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Hail Vettel, but his test begins in 2014

While Germany’s Sebastian Vettel should be hailed for becoming the youngest driver to win four straight Formula One titles at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida yesterday, his triumph at the Indian Grand Prix must be put in perspective.

Vettel bowing in front of his car after his triumph yesterday provided more ammunition for his critics who believe that he stands at the top of his sport only because of his car. In short, the cry of ‘it’s all about the car’ got louder yesterday, something that comes close on the heels of Lewis Hamilton, one of his sharpest rivals, calling Vettel’s style of driving boring.

With due respect to consistent performance, keen competition is the heartbeat of sport. And for the last three years, Formula One has very nearly just been about one man. Overtaking the Red Bull’s Renault-powered engine has been considered close to impossible.

Hamilton has compared Vettel’s victories to the Michael Schumacher era when the word ‘boring’ was almost synonymous with Formula One as Schumi dominated to win a record seven titles of which five were on the trot (2000 to 2004).

The Formula One brains, to their credit, made it a more open contest by tweaking a few rules and while Schumacher made a brave comeback to the sport, his performance was catastrophic. He probably realised that it was far tougher and his ultimate farewell from the sport was not sweet.

The sport’s bosses have suggested a slew of changes for the next season — from the car’s engine specifications to its exterior appearance. Hence, Vettel’s true test begins in 2014. But it’s only a test and not an eraser to what he has achieved. He has maximised his potential better than all his rivals and that’s one of the reasons he is a four-time champion.

If the Vettel can equal Schumi’s feat of a fifth straight title next year, rule changes notwithstanding, that champagne will taste a lot sweeter!  

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