Greatness cannot be taken away by car reputation

Sebastian Vettel may have won two F1 driver’s championships in successive seasons, but that is not enough to convince former champion Sir Jackie Stewart he has what it takes to be called a great.

Vettel, who won the Korean Grand Prix last week to take a six-point lead in the 2012 driver’s world championship, has turned the heads of those who bet on sports ever since his arrival on the circuit and with a dangerously fast Red Bull car could make it a hat-trick of titles before the end of November.

Yet his performances on the track are still not enough to convince Stewart:

“If you’ve got a superior car, it’s relatively easy to win the championship,” he denounced. “To really show you’re one of the greatest, you have to deliver when you haven’t got the best machinery.”

What a pity it is then that Vettel has reportedly signed a deal with Ferrari to become the Italian giants’ next new superstar. If Stewart’s argument is correct – that Vettel needs to win with an inferior manufacturer to become the greatest – then he has completely diminished Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles set a decade ago.

For Schumacher dominated in the mid-90s and early 2000s due to a superior Ferrari that wiped the floor clean of all other opponents. The German came back from retirement two years ago and has performed below expectations in a clunky Mercedes, suggesting he was not the great racer we always supposed him to be – according to Stewart’s logic.

Furthermore, Fernando Alonso took a step down in the ‘credibility stakes’ when he left Renault to join McLaren and then Ferrari. So was Alonso the greatest ever driver – having won two championships with Renault – until he went to a better team?

No, Stewart’s suggestion that Vettel is only a champion because of Red Bull’s brilliance is a tough call to make. You can’t discredit someone’s success because of their team; if Vettel wasn’t good enough he wouldn’t be racing for Red Bull.

Successive championship titles is a huge feat and, at just 25-years-old, betting news experts reckon that Vettel really does have the potential to become a great – in whatever car he sees fit to do it in.

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