It’s been a bruising summer for Sebastian Vettel. The young German driver has suffered a combination of bad luck, self-induced mistakes and what can only be described as psychological overload as he’s battled to come to terms with the fact that the biggest challenge to his potential dominance has come from his own Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
But on Sunday in the Singapore GP, Vettel harnessed the expert genius which marks him out as the sport’s most exciting rising star to deliver a brilliantly measured second place behind Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.
Touching a barrier during qualifying – and being held up by Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes – resulted in Vettel having to settle for second place on the starting grid, but Alonso clearly knew that the Red Bull probably had the speed to get away from his Ferrari if he got a break in the sprint away from the starting grid, hence Fernando’s very deliberate, but totally legitimate, squeeze as the two rivals raced for the first corner.
From then on Seb’s chances would be dictated by whether or not he could hustle Alonso into a mistake. But there was not a chance.
Instead, the double world champion dealt out a meticulously precise driving lesson to the Red Bull driver, a textbook example of how to subtly slow the pace when approaching backmarkers in order to ensure that he incurred the minimum delay picking a path through the traffic.
“That is the story of the whole race,” explained Vettel. “I tried to push him as hard as I could into a mistake. He didn’t make a major mistake so as he said it is difficult to overtake here and it would have been too risky, so in the end we got away with second, good points. But the most important is that the car is quick, competitive all weekend.
"There was a bit missing yesterday and probably that was what I was missing today. I had a very good start, so I think we made good progress on that. In the end it is good to get good points for the team. It helps us a lot in the Constructors’ Championship and in the Drivers’ Championship everything is still very much open.”
More importantly, Vettel’s flawless drive had removed any question marks over his talent and focus. All part of the F1 growing-up process successfully achieved.