Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel: From boy wonder to F1's villain

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Many people have different reasons for disliking Vettel (©GettyImages)
Many people have different reasons for disliking Vettel (©GettyImages).

A few years ago Sebastian Vettel was the darling of the F1 paddock with his youthful looks, happy attitude and a great relationship with the media.

Now some fans are turning against the German, booing his every success. So is Vettel the new 'bad boy' of Formula 1?

There are several reasons why some fans have turned against the 26-year-old in recent years - the apparent preferential treatment he gets at Red Bull and the feeling the German has 'lucked' his way to the brink of winning four world titles being the most common.

This year those bad feelings towards Vettel have spilled out with some fans booing him on the podium after each of his wins.

While Sebastian himself has downplayed the booing claiming it acts as a motivator to further success is such disrespect really justifiable?

The obvious answer to that is it depends on who you ask. Vettel does and will continue to have a strong fan-base all over the world but, as is the case in all sports for every player/team/driver that achieves, there will always be disappointment from those who support the opposition.

Most of the hostility aimed towards Vettel is from fans of his team-mate Mark Webber and Ferrari, that was very apparent at Monza where the booing was at it's loudest, it was a remarkable change in emotion given how the Tifosi embraced the German after winning his first race at the same circuit just five years before.

In the case of Ferrari fans much of that could be down to jealousy for his continued success and the disappointment at Ferrari's lack of competitiveness, and for Webber's fans there is a sense that their man has been left behind by Red Bull as the Vettel express powered on.

Vettel's near four straight world titles have seen him and Red Bull as a team succeed and as a result some fans question whether Vettel is actually a great driver, or if he is just a benefactor of chief designer Adrian Newey's genius.

Those fans mentioned earlier and some others often lean to the later argument that Vettel has been lucky, and that maybe true, but it is unfair to be the target of booing and disrespect just because he and Red Bull win as a team.

Many of the great racing drivers have had great teams backing them during their eras of seeming invincibility, but you never saw the likes of Ayrton Senna at McLaren or Michael Schumacher at Ferrari booed for their achievements so why should Vettel at Red Bull? 

Another reason for the discontent is the partnership between Vettel and Webber. It was never a strong one but relations fell to all-time low after the 'Multi-21' saga at this year's Malaysian Grand Prix.

In the race Vettel decided to ignore the 'Multi-21' instruction given by team boss Christian Horner to stay behind Webber for the final laps instead closing down and passing the Australian for the victory.

After the race Vettel said that Webber "didn't deserve" to win and he did what he did as payback for Webber not helping him in his bid to secure the championship in Brazil last year, though of course Vettel did so.

Despite his argument some fans were outraged by Vettel's actions and comments, believing the German had become selfish and arrogant. The booing started at the Canadian Grand Prix as Vettel again dominated the race to take an easy win in front of the passionate Montreal crowd.

Many were surprised and saw it as a one-off but those fans who had become discontent with Vettel for his success and/or his previous controversies have since continued the sign of disrespect.

Booing is nothing new in F1 but it has been a long time since it has been seen consistently aimed at a driver.

Ferrari were booed for the ending of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix when Rubens Barrichello was forced to give the win to Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda has recalled how he was booed by German fans after he was seen as the man responsible for ending F1 at the Nurburgring.

But for Vettel many people believe has done nothing to deserve the jeers from the crowd, many believe the German is better than his team-mate and therefore earned the backing of the team, while some have also defended his actions in Malaysia claiming only the selfish drivers succeed.

I too believe the booing is inappropriate as Vettel has worked just as hard, if not harder, to earn his success and he should be applauded for what he has done.

Is he F1's new 'bad boy'? In some fans eyes yes, but all things considered if any discontent should be shown it should be at his rivals for not being able to match the standard he and Red Bull set.

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