As the final race of the 2013 season brings to an end another dominant year for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull the question of who is the top driver on the grid remains one of great debate.
2013 saw the German claim his fourth straight world title, thirteen wins including the final nine races, those stats seeing him equal records held by the likes of Michael Schumacher and Alberto Ascari.
However, before being mentioned alongside the greats the German is failing to gain huge support of the best of his era.
“They are both great drivers,” Vettel’s retiring teammate Mark Webber is quoted as saying, “but I can only say that I was really happy to be fighting against Fernando in my last race.”
Of course that can be put down to the Australian’s often unhappy relationship with Vettel compared to his best buddy Alonso, however the 37-year-old is far from alone.
“For me, they are both great,” Alonso’s former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa told Spain’s AS sports newspaper, who in Brazil last weekend surveyed every driver on the grid for their opinion about Vettel versus Alonso.
“Vettel is the champion,” he added, “Fernando is considered the best. You want me to say one? I won’t do that.”
Others are more decisive. “I think that in that Red Bull, Alonso would win even more easily than Vettel does,” said Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Nico Rosberg added: “I don’t know if Alonso is the best, but he’s one of the best, no doubt. Better than Seb? Maybe.”
Former McLaren driver Sergio Perez added: ”Although this year has been all about Vettel, it is clear to me that Alonso is the best.”
Another Mexican, Esteban Gutierrez, added: “Alonso, yes, Alonso. He is still the best.”
McLaren driver Jenson Button is not so convinced: “I couldn’t say,” said the Briton.
“If I was a team boss … when I am a team boss I will show you who I would sign,” Button laughed.
One man who could join the fight near the front in 2014 is Pastor Maldonado, the likely Lotus driver added his support to the Spaniard: “I think Vettel is very good, for sure, but if I was a team I would have Alonso, of course, without a doubt.
“Fernando is a genius,” the Venezuelan said.
But Valtteri Bottas answered: “Um … that’s a difficult question. I think I would have them both!”
Marussia’s 2013 drivers Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton was also on the fence with “both”, however Finn Heikki Kovalainen picked the man who he replaced at McLaren in 2008, ”Alonso,” he said without hesitation
Romain Grosjean admitted: “That is a very difficult question and I couldn’t honestly answer it.”
Nico Hulkenberg agreed: “Impossible to say, impossible to know.”
Adrian Sutil added: “All I can say is that they are both very good, but I wouldn’t like to say one or the other (is best).”
Another man leaning towards the Ferrari man was possible IndyCar racer in 2014 Paul di Resta: ”It’s hard to say, Vettel is the champion but Fernando … what can you say about Alonso that hasn’t already been said?”
Some treaded a little more carefully in response to the question.
“I have Spanish and German friends, so I don’t want to hurt anyone,” laughed Caterham’s Charles Pic.
While Red Bull backed driver’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo maybe had to pick their words carefully, particularly Ricciardo who will become team-mate to Vettel in 2014.
“I admire Fernando,” said the Australian, “but I’ll take Seb!”
While Vergne added: ”I think I will surprise you, but I will say Vettel.”
And the cream of Ferrari’s young driver academy, current Marussia driver Jules Bianchi also laughed: ”I stick with Alonso, but I can’t say anything else, as I work with Ferrari.”
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