Swimming against the tide of popular opinion – as is so often his wont – Bernie Ecclestone has pronounced that Sebastian Vettel's crushing dominance in F1 2011 to-date is 'what makes it so interesting for the fans' and muses that there is no reason 'why there shouldn't be a Red Bull era' in much the same manner as that of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.
As the sport's defending world champion, Vettel has been in imperious form this season, triumphing in six of the eight grands prix thus far and taking the chequered flag as runner-up in the other two, to establish a commanding 77-point advantage over any of his pursuers in the title standings.
To put that into perspective, even if either McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton or Ferrari's Fernando Alonso won every single one of the remaining races in 2011, finishing second in each of them would still be sufficient for Vettel to comfortably clinch the crown. Little wonder Ecclestone rates him as 'the best'.
“You can't hide talent,” the sport's influential commercial rights-holder told the official F1 website. “He has an absolute will to win – and he has everything in his hands to do it. Probably others don't have the package that Sebastian has right now.
“He is in a similar position as Michael [Schumacher]. Sebastian is the best right now, and that's why he is dominating. That's what makes it so interesting for the fans, because every race weekend starts with a big question mark – who will be able to beat Vettel? That's why fans tune in.
“The competition Sebastian is facing is much bigger than that confronted by Michael, though. That makes Seb's wins even more noteworthy. I don't see a reason why there shouldn't be a Red Bull era just as Ferrari had theirs with Michael. He reminds me of Jochen Rindt – Seb will always stay grounded, no matter how big the success. That is what makes real champions. That was also Jochen's strength. Plus, both are lousy losers…”
Indeed, it is not only Vettel's on-track prowess that impresses Ecclestone, with the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive waxing lyrical about the young German's manner away from the circuit, reasoning that – unlike some of his rivals – the way he behaves is 'how I expect a champion to be'.
“I don't like that some of the drivers are completely under the thumb of their teams and sponsors,” reflected the 80-year-old, who presented Vettel with a silver telegram and a ruler engraved with the names of all of the sport's world champions – as is tradition – in Abu Dhabi last November. “With Sebastian it is different. He is still his own master, which is obviously also because Red Bull and Didi Mateschitz allow it.
“Every F1 driver – and especially the champion – owes his success, his money and his popularity to the sport. That is why he ought to give something back – to be open and accessible. That's why I complained about Fernando Alonso, who in my view didn't represent F1 well enough.”