Michael Bailey: Sebastian Vettel – the wonder kid who was first to it all

There is no shying away from it – Sebastian Vettel has demolished F1 in 2011. The 24-year-old German has owned the season – as Martin Brundle likes to say, he has been in a class of one.

Some of the figures are frightening – not least that Vettel's second worst finish of the season came in Japan on Sunday, yet still saw him standing on the podium. He pocketed 14 more points than he needed to book back-to-back drivers titles at Suzuka.

If you want something to offer amusement, Vettel's poorest finish came in his home race… But it's not that funny – he still crossed the line fourth.

It did feel like Red Bull would be the team to beat as winter disappeared – even though testing is notoriously difficult to read without the benefit of hindsight. Yet not even Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber – the only man given the same tools every race weekend – has been able to touch him. Conspiracy theories politely ignored there, you'll note.

Vettel became the youngest-ever world champion last season with a superb climax to the campaign in Abu Dhabi that still owed a lot to Ferrari's botched strategy and the wide rears of Vitaly Petrov and Robert Kubica.


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This time around, Fernando Alonso and company never got close enough to challenge, hence why we still have four races to run and already know the destination of the silverware.

So Vettel has morphed into the youngest back-to-back world champion – you can add that to a ridiculous list of firsts under his name. He is already the youngest to: score a point, drive in a grand prix, top a session's time sheet, lead a race, score a podium, take pole, win a grand prix – and then do both at the same race weekend.

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It is a phenomenal run – and no doubt enough to raise an eyebrow under the helmet of Vettel's compatriot Michael Schumacher. The F1 legend and record seven-times world champion bagged number three in 2000 – the first of five successive titles with Ferrari – at the age of 31.

Time is on Vettel's side to top that and achieve F1 immortality. But as others will testify, for Vettel to turn respect into greatness he will need to win a title when that machine underneath him isn't a world beater – or after he decides to up sticks and take another team under his wing.

What he has achieved so far is supreme – and yet there is still plenty for Vettel to go out and prove.

• It may have required a safety car, but Hingham's Team Lotus can take pride in finishing around Suzuka on the lead lap.

Fancy, not a blue flag in sight during the entire grand prix.

In truth, that is how it should be – blue flags are little more than an excuse to make things easier for the leading cars. The art of lapping has disappeared.

Anyway, back on topic. Reading lines from between sessions it appears the naming issues with Team Lotus and Lotus Renault GP could be all but resolved when the teams and interested parties next meet – most likely in the week following the first Indian Grand Prix on October 30.

That is the easy bit. The rest is, unsurprisingly, more complicated.

Team Lotus – who are looking to purchase the Leafield Technical Centre site for its F1 factory move out of Norfolk – want to rename themselves Caterham F1, with no doubt some title involvement from Air Asia in there too.

Group Lotus-backed Renault want to be renamed Lotus – including its chassis.

Most of their fellow teams and colleagues are happy with this, but for a couple of points. Sauber, Ferrari and Hispania want the changes discussed properly before agreeing – due to their own interest in the procedure and what it could mean in future.

And as F1 Teams Association chief Martin Whitmarsh said: 'Name changes aren't something that should be encouraged.'

There may be issues with current Lotus CEO Dany Bahar too, who could be pushed out by current owner of Lotus Renault GP, Gerard Lopez – said to also want to take Group Lotus off Proton's hands. Interesting.

Then there is the F1 rights income – �35m to Renault, and a smaller but still significant sum to Team Lotus – the teams could lose if they fail to get the green light to change their names but still want to go ahead.

So it seems there will be some serious chatter taking place away from the track over the coming weeks – watch this space.

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