In sport, it is commonly said that success breeds success. Yet, unfortunately for Sebastian Vettel, recently crowned four-time Formula One champion, it also engenders jealousy, resentment and derision from large sections of the racing crowds.
Last weekend, the formidable German driver wrapped up yet another piece of silverware at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With eleven wins in seventeen races, the man long-touted as protégé to the iconic Michael Schumacher has already clinched the 2013 Drivers’ Championship, and with considerable room to spare. Vettel’s recent dominance over the sport has been such that the prospect of the last two races on the F1 calendar being ‘dead rubbers’ hardly comes as a surprise.
It is precisely this lack of competition that rankles with the fans whom, with increasing regularity this season, having taken to booing Vettel during the trophy presentation after the race. Critics have claimed that the German shines in fortuitous circumstances. The Red Bull car beneath Vettel is widely recognised on the circuit as the best in the business, an advantage made all the more telling by the team’s preferential treatment towards him.
Advantaged or not, Vettel does not deserve the animosity of the spectators. Domination becomes tiresome only when fans forget that they are watching a master at work. Resplendent with world champions such as Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, it is hardly justifiable to claim that the German stands apart from a field of mediocrity. This appears to be a sporting epoch with hallmarks of Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather or Roger Federer.
‘I’m speechless’ said Vettel, grinning ear to ear, as he faced the cameras in India. The German driver, 26, must now be considered alongside the all-time greats of the sport: Fangio, Prost, Senna and Schumacher. It has been an unfortunate blight on a season of dominance that, far from matching Vettel’s happy reticence, the outspoken ’fans’ of Formula One have greeted this ascension to sporting greatness with ringing boos and jeers.