He doesn’t like to discuss the championship too early because he doesn’t want to be presumptuous.
He is not keen on the nicknames bestowed upon him by teammates and race fans like the “Rain King” or “Rain Master”. They sound too cocky.
He plays down comparisons to Formula One greats like Ayrton Senna, Juan Manuel Fangio, and Michael Shumacher as it seems disrespectful to him.
In a world of professional athletes who are sometimes prone to chest beating, nicknaming themselves “King James”, and doing backflips from their vehicles, Sebastian Vettel is different. As my grandfather would say, “he doesn’t toot his own horn”. He just consistently wins. More accurately, he just consistently dominates. Ok, he doesn’t lack confidence. He does have a trademark finger symbol when he wins, and is willing to brag on his teams work ethic.
Let’s look at what he has done so far
At 19, he became the youngest driver to gain points in a Formula 1 race. At 23, he became the youngest driver to win an F1 championship. At 24, he had perhaps the best Formula 1 season ever, amassing an all-time record 392 points on his way to his second championship. At 26, he’s won three consecutive F1 championships and is in the hunt for his fourth. This season, he has won 8 of the 14 Formula 1 races in arguably the most competitive field in the history of the sport. He already has 34 career victories in 115 starts, or 4th place all time. He is in the conversation about the greatest formula 1 drivers of all time. Race fans are witnessing greatness.
To give you a sense of the dominance of his Red Bull team, Vettel was leading the race in Singapore two weeks ago when he decided to pit. When he returned from the pit stop, he was still leading the race. Last week in Korea, Vettel pulled away for a 4th straight win.
He went on to win that race by 32 seconds and the next one in a dominating performance. He now has a 77-point lead in the standings. In a system where a win nets 25 points, and second place 18 points, it is conceivable that Vettel could sit out of the last 5 races and still win the championship.
Those performances and this years season conjures images of Secretariat’s jockey looking back over his shoulder. Like Secretariat, it seems the only thing that can stop him is a fall. Once a competitor has that kind of advantage, it’s amazing to see groups of fans begin to root for the fall.
It seems some fans start to get bored in the middle of dominant runs. This kind of thing happened when UCLA went on their run of 88 straight wins and 10 NCAA championships in 12 seasons; Tiger Woods won 4 grand slams in a calendar year; the Yankees won 12 in 16 seasons behind DiMaggio and Berra; and the Celtics when they won 11 championships in 13 seasons behind Russell and Auerbach.
During those amazing runs, some begin to roll their eyes and say, “let someone else on the podium.” Some fans get bored with excellence and dominance, especially when the performances are marked more for their precision than their flair. Some fans just enjoy sports more when there are circus backflips, chest pounding, tongue wagging, and televised “decisions”. Some fans root for showboating.
For those fans, Sebastian Vettel is not your guy.
Vettel is for the fan that likes to see domination. Vettel is for the fan of an athlete entirely focused on consistently hitting his marks, raising the trophy, and winning championships. Vettel is for the fan that recognizes and appreciates greatness while it’s happening.
After the dynasties are over, those that come behind often wonder what it would have been like to go back and witness the greats. I know I’ve imagined seeing Bill Russell or Joe DiMaggio in one of their magical seasons. With 5 races left this season, including one in the US (Austin, TX) we have our chance with Vettel.