Martin Brundle Q&A: The Sky F1 analyst talks Vettel, Alonso and the Korean GP's future
The latest rumblings in the driver market also under discussion
Last Updated: 03/10/13 12:56pm
Craig Slater: At the start of the year, Martin, we spoke about the law of diminishing returns, at the end of a design cycle it would be harder and harder for the teams to find big performance gains and things would bunch up. Then in Singapore Vettel goes and laps two seconds ahead of the field - how do you explain that?
Martin Brundle: "It was the perfect storm really. He was out front, new tyres, he was pushing hard, others weren't pushing hard or had problems with their cars. But he was incredibly fast around there; I think it does suit his driving style. They're still putting new parts on these cars even towards the end of the season. I think they've got some systems on their car they've developed as well and Vettel is really making the most of the tools that they're giving him and it turns into a performance like that. Twenty-three corners in Singapore, if you're really acing it around those slow corners you can find a lot of time."
CS: He's now surpassed Fernando Alonso in terms of career wins - is he now the number one of his generation?
MB: "We don't really know, I'd love to see them both in the same car at the same time. I still would put my money on Fernando Alonso as being the most complete driver out there, but can Alonso qualify as well as Vettel? Probably not. Vettel's only 26 years of age and he's still got a lot of potential upside.
"I don't know who would win. If you put them both in the Red Bull right now I really don't know who would be the best, but it would be very close I imagine."
CS: Some people are saying that Vettel really needs to do what Michael Schumacher did at Ferrari and turn a team around. Alonso has failed to win the championship at Ferrari thus far so is that the benchmark he's comparing himself with as well, and is he in real danger of missing out on that?
MB: "Well, he is. Alonso went to Ferrari to win some more World Championships and to be frank he's done a job but they've thrown a couple away really in some respects - he should have had at least one, if not two, championships with Ferrari. It hasn't happened and that's why he's started casting his eye around a little bit lately.
"But we saw Vettel win a race with Toro Rosso and then to an extent he has been part of helping build Red Bull into championship contenders and winners. It's not just what you do turning the steering wheel and pressing the pedals, it's about what you achieve out of the car as well, who you get around you and how you get them all pointing at your performance and your success."
CS: Changing the subject and looking a bit down the field, Paul Di Resta has struggled a little bit of late. There's some speculation in the paddock that he might be without a drive next year, is that a real possibility?
MB: "I think there are several drivers on the grid who are concerned where the potential slots in competitive cars are next year. Finances are tight with sponsorship and the incredible schedule they've got to meet. I would find it amazing if Paul Di Resta doesn't have a competitive seat. He's shown he's a world-class driver, very capable of scoring points and in the right car winning races, I believe, in F1.
"But there are a lot of professional drivers who are looking for those key seats and looking over their shoulder they see some bright young guys coming along with maybe a lot of sponsorship to bring with them or money to pay."
CS: Might a place at McLaren be a possibility? Nico Hulkenberg is increasingly being linked as well. Sergio Perez is still expected to be there, but you wanted Hulkenberg in Perez's seat in the first place didn't you...
MB: "That's who I'd have put in the car, frankly. I think Nico Hulkenberg has shown tremendous ability over a long period of time now. A bit of a problem he has next year is that with the new cars, new power packs, they're struggling to get them on or under the [maximum] weight so a driver who's taller and heavier is a disadvantage. You don't carry five kilos around in a grand prix, that's two tenths per lap at some circuits. You can't afford that.
"So Hulkenberg's got that issue but I think he's fast enough and good enough to put in the car. But there are a number of drivers, like Hulkenberg, like Di Resta... where will Felipe Massa drop down to? Will he drop out for example? You've got Sutil around, you've got drivers hoping to come back into the sport as well, so it's quite a complex mix in the middle there."
CS: It's not just drivers that might drop out of F1, circuits are under threat as well - not least this place. It cost an awful lot of money to build, it's lost in excess of £100 million in just three races. Do you think this might be the last Korean GP?
MB: "I'm hearing that they're very excited that we're coming back next year! Others say 'yeah, this is the last one and there won't be 22 races on the calendar'. I've heard this for decades to be honest: we see what the schedule is and we go to the races and we talk about them or we drive in them. So often I've heard 'this race is not going to happen ever again' and the next thing is we're there presenting from the grid.
"We'll wait and see. With 22 races on the schedule next year, I think most people in the paddock believe it's not how it will end up - it will be nearer 20 or 21. But we could well be back here in April."