So much, so youngLaurence Edmondson October 27, 2013
Think back to what you had achieved at the age of 26, or if you're not 26 yet, think realistically about what you hope to achieve by that age. Although I'm sure there are several utterly brilliant individuals reading this website, it's unlikely that many will have risen to the top of their chosen field and dominated it for four consecutive years by that age. Yet that is exactly what Sebastian Vettel achieved in India on Sunday and if that doesn't make him one of the greats, it's hard to imagine what does.
What's most remarkable is that no-one is in the least bit surprised. In fact there are many people that seem to resent his success and even some that believe he has only achieved it by being in the right place at the right time. The truth is that he has worked incredibly hard to end up in the right place and his success flows from a concerted team effort that he is very much a part of. To say Red Bull has done all the hard work, one is also complimenting Vettel, so entwined are driver and team. Michael Schumacher's success between 2000 and 2004 at Ferrari was no different.
Perhaps most impressive has been Vettel's consistency this year. In previous seasons there have been notable mistakes, but this year it's hard to name just one. His only retirement so far came at Silverstone while he was leading the race and through no fault of his own, while the only blot on his qualifying record was in China where he opted not to set a lap in Q3 in order to chase an alternative strategy. Take those two results out of the equation and he has not qualified lower than third and not finished lower than fourth in 16 races.
It's also worth remembering that in the first half of the season - and on Pirelli's original 2013 construction tyre - Red Bull did not have it all its own way. And if 2014's regulation changes weren't looming as large as they have been in the second half of the season, maybe Red Bull's rivals would have dedicated more attention to their current cars than they have in the last six races. But none of that should detract from the dedication and resources Vettel and Red Bull have expended on their championship cause.
There's no doubt that one driver winning all the time is dull, and it's true that Vettel has won every race since the summer break. But, despite regularly producing thrilling season finales, Formula One is a sport like any other and not scripted entertainment. Perhaps to those with only a passing interest, the perceived lack of competition is a turn off but underneath the surface there are a whole host of interesting and inspiring stories, of which Vettel's success is just one.
What's more it is the final chapter in the story of the current set of rules, set to be resigned to history at the end of the year. Since 2009 Red Bull, led by Adrian Newey's design team, has nailed the current regulations and developed its car year on year. Other teams have chopped and changed between concepts, but there is a visible lineage between 2009's RB5 and this year's RB9. It is fitting, therefore, that Red Bull should end the final year with such a flurry of success. What's more with Newey's eye increasingly being drawn towards the world of sailing, it is worth taking the time to celebrate his brilliance within a sport that he has had a considerable impact on.
Next year the regulations are set to be turned on their head and with it there could be a new era of dominance or possibly an era of tight competition. But in the here and now, Vettel is the man of the moment and Red Bull are the team.
Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1