The amount of flak Alonso is receiving from all quarters since he lost the title is outstanding. I think most of the haters were biding their time in case he actually won the title in what was clearly not the fastest car. Imagine this piece from Victor MArtins (who?) in the light of Alonso winning, it would seem childish and petulant. The vultures are out in force
Or is it possible that some people waited until the season was fully complete to make their assessment about the drivers this year?
Up until Abu Dhabi I felt that Vettel and Alonso had driven equivalently well. Alonso was trouncing his teammate by comparison for the majority of the season, but IMO Vettel's teammate was performing at a better level for a greater proportion of the season; come Japan and then Korea Alonso's performance comparative to Massa was not as much of a standout. Both had made what I would regard as complacent errors - Vettel should have been more careful lapping Karthikeyan in Malaysia and Alonso should have exercised more caution in the first turn in Japan. Both had had great drives - Alonso at Valencia and Vettel at Spa.
I've never subscribed to the theory that Vettel has a car advantage overall. Whilst his car was faster in qualifying, the Ferrari's starts compensated for that. On race pace there wasn't much in it overall in the season. In the early part there were races where the Ferrari was quicker and even in the latter part there were times when it was equivalent or marginally better. Also in the earlier part of the season the Ferrari was significantly better in the wet. Plus the Ferrari was bulletproof with reliability and historically there are examples of situations where both the faster but more fragile car has been better option for a WDC challenge over the season AND when the more consistent and reliable car has been the better option (for example 2005). I don't view driving out in front as Vettel did in Japan, Korea and India as any less impressive than a driver coming through the field because I think both are equivalently impressive skills of an F1 driver. The driver out in front has to rely entirely on their own judgement and doesn't benefit from any retirements or issues with cars in the race because they're behind them.
What tipped it over the edge in Vettel's favour for me was the run to the end of the championship. A Formula 1 season has always been a marathon and this one has been longer than any other. Both these drivers had really had an exhaustive task to get to the point that they were: Alonso performing with metronomic consistency race in and race out to maximise the points and Vettel having to fight back from such a deficit by driving absolutely flawlessly for several races in a row. They were locked in an extremely tight world championship battle and both bidding to become the youngest ever triple WDC. All the eyes of the sport and the world's media were on them. The stress, the strain, the pressure must have been about as immense as it has ever been. And yet they still had to perform.
For me it was Vettel who rose to this challenge while Alonso started to flounder. He had the setbacks of both the qualifying situation in Abu Dhabi and the spin in Brazil and yet he kept his head together and, in his words, "kept believing". While everyone in Red Bull was despondent in Abu Dhabi after qualifying, Vettel was determined and confident and then aside from a couple of errors he did drive a spectacular race for the most part. And whether or not he contributed to the incident with Senna, the fact remains that he had the presence of mind in the most pressurised situation imaginable to think to roll his car backwards down the hill and manoeuvre it a bit to give the cars coming at him more time to see him. In contrast Alonso started to struggle. He was outperformed by his teammate in qualifying and in races from Japan onwards (not in every race, but in some). Whilst I have no problem with Massa moving aside for Alonso in the context of the WDC, that isn't a positive when it comes to an assessment of his driving. Although the statistics will show him ahead of his teammate, the fact is that he wasn't. Overall Vettel had more setbacks and still drove better.
In addition to this, Alonso resorted to tactics to try to psychologically destabilise his opponent. Not only did Vettel not retaliate, but he didn't let it get to him. I regard the mentality of a driver as an important component in how well they perform. And for me, Alonso having to do that detracted from how well I judge him as a driver.
Overall, for me, with every race completed, Vettel was the better driver in 2012.
Excellent, excellent post.
I would disagree that Vettel was better this year, but I think, overall, he has demonstrated that he is as complete, if not more so, than Alonso.
The key thing is that Vettel proved just how awesome his racecraft is this year, especially in races like Spa, Abu dhabi and Brazil. I already thought he had moved on from the darker days of Spa 2010 and before, but I never thought he could demonstrate top-level ability in that area, at least not so soon. Yet he was probably the best passer in F1 this year.
You cite his mental strength, but really I was not surprised that he performed so well in the crucial races. Just look back at 2010. He was error prone, and when he was getting the job done, his car was letting him down. It would be so easy to lose faith in yourself and your team, especially at 22, but instead he had a near perfect run to the end of the season. And then to suffer big setbacks this year like in Abu Dhabi, like in Brazil, what he did in those circumstances was brilliant. How many drivers, in those circumstances, would sense an opportunity? How many would then go and make the most of the circumstances?
IMO his driving skills are brilliant, up there with Hamilton and Alonso. But what seperates him is that he's so tough mentally. Arguably even better than Schumacher was in that regard. Without that, maybe he only has 1 WDC.
I'm not convinced that he's 'mentally' that tough - as he's still inclined to 'throw wobblies' when somebody annoys him? But perhaps I'm remembering incidents prior to this season.