Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull: The Least Dominant of the Great F1 Dynasties

Matthew WalthertFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 25:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates after winning the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 25, 2013 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Getty Images)
Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have dominated Formula One for most of the last four years. In that time, Vettel and his teammate, Mark Webber, have won more races than all of their rivals combined.

No matter how you feel about Vettel, or whether you are a Red Bull fan, it cannot be denied that their performance has been one of the most impressive in F1 history.

And yet, as Vettel was winning the final nine races of the 2013 season, complaints about F1 being too boring and predictable reached a crescendo as TV viewing figures plummeted.

Lewis Hamilton won the 2008 title on the last lap of the season.
Lewis Hamilton won the 2008 title on the last lap of the season.Clive Mason/Getty Images

Yes, the second half of 2013 was relatively boring, but that has not been true of the entire Red Bull era. Not every year can have a finish like 2008, no matter how the regulations are manipulated.

The complaints about Vettel and Red Bull overblown anyway. There have been other periods where one driver or team has dominated the championship to a greater degree than the young German and his Bulls.

However, since we are in the midst of Vettel's run, it probably seems worse—from a competitive and entertainment standpoint—than it actually is.

Consider this: Vettel won the 2010 and 2012 championships by a combined seven points (and remember, sixth place is worth eight points). One slight mistake or mechanical failure in those two years and we could be talking about Fernando Alonso's four titles and whether Vettel would ever be able to catch him.

But this article is not a revisionist history. That point was just for a bit of perspective. No matter how predictable the second half of 2013 became, there have still been some very exciting finishes in the last few seasons. Looking back at the other dynasties in the history of the sport, that has not always been the case.

Schumacher celebrating his victory at the 2002 German Grand Prix.
Schumacher celebrating his victory at the 2002 German Grand Prix.ECKEHARD SCHULZ/Associated Press

If you want to talk about boring, you do not have to look too far. When Michael Schumacher won five straight Drivers' Championships for Ferrari from 2000 to 2004, only one of them (2003) was decided in the final race of the season. In 2002, the most dominant season in F1 history, Schumacher clinched the title with six races remaining in a 17-race season.

Williams' five Constructors' Championships in six years from 1992 to 1997 could also be considered a dynasty. However, the four Drivers' titles the team won in those years were won by four different drivers—and were broken up by Schumacher's first two championships. This variety makes the Williams years seem different from other the F1 dynasties.

Going back a bit further, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and McLaren owned the late 1980s and early 1990s. From 1985 to 1993, they won seven of nine Drivers' Championships. (Prost's 1993 title was won with Williams.)

Prost leading Senna at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.
Prost leading Senna at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

Despite their near-monopoly of the championship, though, these years are considered one of the most exciting periods in F1 history. The Brazilian and the Frenchman kept each other in check, taking race victories and titles from each other. Although their dominance lasted longer than Vettel's (so far), the battle between the two kept those seasons interesting.

Even with such evenly matched drivers, though, the Prost-Senna championship battles did not often come down to the final race. In fact, only Prost's 1986 win, while Senna was still with Lotus, was clinched in the last grand prix of the season.

There is one further dynasty to consider. In 1951 and from 1954 to 1957, Juan Manuel Fangio won five world championships. He drove for four different teams in those seasons—Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes and Ferrari. Meaning, he did not find one unbeatable car and coast to his championships, another criticism that has been levied against Vettel.

Fangio winning the 1955 Argentinian Grand Prix.
Fangio winning the 1955 Argentinian Grand Prix.MOLTER/Associated Press

Even with much shorter seasons and fewer races to build up a big lead in the championship, Fangio clinched three of his five championships before the last race of the season.

Coming in the first decade of the championship, one might have thought that fans would lose interest with such a display. They did not and, in the seven years after Fangio's last title, six different drivers won the championship.

So to the people saying that Red Bull is killing F1, just be patient. F1 has survived even more dominant periods in the past. Yes, Vettel has had two run-away seasons, but five of the last eight have also come down to the final race (without the help of double points, thank you very much).

Follow Matthew Walthert on Twitter @MatthewWalthert