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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Andreas
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Andreas

“So what do you think, has Vettel proved himself to be one of the greats…” Yes, absolutely. As you point out, winning from pole or the front rows is quite common, simply because you tend to get to the top of the starting grid by being one of the fastest that weekend. Personally, I can’t see how the achievement of winning the amount of races Vettel has would have been diminished if he’d also been the fastest in qualifying each time… Now, we know that he hasn’t, but that doesn’t change things for me. If you win three (most likely… Read more »

ShocksAndAwe
Member
ShocksAndAwe

If he gives me half his salary for the remainder of his career, I’d be happy to endorse him as one of the great drivers of all time. But seriously, and I pretty much despise Vettel, there’s no question anymore that he’s in the upper echelon of drivers. Sure, Newey has had a lot to do with that, but you could say the same about the technical director for every champion F1 has ever had. No one has won a world title without a very good car. You don’t get to win 3 or 4 titles without being really good.… Read more »

Rapierman
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Rapierman

I think the better question is “Can Vettel win despite adversity”? I used to think “no”, but the performance in the Japanese Grand Prix turned it into a resounding “Yes!” The evidence before my eyes showed that he might panic a little after a poor start, but then he settles down and fights back over the long haul. So, if that means that he can win without getting pole, then I’ll definitely say “yes”.

mini696
Member
mini696

I dont think his drive was very “settled”. I have never seen so many minor mistakes in the opening laps from Vettel as we saw in Japan. He was driving like Webber for a while there.

Rik
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Rik

Well, he certainly made far less mistakes than Lewis Hamilton with that GP2 start he tried to make.

Jack Flash (Aust)
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Jack Flash (Aust)

Aw ‘come on’…
I am a big fan of Webber, but I am not myopic in my fanatacism.
I also have massive respect for the driving talent of Seb Vettel.

This question of whether he can only win from Pole is getting pretty tiresome. Very.
The guy is a truly great F1 pilot. End of story. (Great guy? Mmmmm… not so much to me…) JF

mini696
Member
mini696

Its hard to win from any other position when all you get is poles.
I think Vettel has done enough to prove he is one of the all time fastest drivers.

UAN
Member
UAN

It always takes a bit of luck to win from further down the grid. A safety car, rain or changeable weather, retirements, etc. Alonso’s win last year at Valencia is a great case in point. Starts down the grid, great start and then works his way up to 4th. But then there’s a safety car which pulls the grid together. As everyone pits, Hamilton in 3rd has one of the usual 2012 McLaren pit stops from the nether, and Alonso jumps into 3rd. On the restart, Alonso is brilliant in passing Grojean, helped in part by RG’s inexperience. Then Vettel’s… Read more »

UAN
Member
UAN

One thing Vettel can do pretty well are Grand Chelems. He even knocked out 2 in a row (Singapore and Korea). That’s Jim Clark territory. He has 4 in his career and is tied for 3rd with folks like Aryton Senna and Jackie Stewart. The only other current driver on the grid that has a GC is Alonso with 1 to his name. The kid has legitimate speed and consistency.

UAN
Member
UAN

Here’s a link to drivers with Grand Chelem: http://www.statsf1.com/en/statistiques/pilote/divers/chelem.aspx

MIE
Editor
MIE

‘It would be great to see for those drivers winning from outside the first 2 rows, if there were safety cars / retirements in front of them and how many’. Three of the current drivers have won from behind the front two rows: Alonso; Räikkönen and Button. Alonso has won one race from each of the following positions: 15th; 11th; 8th; 6th and two races from 5th. The 15th start position was Singapore 2008, so certainly had some unusual outside influences, two safety cars and Alonso only overtook one person on track. The 11th position was the European GP in… Read more »

Manuel
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Manuel

Yes I think Vettel has proven himself, but there is one thing I see about Vettel I dont like from what I’ve seen in the past 2 seasons, and that is how his level of driving changes depending on his position on the grid. When he starts from pole he usually just sprints away into another universe and wins without even losing the lead, but when he doesn’t manage to do that we allways see a very unconfortable, tense and prone to error Vettel. In abu dahbi while he did manage to get to third lets remember that he often… Read more »

Mansell's_Stache
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Mansell's_Stache

The only thing Vettel proved to me after Japan is that he is a petulant child… “Get out of the way! I’m losing time.” “Charlie, get him out of the way. That is not fair.” What a baby. Cry to Charlie because you, one of the “best drivers” in THE best car, can’t get around Perez?! While my disdain for his comments are in large part because of the comments themselves, the manner in which he delivered them was the greatest cringe inducing factor. Srs…Vettel seems to exhibit a healthy aversion to actually having to race. This is not the… Read more »

UAN
Member
UAN

I recall in Canada Hamilton calling to get Sutil out of the way “Blue Flags, Blue Flags”. Or Webber in the same race harping about GVDG in the Caterham, who then hit Webber at the hair pin – though if it was Vettel being hit by GVDG I guess the comments would be “Vettel can’t pass, made a more decision, should have waited to pass on the straight with a faster car and DRS, shouldn’t feel so entitled etc”. In China Kimi was complaining about Perez. Button has complained about Perez. I believed Alonso complained about Perez in Monaco. Perez… Read more »

Mansell's_Stache
Guest
Mansell's_Stache

ALL DRIVERS who whine to race control about Blue Flags need to sack up and get on with the program.

Any driver who sounds like THAT will get the Stache blast…it’s not just Vettel…it’s just it was Vettel in Japan.

Turbophoenix
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Turbophoenix

I just wish this question would die already. Like you’ve mentioned, they spend so much effort getting to pole in the first place, it’s not like pole position is something given to drivers for free. I don’t think it would be as much of an issue if he didn’t just streak ahead from the first lap, and had to defend a bit more, but it just shows how good he and the car is that he can do that in the first place. Yep, he’s a great. Why is it even a question?

Sam Field
Guest
Sam Field

There is also a skill in getting the poles in the first place… it means the guy is really really fast. his Q2 run in Singapore was one of the few laps I’ve ever seen that as a lay person jumped off the screen at me. It was so smooth

Philippe
Member
Philippe

Let’s look at some facts:
Vettel won 68% of his wins from pole, 26% from 2nd and 6% from 3rd.

Now, let’s compare with a certain Ayrton Senna:
Senna won 71% of his wins from pole, 12% from 2nd, 12% from 3rd, 2% from 4th and 2% from 5th.

Matt_D
Guest
Matt_D

Among pilots, there is a saying, “The superior aviator uses his superior judgement to avoid having to use his superior skills.” Professional lifeguards have a similar albeit briefer saying, “The good lifeguard never gets wet.” In other words, ensure your success by eliminating all conditions that might otherwise prevent it. Vettel is on the verge of taking his fourth consecutive WDC by following that practice to the letter. So long as he is so successful at keeping himself on the first row, he will continue to rack up titles and it doesn’t matter one whit whether he can’t win with… Read more »