November feels like the true end to the motorsports season. December is just excessive. Nearly every championship is decided. There are very few races remaining in the calendar year. January is when things will pick up and the excitement will start to build. At the present moment, it is a lull ahead of us, but not a bad one. It is good to have a break. There is so much more to life than this stuff.
Before we get into December, the big event in November was the end of the Formula One season. This is the right time to put a bow on that season, and in one case, a bow on one of the best careers the series ever saw.
Unraveling the Myth of Sebastian Vettel
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the final start for Sebastian Vettel in Formula One after he announced his retirement during the season. Though some are wondering if Vettel could return like fellow past champions Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso, I get the sense we will never see Vettel in a race car again unless it is in Race of Champions.
Unfortunately, Vettel is leaving on a low note. Nine seasons removed from his fourth and final championship and over three years removed from his 53rd and final victory.
Because of the last few seasons, I think there is a split in the story of Sebastian Vettel, especially as Formula One viewership has increased over the last four years. The newer crowd only saw a portion of Vettel's career that doesn't tell the full story, and the one that is being conjured looking at the history book isn't the most accurate.
Vettel was a four-time champion and one of the best at the start of the 2010s, and frankly the entire decade. But Vettel didn't have it easy. He didn't just have the best car, won four titles and then became unremarkable once the new regulations came in and switched teams. Vettel won two of those championships in scrappy battles that went to the final race.
It is forgotten that he did not lead the championship in 2010 until the end of the final race of the season when he won at Abu Dhabi to take the title by four points over Alonso and ten points over his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. Only 16 points covered Vettel to Lewis Hamilton in fourth in the only season in Formula One history where four drivers entered the season finale with a shot at the championship.
Vettel had to be near flawless in the final six races to take that championship. After finishing 15th at the Belgian Grand Prix, Vettel entered Monza 31 points behind Hamilton in the championship lead. Alonso was 41 points back and those two went on a tear to close out the season. Alonso won in Italy and Singapore while Vettel was fourth and second. Webber now led the championship with 202 points, three ahead of Alonso, 20 ahead of Hamilton and 21 clear of Vettel.
In Japan, Vettel took victory and he was looking good for another in South Korea and taking the championship lead in the process until the engine failed with ten laps to go. Alonso scooped up a victory and an 11-point lead over Webber while Hamilton was 21 points back and Vettel trailed by 25 points. Vettel entered the penultimate race needing to not lose any ground to Alonso to remain alive for the title.
Red Bull went 1-2 at Interlagos with Vettel leading Webber. Alonso was third and Hamilton was fourth. It set up Alonso eight points clear of Webber, 15 ahead of Vettel and 22 points above Hamilton entering the Abu Dhabi finale. Vettel took pole position and Webber qualified fifth, the worst of the four contenders. Webber made a early pit stop and was running fast enough to force Alonso to pit, taking both drivers out of point scoring positions. Both drivers struggled to make their way through traffic, but did get back into the point positions until they became stuck behind Vitaly Petrov despite having fresher tires.
Vettel opened a healthy lead over Hamilton and went on to take victory while Alonso and Webber finished seventh and eighth. This gave Vettel the championship by four points over Alonso, who needed to finish fourth.
He had to climb over another sizable Alonso lead in 2012. After Monza, he was 39 points back with seven races to go. Vettel won the next four races and caught a break when Alonso was caught in an opening lap incident in Japan. The Spaniard's lead decreased to four points alone after that race and after Vettel's four-race streak, the German was up 13 points with three to play and it remained 13 points entering the Brazil finale.
On the opening lap, Vettel spun and was running in last place while Alonso would just need a podium to take the title. In changing conditions, Vettel climbed back up the order but with a damaged car his drive was hampered as Alonso continued to fight for the lead. Alonso was second and Vettel was sixth, enough for Vettel to take the title by three points.
Too often is Vettel only remembered for the dominance, and he did dominate, but it wasn't an untouchable period for four years. His 2011 and 2013 championships were sensational displays of talent. Whether it was Vettel getting the most out of the car and finishing no worse than fourth in 17 consecutive races or ending a season with nine consecutive victories, it was brilliance in action.
As for the end, the turbo hybrid era came at a rough time. Renault's unreliability dismantled his confidence in Red Bull. Combined with interst in Ferrari, Vettel made the move to Maranello. He won races and even took the fight to Mercedes and Hamilton.
The turning point in Vettel's career is the 2018 German Grand Prix. Ferrari had the best car that season. Enteirng that race, Vettel was eight points up on Hamilton, had four victories to Hamilton's three and Ferrari was 20 points up on Mercedes. Vettel was on pole position while Hamilton started 14th after suffering a hydraulics failure in qualifying.
It wasn't long until Vettel appeared to be in control of the race. Rain started to fall with about 20 laps remaining and Vettel slipped off the circuit in the stadium section at Hockenheim on lap 52 of 67. The German was done in his home race. All these events fell in order that allowed Hamilton to take the lead after overcoming his poor starting position. Hamilton won the race and went from -8 to +17.
Vettel never recovered. Hamilton would finish on the podium in the next seven races and in nine of the final ten events. The only races where Vettel managed to finish ahead of Hamilton were Belgium and Mexico, and in Mexico, Hamilton clinched the title with a fourth-place result.
Ferrari went through a revolving door of team principals during Vettel's time at the team. Leadership issues still plague the Scuderia, but Vettel joined at a bad time, administratively speaking. Combined with the rise of Charles Leclerc, Vettel's time was up after 2020. His final years with Aston Martin... they really aren't worth mentioning.
