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GP Week : Issue 147
I t would be easy to say that Sebastian Vettel has lost his magic touch; that the boy wonder has cracked under the pressure that comes from trying to become the third man in F1 history to win three consecutive drivers’ titles. It would be easy, but it would also be sensationalist and incorrect. The fact that the start to the 2012 season hasn’t gone as smoothly as hoped for Vettel is undeniable. Where last year it was clear by this point in the season that Red Bull had supplied the young German with the fastest car on the grid, this year the prognosis is not so good. Not only has the RB8 lost the astonishing qualifying advantage possessed of the RB7, but Red Bull’s star driver is doing what would have been unthinkable in 2011 – he’s making mistakes both on and off the track, giving fodder to those critics who claim the young German isn’t up to the mental strain of fighting for a third straight title. Of course the mental game is always a factor. The most talented driver can stumble thanks to pressures both internal and external. But one thing that Vettel demonstrated time and time again last season was his ability to remain cool under pressure. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t currently some signs of strain: giving Karthikeyan the finger not once but twice during the Malaysian Grand Prix, and calling the Indian an idiot and a cucumber after the race showed a new side to the Red Bull driver. Some of Vettel’s recent behaviour can best be described as petulant. It is worth remembering that despite his career successes, the German champion is still a young man, and one who has had to do much of his growing up in the spotlight. We all have our knee-jerk reactions, our petty moments, but ours are not captured on celluloid. Speaking to German television after the Malaysian Grand Prix, Vettel – evidently referring to Karthikeyan – said “Like on normal roads, you have some idiots driving around. It seems there is also one driving here.” It was an impetuous comment made in the heat of the moment, and while there are those who will use it as a stick to beat Vettel with, there is not a person alive who hasn’t lashed out verbally when they’ve felt hard done by. UPHILL BATTLER! Kate Walker looks at why Sebastian Vettel isn’t on the top step of the podium so far in 2012, and what he needs to do if he’s to seize that third straight title. 24 GPWEEK.com // vt F1 >>> FEATURE