, Alonso is an equal match for Vettel most days of the week and has managed to drag a car that should be around 4th or 5th on the grid up to 1st on many occassions across the last 3 years of Red Bull Racing domination, but when he calls for changes within the team and the car to help his chances of ending that run the team isn't as forthcoming. All the time Ferrari can't choose a development direction that is as effective or perhas even risky at first, they won't keep up with the class and pace of the Red Bull Racing team.
Ferrari have struggled with the current rules and regulations of F1 ever since they were introduced and have always been on the back foot compared to the likes of Redbull and McLaren, although the latter have gone off the boil this season. Other teams have pushed hard to put themselves in a position to be a contender such as Mercedes and Lotus but Ferrari don't seem to have the same urgency to get back on top, every year whispers of teams switching focus to the following years car can be heard. What we, as racing fans, surely want to see is a team that will move heaven and earth to wn races and will push for that all season long. Now obviously budget constraints and time are factors but it just seems a shame that teams write their seasons off at the frst sign of a struggle. As soon as Vettel has a run of form as he is currently enjoying everyone seems to think all hope is lost. If you look back at the initial question then you can argue a runaway points leader could be stopped, but it seems in the current F1 era every team plays the safe game and moves focus to the following year if they aren't on the pace after a few races which allows Vettel to walk away with the championship. Now we aren't saying he wouldn't if the other teams around continued to push, but hewould almost certainly have a bigger fight on his hands for the lead and the win at each race.
Are there other ways of closing the gap to the front of the grid?
Many ideas can be heard being discussed both on forums and within the F1 paddock itself, but the one that looked close to happening was the use of causing 'artificial rain' in the middle of races. This would definitely spice up the races and would throw some drivers into a strategy dilemma as they may be able to continue and not have to pit but their pace would suffer as a result. Drivers like Button may suddenly excel as he seems to be a master in the wet, Hamilton, Alonso and Hulkeberg to name a few have shown great pace in wet conditions also so it may help their race win chances as the pure pace of the car underneath them wouldn't be quite such a heavily weighted factor in who can challenge for victory.
On the flip side to that arguement it also can be viewed as unfair. If someone such as Vettel can build the sort of lead in each race as he has been seen doing, then why should the flick of a switch influence if he can maintain that lead or not?
So can a runaway points leader be stopped?
Vettel is the real deal, we don't need to tell you that and we don't have to point out why he is, so really it comes down to the other drivers upping their game to stop him in the remaining races and the championship battle next year. Vettel visits the factories of Pirelli, Renault and so on, so he has an understanding of what is going on, perhaps the other drivers need to be doing this more often as well, we aren't saying they don't research these areas as well but Vettel seems to gain more knowledge from it than the others do. So we would say that yes, a runaway points leader can be stopped but it either takes other drivers to be more consistent and possibly research each area of the car more closely, or another option is a drastic rule change. 2009 saw a big change from 2008 and the order was very different to the previous year, so maybe we are in for another big chnge next year. You can expect the big hitters to still be able to challenge we believe, but maybe another smaller team will be able to challenge more often, although as lon as Adrian Newey designs Sebastian Vettel's weapon of choice you can surely expect him to be a threat yet again.