Sebastian Vettel's F1 success should be celebrated not criticised

Despite his dominance this season, fans have booed German, whose victories on the track should be lauded not attacked

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 3:48am

How' s your week at work been? Do you feel appreciated? Sometimes, now matter how hard you work and how brilliant you are, it feels like you just can't do the right thing.

If that is the case, take solace in the past few weeks in the working life of Sebastian Vettel. The German will be looking to take his fourth consecutive win in South Korea this weekend. He's won seven of the last 13 races and will probably take his fourth world title in a row come the end of the season.

And yet, he's been roundly booed by fans during the podium ceremonies at the last two races. Perhaps it was to be expected at Monza, where Red Bull had just rubbed Ferrari's nose in it once again.

We should be celebrating that brilliance and hoping somebody else can start to match it … What he's not getting is any competition
Martin Bundle 

But it was more surprising to hear it in Singapore, a city state where manners are normally impeccable. Vettel may well have been right when he joked it was probably a bunch of rich race fans who could afford to fly in to administer the cat calls. Perhaps their front-row seats have been booked for Yeongam this weekend.

In all reality, it probably is Ferrari fans, frustrated that despite the brilliance of Fernando Alonso, their team cannot get a sniff of victory It is ironic really, considering how Michael Schumacher dominated the sport a decade ago for the Prancing Horse.

I don't recall much booing then, even though the dominance was tedious - the exception perhaps being when he took victory on the last corner under team orders from Rubens Barrichello in Austria in 2002.

Vettel is like Schumacher in as much as he is German and a multiple world champion who is starting to dominate like Schumi did. But he has many qualities that should endear him to crowds. He is charming and engaging, and he has a sense of humour (liking Monty Python and Fawlty Towers among other classics).

But he is a racing driver first and foremost and, like all the others on the grid, he will do what needs to be done to succeed. Perhaps the fracas in Malaysia with Mark Webber when he overtook him against team orders is the starting point for what came later. If that was a mistake, then it is a rare one from Vettel, and fellow drivers past and present have been quick to line up on his side.

Perhaps the most eloquent of them was Martin Brundle, who says: "They see Michael Schumacher II going on. But what can you do? He's just absolutely in the groove, in a class of his own. We should be celebrating that brilliance and hoping somebody else can start to match it … What he's not getting is any competition."

The workplace seems to be awash with health and safety regulations, and it would seem Formula One is no different. Webber starts this weekend's race with a 10-place penalty. His crime was to hitch a lift with Alonso back to the Singapore pits after his car expired on the last lap.

The fans loved it, but the stewards did not and reprimanded the pair for their actions. It was Webber's third transgression of the season, triggering the grid penalty. It seems an overreaction that threatens to stifle the very ethos of the sport and the reason the fans love it.

As Jenson Button tweeted afterwards: "Acts of sportsmanship shouldn't be penalised."

Former driver Derek Warwick was one of the stewards in Singapore and was quick to defend his actions, telling a newspaper: "It's not health and safety gone mad. A driver could have easily been hurt. I hope we're not seen as killjoys."

Unfortunately, Derek, that's exactly what most people thought, including, I'm sure, Webber, who had an elegant last word. He posted on Twitter a picture of Warwick hitching a lift on the back of Gerhard Berger's car at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1988, with the comment, "Looks like even one of the Singapore stewards has done it … C'est la vie."