Sebastian Vettel has secured his second World Championship in Formula One breaking yet another record as the youngest driver to win two world titles. The German wunderkind has been breaking records ever since he entered the sport as a reserve driver at the now-defunct BMW team in 2006.
Defending a title in F1 is no easy task but when you have the best car, it makes life a little easier. The Red Bull Racing RB7 was so comprehensively dominant this year taking 9 wins and 15 pole positions out of 15 races so far in 2011.
The heartening character of Vettel is that he knows he's had the pound seats for 2011 and gives most of the credit to the team and even the hard work of the folks back at Milton Keynes.
"Obviously a lot of people have been quite confident on that but I think one of the important things was that we didn't allow ourselves to drift away on it too much," he added. "Everything we did this year, everything we achieved, we achieved as a team. It's not just us on the track it's the guys in the factory pushing very hard as well.
"Every single one from the post office, to the design office, to the engineering office to hear on the track - it's incredible. It's hard to imagine that we've built two cars, we've got two drivers and we carry in a way all that weight on our shoulders when we are on track.
"Sometimes when we are on the track we don't always treat the cars as good as we should, but obviously we try to get every single bit out of them.
"We set ourselves the target to win the championship this year, to achieve it by Japan already with more races to go is difficult to put in words. It will take time, it's as confusing as the first one. I'm sure we have a little bit more time tonight within the team and the rest of the season."
While detractors have certainly argued that having the best car in F1 is the reason Vettel is successful, that's not entirely fair. He narrowly won the 2010 championship--in which he never led--in the final race of the season with impeccable skill and tactics. Vettel has continued to improve his race craft beyond that of mere mortals and has been destined to dominate from his first point scored at 19 years-old for BMW as a stand-in for the injured Robert Kubica.
The detractors have a way of marginalizing the success of dominant drivers with the new litmus test of Vettel's greatness being the ability to win titles with different teams. This notion is born on the back of Red Bull's chief brain, Adrian Newey and his comprehensive design philosophy which has produced title-winning cars for many years. Having an Adrian Newey designed car increases your chances of success exponentially.
While Vettel's mentor, 7-time champion Michael Schumacher, was able to pull this off with Benetton and Ferrari, I am intrigued as no one set this litmus test for McLaren's champions Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mika Hakkinen or Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. It seems to be a notion reserved for Vettel alone.
In short, Sebastian Vettel is one of the most talented drivers on the grid and could become one of the best in the sport. I've always held my reservations on proclaiming any young driver as the person who will beat Schumacher's records or dominate the sport. We've seen what that kind of talk begets when McLaren's Lewis Hamilton entered the sport in 2007 and many had him already greater than Senna or Schumacher prior to winning one title. It was unfair to lay that amount of pressure and expectation on Hamilton and we should be mindful of doing that to Vettel.
Vettel is an incredible talent. He has grown in maturity, race craft and comprehension of the sport. He's surpassed Lewis Hamilton--although Lewis has had a particularly bad year so far so it's not entirely fair to judge him on his current form--in that respect and now looks to be on par with Fernando Alonso on the 'complete package' list. Interestingly enough, the winner of the Japanese Grand Prix, Jenson Button, has rapidly added his name to that list as well.
Having the best car helps but Vettel has won in the International Race of Champions as well as--and this could be the biggest test for entertainment value--beaten Stig and all others as the fastest star in a reasonably-priced car on Top Gear. I think you'll find that Vettel is that fast and he is that good and winning from pole is consistently happening because he's consistently that fast...not because he lucks into a pole position.
Vettel could be the next Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Stewart, Clark, Rindt, or Moss. Time will tell but for now I think this humble, affable young German deserves all our congratulations whether detractor or fan as he's done something very few humans have ever done and he's done it at an age that no one has ever done...best car or not.
Follow Todd McCandless on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@formula1blog