It is not just an argument you could hold against Sebastian Vettel. Fellow German Michael Schumacher was often victim of the familiar Formula One argument. “It’s the car not the driver,” is a persistent criticism thrown at the dominating drivers.
While Schumacher had a reign of unprecedented dominance, Vettel’s dominace looks to be on the rocks as the Silver Arrows of Mercedes continued to beat the Red Bulls who were languishing many seconds behind.
Naturally it has given the critics the ammunition to claim Vettel was so great because of his car.
With Vettel’s disastrous start at Spain, it looked like it was going to be further proof of a lack of quality.
A wiring issue in practice and a replaced gearbox meant his troubled race build up led to him starting from 15th on the gird, as his teammate Daniel Ricciardo continued to outperform the four time World Champion with his qualifying position of third.
Another facet of the criticism was caused by his teammate. Ricciardo’s stunning start to the season has seen him beat his German teammate consistently.
The race in Spain saw Red Bull and Vettel show their brilliance that started their success back in 2010. Pioneering a three stop strategy, Vettel pitted remarkably early, and saw himself as far back as 21st.
By lap 37, he found himself not only setting the fastest lap of the race at that point, but within touching distance of the top 10 in 13th.
It was not long before he was back with the top teams. He found himself in 7th before he pitted for the final time on lap 53.
Once again unfazed at dropping positions, he forced himself back into contention in 4th place, just behind teammate Ricciardo.
Also impressive was Vettel’s maturity. Before Spain, Vettel was heavily criticised for refusing to allow a faster Ricciardo past. He relented, but the ease of Ricciardo’s pass and Vettel’s stubbornness left a thoroughly embarrassing spectacle for Vettel and his team. There were no such dramas in Spain, as Vettel focused on the job in hand.
After the race, the German was quick to state that he felt he had done as well as he could have done in the circumstances. With a preferred chassis, better pace and Christian Horner telling the BBC that the current champion is more comfortable again in the car, Spain could be the race that sees Vettel turn around his season.