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Vettel/Red Bull dominance - a matter of perspective

It seem that with each race the fate of the 2014 season rests closer on the hands of this combination, but this dominance needs to be put into perspective.
Friday, September 13, 2013

September 13th, 2013 (F1plus/G. Keilloh).- Time to employ some good old British understatement: the Italian Grand Prix last Sunday wasn't exactly a thriller. But you probably didn't need me to tell you that.

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There was much doom and gloom afterwards: that F1 had become too boring; that Sebastian Vettel's dominance was a considerable test of resolve; that there is little point watching the season's remaining rounds. But perhaps some perspective is needed on all of this.

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On one hand the breadth of the Vettel/Red Bull dominance is indeed close to unprecedented, indeed with championship double number four on the way only the lauded Michael Schumacher/Ferrari link up and its five title doubles on the bounce in the early noughties has beaten it, or even come close (no other driver/team combination has got more than two clean sweeps in a row). But the depth of the dominance is not. Far from it.

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To take last Sunday's race as an example, yes Vettel's win had a strong air of inevitability about it almost from the first corner, but he only won by five seconds. And it made it a grand total of two wins in a row for him. Even in 2011 - the year often cited as the Vettel/Red Bull zenith - his wins were very rarely by more than ten seconds. Often they were by much less even than that. It all hardly suggests that they are on another level to the opposition.

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One can cite plenty of instances from F1 history when things were much more strung out than this. If we rewind 11 years to 2002, that year's Ferrari was so insultingly superior that it would usually win by half a lap (at least) despite the outward impression that its drivers were cruising around at half throttle (for what it's worth the Ferrari, after such a canter, beat the rest by over 52 seconds in that year's Monza race). Ten years before that in the 1992 campaign with the Williams FW14B things were similar.

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The Mercedes of 1954 and 1955 routinely lapped the best that its rival marques could muster. And Alberto Ascari once went upwards of a calendar year without ever being beaten in an F1 race. There are plenty of other examples too. Whatever advantage the RB9 has right now, indeed whatever advantage Red Bull's had in the last four years, it is extremely mild by historical comparison. And those enduring the periods that I've mentioned if faced with a race such as last Sunday's probably would have been cock-a-hoop, and declared it a rebirth of competitive F1 racing or similar.

While it may not be of much comfort to some to hear that things used to be even more boring than they are now, at the very least it should have served as sufficient warning that such things are possible in this sport. Remember that it's a fundamental part of F1 that teams design and build their own cars, therefore there's always the potential that a team will do a better job and steal a march on everyone. It happens.

And it's happening now. The sport has come through worse, and I suspect that somehow it will struggle through this time too.

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