Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull could reign over a new era of dominance in F1, the international press and paddock pundits said after Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
At Suzuka, despite needing only a single point to rule his last opponent out of contention for the 2011 title, Vettel ensured Jenson Button will not come within 14 points of his second consecutive world championship.
The young German did it by finishing third but Spain’s El Mundo hailed a campaign that has been “too perfect” for the Red Bull driver.
Sir Jackie Stewart told the Daily Mail in Britain that he can’t see why Vettel won’t dominate for years to come.
“He is unquestionably the most mature 24-year-old racing driver I have seen,” said the triple world champion.
Agreed Britain’s Telegraph: “Vettel may rule for 10 years”, with the Independent adding he “has hallmarks of a new Prost or Senna”.
“Last season he was a sometimes callow 23-year-old,” observed the Guardian. “This year he has appeared a 24-year-old veteran”.
1996 Monaco grand prix winner Olivier Panis is quoted by Finland’s Turun Sanomat: “He is one of few drivers who may have the opportunity to break Michael Schumacher’s almost unbreakable records”.
Agreed Virgin’s Timo Glock: “If he keeps getting machines like this year, he could beat Michael”, the German is quoted by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Vettel’s achievement sees him join Schumacher and seven other fellow greats – including Fangio, Hakkinen and Alonso – who have managed back-to-back championships.
“Now we will see who is the youngest three time world champion,” smiled Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has already delivered her official congratulations, while the Kolner Express quoted a Suzuka spectator called Norbert as saying: “I am not a double world champion, only his father”.
Canada’s French language La Presse had high praise for Vettel, insisting he is “largely responsible for Red Bull’s dominance this season”, with Reuters saying he has gone from “Crash Kid to Mr Consistent”.
And the team’s Dr Helmut Marko warned: “As the whole team is staying together, I see no reason why we cannot be as successful next year.”
According to father Norbert, young Vettel has not let his success and fame change him. “You need to be hard for formula one, but he’s not a bastard”.
Niki Lauda wrote in Bild newspaper: “His friendly facade is genuine, but behind the babyface is a killer.”
And among his future achievements could be his mentor’s ultimate record.
Smiling Vettel told reporters at Suzuka: “Did you notice that Michael is the youngest seven time world champion – ever?!”