SAO PAULO (AP) - What was good a year ago became even better in 2011 as Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull outclassed the competition to win their second consecutive title and increase their dominance in Formula One.
With a car labeled “light years” ahead of the others, Vettel easily won the drivers’ championship and Red Bull the constructors’ title in a season that was also marked by exciting racing brought on by rule changes that succeeded in encouraging passing.
By the time the season ended at the Brazilian Grand Prix last Sunday, Vettel had proved he has the potential to become one of the great drivers in F1 history and Red Bull had showed its superiority over the rest of the field was even greater than last year.
Red Bull had the fastest car by far in 2010, but mechanical failures and driver mistakes kept the championship close until the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi.
The 24-year-old German won 11 times and at the Brazilian GP captured his 15th pole position of the season to break Nigel Mansell’s record set 19 years ago with Williams.
“Pretty incredible,” Vettel said. “Going into the season we thought we (had) a competitive car, but it has been phenomenal. The team has been faultless most of the time, so they’ve raised their level massively compared to the last two years.”
Vettel never started lower than third on the grid and was on the front row in all but one race. He won five of the first six races and finished on the podium in every grand prix but two.
“This will be a year that we will look back to and always be very proud of,” Vettel said.
His competitors know they never stood much of a chance.
“(Red Bull) has been light years ahead of everyone,” McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton said. “It’s a serious machine.”
Hamilton, the 2008 F1 champion, won three races but finished only fifth in the drivers’ standings. His McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, also won three times in 2011, but was more consistent and ended second in the standings after a solid third-place run in Brazil on Sunday.
McLaren appeared to close the gap to Red Bull toward the end of the season, but it still wasn’t enough. Vettel teammate Mark Webber won the Brazilian GP after the German struggled with a gearbox problem, earning his only victory of the year.
“We were bombproof in many areas and that made it hard for the opposition,” Webber said. “I think I can have a stronger season than this year. Clearly I started off poorly for lots of different reasons. You’ve got to look at all different areas to get at the highest level. The bar’s high.”
Red Bull’s dominance started in the later part of the 2009 season and it has been the team to beat ever since.