Can Vettel only win from pole position?

A lot of commentators have given Sebastian Vettel a lot of criticism for his apparent inability to win from anywhere other than the front of the grid. As he rapidly approaches his fourth World Drivers’ Championship I wondered if this was a valid complaint.

Of the current twenty two driver’s active in Formula 1, nine have won races, and between them they have won 148 races. In fact since the start of the 2007 season the only other drivers to have won races are single wins from Kubica and Kovalainen in 2008 and a pair of wins for Barrichello in 2009.

Of these 148 wins over half (76 or 51.35%) have been won from pole position and a further quarter (36 or 24.32%) have been won from 2nd place. Thirteen races (8.78%) have been won from third place, eight races (5.41%) have been won from fourth place leaving only fifteen races (10.14%) that have been won from lower than the second row.

Of the nine active drivers to have won a GP, one (Maldonado) has only won from pole, a further three (Massa, Webber and Rosberg) have only won from the front row, and only three (Alonso, Räikkönen and Button) have won from fifth place or lower. Vettel then shares the distinction of only having won from the first two rows with Hamilton. Admittedly Lewis has won twice from fourth place, but then Sebastian has converted 24 of his 42 poles into wins, while Hamilton has only managed to convert 12 of his 31 poles into wins.

As I have posted in the comments before, even Fangio only ever won from the front row (grids being 3-4-3 when he raced). Michael Schumacher only won seven races (out of his 91 wins) starting from fifth or lower, Senna won precisely one race starting from fifth (the other 4 were from the front two rows). Prost on the other hand won eleven of his 51 wins from behind the front two rows.

Overall then, while it might make a nice soundbite to say that Sebastian Vettel can only win from the front, but the sad fact is F1 teams and drivers spend two days before each race to make sure the fastest man and machine start at the front, it is hardly surprising that most of the Grand Prix winners start there.

So what do you think, has Vettel proved himself to be one of the greats, or is there more he needs to achieve before you would consider him for a place in the top echelon of drivers?

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