Former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has reiterated his belief that the sport's new youngest-ever title-winner Sebastian Vettel must be encouraged to learn from his mistakes if he is to go on to ultimately join the echelon of the true greats – and that the onus for that falls chiefly on Red Bull Racing.
Despite the fact that Vettel has now added another record to his impressive collection – having already established himself as F1's youngest points-scorer, pole position-holder and race-winner – Villeneuve argues the German still betrays an alarming streak of immaturity, primarily because he has been cosseted by his team and protected from all criticism.
The French-Canadian points to pertinent examples of such behaviour in F1 2010 in Budapest and Istanbul, and insists that for all of his evident speed and raw talent, if Vettel is to go on to achieve his full potential in the sport, then RBR needs to stop letting him behave like 'a little kid' at times and allow him to develop.
“He's very fast, but I feel he has trouble controlling his emotions,” Williams' 1997 world champion told French magazine Auto Hebdo
. “I saw him raising a finger to the stewards in the pit-lane (in Hungary), and I find it hard to comprehend doing that at this level – that's more like a little kid.
“He's been treated the same for his whole career. At 14, he knew already that he would be brought into F1. When he makes a mistake, he is told, 'No, you did nothing wrong, everything is fine'. We'll see how he reacts now (as world champion).
“[Lewis] Hamilton was a bit like that at first, but after his title, he had a bad season and this year he was finally a man. This year, Vettel stupidly took out [team-mate Mark] Webber (in Turkey), but the team said it was Webber's fault. Let's see what happens – is it going to get worse, or will he get more mature now? If he goes in the direction of Hamilton then he will win more championships; otherwise, he will never learn from his mistakes.”
However, four-time F1 World Champion Alain Prost disagrees, lauding the 23-year-old's 'freshness and passion' after spending some time with him at the recent Race of Champions end-of-season spectacular in Düsseldorf. The Frenchman contends that the ten-time grand prix-winner is 'already very mature' – as evinced by the composed manner in which he peerlessly handled the tense Abu Dhabi title-decider last month, whilst his two key rivals Webber and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso conversely succumbed to the pressure.
“He is very young, but already very mature,” opined 'Le Professeur'. “I see a freshness, an enthusiasm that I really like. This is not the case with all young F1 drivers. That's one thing that surprises me – you don't feel the passion in some drivers, it's like they're there just for the business – but in Vettel, I feel the freshness and passion and I hope he keeps it as long as possible.
“Like everyone else, I was a bit critical when I saw the mess he created on some occasions, but in a driver with such panache and character, it is difficult to contain. After August, I saw a radical change. Then, without the incident in Korea, he would have won all of the last four races. He is a great champion, there is no doubt. You might have judged differently in the middle of the season, but – at the end – we can say 'bravo!'”