Sebastian Vettel today produced one of the finest performances of his fledgling F1 career by outclassing the rest of the field at a very wet Shanghai. The German was outstanding in the terrible conditions which saw one seasoned campaigner after another fall off the track.
Vettel was doubtless aided by his Red Bull RB5 which was clearly well-suited to both the track and the conditions, and team-mate Mark Webber followed him home. Stable-mate Sebastian Buemi got his first F1 point by bringing the Toro Rosso home in eighth.
The young German was classy, both in the absence of driving mistakes and the sheer speed he showed. Many acknowledged rain specialists such as Lewis Hamilton produced error-strewn performances, on a day when the discrepancy between cars was reduced and driving prowess came to the fore. Hamilton was only one of many to have off-track excursions and the drenched Shanghai circuit seemed to make no exceptions for reputation. But Vettel was all-but perfect.
Furthermore, the man from Heppenheim’s speed was vastly superior to his peers. He was so fast that by dint of the Red Bull’s pace he was forced to overtake eventual third-placed man Jenson Button even when strategy meant he didn’t need to. Before backing off to reduce the risk and guarantee the win he was a good fifteen seconds ahead of team-mate Mark Webber, which could have been 25 or 30 had he continued to push. Webber, no slouch himself, was well beaten.
This, let us not forget, is only Vettel’s second win. But he has been outstanding in almost every wet race he has competed in so far, because of an extraordinary awareness for the feel of the track in changeable or adverse conditions. Fuji 2007 was a great race for the young man until he ran into Webber; in China the same year he threw the Toro Rosso into fourth; his first race win came in Monza last year and no Hamilton fan will forget Vettel’s role in the championship denouement in 2008.
While car performance explains most F1 races, Vettel’s innate talent explains this one. F1 has just witnessed one of the great wet-weather performances and can only await the next time rain falls for further demonstration of his skill. While good drivers come and go, greats distinguish themselves, and Sebastian Vettel is well on the way to inheriting Michael Schumacher’s ”regenmeister” soubriquet.