There was a wonderful celebration of Vettel at Abu Dhabi earlier this month ahead of his final race. He received a dinner with all the drivers and fans genuinely cheered his final laps. This is the driver that is third all-time in victories leaving, one of five drivers with at least four championships. He didn't just get lucky. Vettel drove tooth and nail against Hamilton and Alonso, two of the greatest of all-time as well. He fought out of deep holes most drivers couldn't ever imagine coming out of.
The final years were unsatisfying because of how great Vettel was at his very best. It is an unfortunate circumstance when success is consolidated to a brief period in time. It was a sustained period but there is an audience that will only have part of the picture and missed something truly special.
Full Grid Points
Back in August, Anthony Davidson may have convinced me to change my mind when he said in an interview that points should be paid to every position in a Formula One race. After he said that, I figured out a proportional system, did the math and tabulated what the standings would have looked like with that system as the summer break approached.
The season is over, and I thought we would look at the full grid standings now that every race is complete. There were a few notable differences in the standings that arguably provided a more accurate position of the 2022 season during the summer. What does it look like after 22 races?
Quick reminder, the standing pays points as follows for classified finishes: 50-36-30-28-26-24-22-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. No fastest lap point. No sprint qualifying points.
Full Grid Drivers' Standings (Change to actual championship position)
1. Max Verstappen - 861 (-)
2. Sergio Pérez - 607 (+1)
3. George Russell - 582 (+1)
4. Charles Leclerc - 561 (-2)
5. Lewis Hamilton - 540 (+1)
6. Carlos Sainz, Jr. - 492 (-1)
7. Lando Norris - 400 (-)
8. Esteban Ocon - 378 (-)
9. Fernando Alonso - 313 (-)
10. Valtteri Bottas - 260 (-)
11. Sebastian Vettel - 260 (+1)
12. Lance Stroll - 257 (+3)
13. Pierre Gasly - 245.5 (+1)
14. Daniel Ricciardo - 241 (-3)
15. Alexander Albon - 183 (+4)
16. Kevin Magnussen - 182 (-3)
17. Guanyu Zhou - 175.5 (+1)
18. Mick Schumacher - 172 (-2)
19. Yuki Tsunoda - 162 (-2)
20. Nicholas Latifi - 95 (-)
21. Nyck de Vries - 18 (-)
22. Nico Hülkenberg - 16 (-)
1. Red Bull - 1,468 (-)
2. Mercedes - 1,122 (+1)
3. Ferrari - 1,053 (-1)
4. Alpine - 778 (-)
5. McLaren - 661 (-)
6. Aston Martin - 520 (+1)
7. Alfa Romeo - 432 (-1)
8. AlphaTauri - 407.5 (+1)
9. Haas - 358.5 (-1)
10. Williams - 200 (-)
A few drivers at the top get shuffled. Sergio Pérez would have made it a Red Bull 1-2 in the drivers' championship while George Russell's consistency would lift him above Charles Leclerc and the two Mercedes would combine to top Ferrari in the constructors' championship. I think either way you slice it works. Mercedes only won once but it had a more reliable car than Ferrari. If Mercedes had ended up second no one would have batted an eye at such a result.
The big winner in this system is Alexander Albon, and it puts his season in better perspective. In the current system, he is 19th in the championship and only two points ahead of his teammate Nicholas Latifi. While Albon's four points is double Latifi's total, two points is nothing. Albon finished between 11th and 13th ten times in a 22-race season. Adding three top ten finishes means he was in the middle third of the field for over half the races. Meanwhile, Latifi had two finishes better than 13th all season.
Lance Stroll would also jump up three spots in the championship that would lift Aston Martin up to sixth in the constructors'. Aston Martin might not have been a great car, but this changes the perception. It lifts up Aston Martin while knocking Alfa Romeo down a peg. Stroll had two retirements all season and finished 13th or better in 16 of 22 races.
This system wouldn't just reward drivers who get a car to the end, but it would greatly benefit teams with two producing drivers over one. Albon scored more points than both Haas drivers, but Latifi's form meant Haas still finished over 150 points clear of Williams. I think such a system might force teams to make midseason driver changes. Albon showed what that car was capable of and finding a second driver that could match Albon would lift the team.
Alpine would have been comfortably in fourth instead of having a tough fight with McLaren. That is because Daniel Ricciardo wasn't close to matching the results of Lando Norris. If McLaren had someone close to Norris in the second car, it could have pushed for fourth.
If every position paid points, it would force teams to be honest because it couldn't hope that a few top ten finishes and maybe a lucky day would be enough to get an extra spot in the constructors' championship. Every position would have a designated weight and there would be a difference between 11th and 12th, 14th and 15th, 16th and 17th. Every driver would have something to race for and not just settle when a team is off and not in touching distance of tenth. Success in the constructors' championship would be a more accurate picture of a team's total strength.
I am coming around to the full grid points system because I think it would only intensify the battle throughout the field and force drivers to perform at a higher level. It would only also force teams to take more chances because having a weak link would be more noticeable than it is under the current system.
With all the changes happening in Formula One, I could see points being awarded to the entire field in the very near future. That fantasy could be here sooner rather than later.
There is not much racing going on in December. Supercars will end its season with a return to Adelaide and the Gulf 12 Hours will conclude the Intercontinental GT World Challenge season.
As for this space, we will have a few review items coming in the coming weeks. We will had out some awards for the year and then we will turn our attention to predictions for 2023 before the calendar flips over to January.