Hamilton/Macca was one of the best qualifying combos to come along - we are talking serious talent and formidable ability meets top of the line machinery.
Then Vettel/RBR came along and put on a master class.
All the excuses and reasons can't explain away how Vettel/RBR have lived up to their potential. It isn't that the combination is capable - we know that, we saw it with our own eyes. But there is a world of difference between what "can be done" and what "is done". Yes, Seb/RBR is the best qualifying combination on the grid right now - hands down.
It reminds me of Hamilton/Macca's 2007 season. That was another example of what can be done actually getting done. It was something one can only dream about - usually. But the combination was obviously capable of it and more importantly, man + machine pulled it off. Yet what did we have to listen to afterward? "Well any rookie could do that in a top car". Well no, any rookie couldn't, more importantly, Hamilton did it.
That is exactly the way I hear arguments that try to belittle Vettel's tremendous qualifying achievements. I find them very cringe worthy.
The Red Bull was out and out the fastest car in 2010 and 2011, last year it wasn't and Vettel got beat in qualifying by Hamilton, where was Vettel's qualifying ability in the first half of last season when he often struggled just to get into Q3, sometimes failing?
You are asking the wrong question. In terms of being a "qualifying master", the question should be: With the faster and more balanced car at the start of the season, why did Hamilton get only the same number of poles as Vettel prior to the break?
Where was Hamilton's qualifying when Vettel was clearly struggling with his car in the first half of the season? Why couldn't he step in and take every pole instead of taking only 3 - the same number as Vettel by the break?
To answer your question, Vettel isn't going to regularly pole when he struggles with his car. But he still managed 3. That is what a master does. Now your turn to answer. Hamilton wasn't similarly struggling - why wasn't he able to put on a master class in the way Vettel had in past seasons?
Well Hamilton actually managed to get 4 poles before the break, but a clumsy mechanic lost him one of those, hardly his fault. After Canada the team lost their way for 3 races, ask Jenson Button how easy the car was to drive even before Canada.
The Red Bull itself had rid itself of its early season issues from Monaco onwards (Webber, pole and win), and was as competitve as the McLaren thereafter.
The second half of the season the pole count was 4-3 to Hamilton, and looking how Webber finished the season off in qualifying, 2, 1, 2, 2, 3 and 3, its fair to say that Vettel had a fair crack at beating Hamilton.