After four straight Formula One world titles, Sebastian Vettel has endured a difficult 2014 campaign, finding himself sixth in the constructors' championship, recording just two podium results.
Go down in history
It is by no means the form of which we have come to expect from the youngest ever Formula One world champion. And while his achievements are remarkable and will go down in history, we must take into account that he was fortunate to be driving the strongest car of the field for that period.
Due to the strength of the Red Bull, thanks to the genius of Adrian Newey, Vettel was able to dominate the field, managing to take his race win tally up to 39 from 132 starts.
But Vettel has had the same team mate for the past five seasons in Formula One, the Australian Mark Webber. He beat him comfortably in every situation over their time together, but this season has been rather different with the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo to the team.
Ricciardo is having a wonderful season having got the better of Vettel in qualifying and on race pace, he has three victories to his name. It begs the question as to whether Mark Webber created an illusion of the great Sebastian Vettel, and maybe he is not as good as we had thought.
I would like to stress that this article is by no means a criticism of Mark Webber as a racing driver. Webber is a driver I fully respect and enjoyed watching in his time in Formula One and he was and still is a fantastic driver in his own right.
Never in doubt
But what cannot be denied is the ease at which Vettel kept his team mate at bay and despite minor incidents which did occur, the pair, although directly involved in title fights, it was never in any doubt at all over who would come out on top.
Webber's best season result in the revolutionary Red Bull, third, on three occasions. Clearly not achievements to be disregarded, but considering the advantage driving that car gave him, he should have got more from it.
A top quality driver would have created a Mercedes situation which we have this year where for the most part, the two drivers have been untouchable at the front, bar mechanical failure, weather and driver error circumstances.
Expectations too high
Had Vettel's team mate in the last five years not been Webber and a driver of more ability (such as Ricciardo), we may not have been sucked into the situation where we were calling the German the greatest ever. And the expectations we have of him now would not be as high.
On the other hand you can argue that Webber is a top class driver and Vettel was in fact absolutely rinsing the car of all its performance. And I must say, what Vettel did achieve and the way in which he drove was unbelievable.
Maybe the car just suited his driving style and any other driver would have been inferior to him. But that depends on your opinion of how highly you rate Mark Webber. As I have said, I think Webber was a fantastic servant to the sport, nine race victories is a brilliant career record. But he never had that extra consistency or class to be a world champion.
Class is permanent
And his inability to match Vettel in what was such an incredible car has created this disappointment in his current performance which we may have not been so surprised about. I do feel he will return and become world champion again, I am a believer of temporary form and permanent class.
But Vettel most certainly has his work cut out to appear so good once again, with his current team-mate being a whole lot faster than Mark Webber ever was.
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