Vettel Wins in Italy, Midfielders Shine

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - RaceWith yet another big points haul for Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull driver puts himself further and further in the lead for his 4th consecutive world title, a title that very few fans at Monza are hoping for. The Tifosi Ferrari fans came out in droves to don their red caps and support the Scuderia as Fernando Alonso clung to a second spot on the podium, followed by Mark Webber in third, and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa in fourth.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a Vettel fan. He’s clearly one of the best drivers on the grid, but he doesn’t have those likable faults that so many other drivers and teams possess. That being said, I think we’re starting to see a new Vettel, and honestly I don’t mind him. To make the comparison, this repeat world champion is becoming less ’92 Nigel Mansell… and more ’92 Ayrton Senna. More to come on this.

The biggest news of the Italian Grand Prix comes from the midfield once again, with some very impressive and upsetting performances. The young drivers of 2013 keep becoming the talking point as already we’ve had the huge team swap of Daniel Ricciardo in for the retiring Mark Webber. As we progress into the end of the season, we should see more and more For Sale signs popping up as drivers wish to shuffle the cards in expectation of top team #2 drives and the daunting rule changes for 2014, but back to the youngsters…

Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg may have possibly made the most important drive of his career in Italy today. Following a staggering P3 slot in qualifying, Hulkenberg held onto a fifth place finish that made his driver equity value skyrocket. Not only did he keep his Sauber on the pace behind the Red Bulls and Ferraris, he held off the major players from Mercedes, Lotus, and McLaren as well. Out of the mid level runners, I’d say Hulkenberg will be the next to find a top seat. Two spots behind him was Ricciardo in his Toro Rosso, undoubtedly putting on a drive to show he’s worth his new gig at Red Bull. Jean-Eric Vergne, Ricciardo’s teammate and another mid level runner fell out of the race early with a transmission issue. Earlier this week he discussed his unhappiness with being snubbed the Red Bull seat as he had been one point higher in the driver’s standings.

In an event common in the past few races, Force India’s Paul di Resta retired after an incident following turn one, lap one. di Resta locked the tires into turn two, and slid into the back of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus, causing his left front wheel to come off. Bad luck seems to follow di Resta like a shadow, and whether it actually is luck or a bit of inexperience, he keeps proving that he can make dominant race decisions among Force India management gaffes. Remember his overtaking in Monaco, 17th to 9th… on the toughest street circuit in the world? He repeated with a 17th to 7th drive in Canada following another team qualifying issue, and then again in the UK from 21st to 9th. di Resta will be another driver to watch, maybe this year as there is a possibility for major team swaps, but definitely next year as he settles into the F1 drive.

Felipe Massa extends his no-win streak in the Ferrari after finishing just off the podium. Massa’s last win was in Brazil… in 2008. Rumors mount regarding Massa’s future employment by the Scuderia, and he’s responded by announcing that he will not drive at a second rate team. This could produce an excellent opportunity for Hulkenberg, di Resta, or Adrian Sutil to make the jump.

Back to the controversial comment I made before. Is Vettel one of the best (if not the best) drivers on the grid? Yes. Does he have the best car on the grid? Oh yes. Is this season changing him as a driver? I believe so. I think Vettel has been grounded by this season. He’s had some super runs of speed and has surely secured the title, but his legacy will be in question. Vettel is alone, undoubtedly distanced from fans (hence the boos and jeers) and no one wants to see this man succeed. I think next year will be pivotal in how the history of F1 looks back on the career of one Sebastian Vettel. He will need a points struggle and some adversity to get his reputation as a fighter back to where it was after races like Italy 2008. It’s obvious Vettel knows his advantages and fans will need to see a Senna-like struggle (’92) in order to regain their respect for the dominant German. Nobody likes to see a blowout on repeat for years. We certainly don’t need another Schumacher era.

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About zdoell

Graduate of Ithaca College, rowing coach, car fanatic.

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