Sebastian Vettel is working hard to hold up his reputation in the 2012 season (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Dale Daugherty wrote previously for The Austin Grand Prix, in his article about making the most of your USGP vacation. As a big Formula 1 fan, Dale is particularly excited about the championship season and the possibility of the USGP deciding the 2012 season winner. In this piece, he takes a look at points standings as now that the second half of the season has begun, and speculates how the championship will play out the rest of the season.

I make no secret that Sebastian Vettel is my favorite driver on the Formula One grid. What can I say… the kid can drive! Until the United States can field a driver that is a consistent points fighter, this will always be the case. I have no national pride to rally behind, so the double World Champion gets my support.

Fernando Alonso is an incredibly talented driver as well… certainly not the best… but he is seen as the real benchmark in the modern era of F1, despite the presence of Michael Schumacher on the grid. Regardless of how you feel about Schumacher… it is a fact that he is statistically the greatest driver F1 has ever seen. So why is he not currently the benchmark? Simple: he has yet to deliver since he came out of retirement. So for the time being, Alonso is the man to beat on the track at this point in the season.

Last year, while Vettel was utterly dominating the field (thanks in part to Kinky Kylie, the Adrian Newey designed beast of a car); I found that many people were quick to discount the Germans drive because of the car. Many feel that Vettel is not a “complete” or “mature” driver until he is forced to fight the field in a sub-par machine… and while I agree that making miracles is the stuff of legend (Ayrton Senna at Toleman) … I hardly feel that good equipment is a legitimate reason to discredit ones skill. Even Senna had the advantage of superior engineering at McLaren.

Right now, the Championship battle is between Alonso and Vettel. If we were to look at the stats of both drivers, it is obvious that the Spaniard leads by a large margin in just about everything except career poles. Here is a quick rundown of the numbers (stats prior to Singapore):

VET

CAREER

ALO

2

CHAMPIONSHIPS

2

95

RACES

192

22

WINS

30

41

PODIUMS

80

931

POINTS

1265

12

FAST LAPS

19

33

POLES

22

 

Alonso has had a lengthy and impressive career. He is now 31, six years older than Vettel, so I feel it goes without saying that he is more “mature” and “complete”; I just fail to see how this makes him a vastly superior driver in terms of skill and talent. To justify my doubts of Alonso, let’s put the above stats into perspective over the length of each driver’s career:

SEB

CAREER

ALO

23.16%

WIN PERCENTAGE

15.63%

43.16%

PODIUM PERCENTAGE

41.67%

34.74%

POLE PERCENTAGE

11.46%

9.80

POINTS PER RACE

6.59

 

In fewer races, Vettel has managed a higher percentage of wins, podiums, and pole positions… and has scraped together more points per race than his rival, Alonso.  If you were to ask me… that makes him a stronger and more talented driver. BUT, then we are forced to once more bring up the argument of equipment. It’s impossible to deny that Sebastian had an incredible car last year… and a great driver in a great car will achieve greatness.  Part of becoming a World Champion driver depends on the team you sign with and the vehicle they provide. Maintaining your seat in that vehicle depends on your ability to consistently drive it into the points. So, as a driver, Vettel has managed to put himself in a position to be at the top of the heap. So has Alonso, but spanning a longer career with more ups and downs.

So now, after the second of the 2012 season has begun… we have a close matched rivalry between two extraordinary drivers. Vettel and Alonso are now battling each other for their third Championship win, and both do not have the best equipment on the grid; Abbey is not the machine that Kinky Kylie was. Had Vettel not suffered a mechanical failure in Valencia… the battle would be even closer! I prefer Sebastian finishes the season with a third title in the bag… but even before the season began I was hoping he would not dominate. I enjoy a close fought battle, and love when doubters are proven wrong. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I watch my favorite driver struggle to become the new benchmark. Should he win a third Championship this year… in my opinion he will then be a more “complete” driver than Alonso.  As far as “maturity” is concerned, I think he is quite mature for his age, and if anyone on the grid needs to grow up it would be either Lewis Hamilton or Pastor Maldonado.

Who knows what will happen? Kimi Raikkonnen could blast into the lead and steal everyone’s thunder. Lewis Hamilton's win at Monza puts him ahead of Seb leading into the Singapore GP, and be sure to not forget about Webber… who I am sure would love to clench a championship win, and still has a chance for glory. Alonso is not going to be disposed of easily this season; Seb will have his work cut out! In any case, no matter who wins, I hope the Sunday drive that seals the deal for the Title takes place in Austin, Texas. I could not think of a better finish for the return of the United States Grand Prix.