Sebastian Vettel 'could be one of the best [F1 drivers] of all time', reckons former world champion Jody Scheckter, with the South African conceding that it will be 'very difficult' for any of his rivals to prevent the runaway Red Bull Racing pace-setter from clinching a second consecutive drivers' crown this season – and defending Lewis Hamilton as a 'hero' rather than an 'idiot'.
After extending his advantage in the F1 2011 title standings once again with the runner-up spoils in last weekend's British Grand Prix – meaning he still has yet to finish outside of the top two in any race thus far this year – Vettel will head to his home outing at the Nürburgring in a week's time with a commanding 80-point margin over his closest pursuer.
Many suggest that the defending world champion's lead is an all-but insurmountable one, and Scheckter is inclined to agree – and not only that, contends the 1979 title-winner, but as long as 'fantastic' design genius Adrian Newey remains on-board at Red Bull, too, Vettel could just remain the man to beat for several years to come.
“Whether somebody else can win the championship...it's happened before, where it looks like the guy is going to win and it changes, but it's going to be very difficult for anybody to beat him, especially in the shape that he's in,” the 61-year-old told the BBC
. “He's winning everything, he's quickest all the time...
“I would hate to bet against him, that's for sure. He seems to be doing everything right; yes, he didn't win at Silverstone, but he looked like he was going to win – he got off the line quicker, he did everything that he could have done right.
“He's learning, he's a young driver, he's getting better with the team and Adrian Newey seems to always come out with the best car, or at least most of the time. He's fantastic really, there's no question about that.
“[Vettel] could be one of the best of all time. He does things right; he's sensible. I remember the first race he won at Monza in the wet, everybody was just, 'wow' – and he seems to have carried that on. He's got a long, long way before he's going to beat Michael [Schumacher]'s records, but he looks very, very good at the moment. He's got to be lucky to get into a good car with a good engine each of those years like Michael did, but could he do it? He looks like he could, yeah.”
The former Ferrari star went on to praise this year's on-track action as 'so exciting', and one driver who has played a greater part than most in that entertainment – for both good reasons and bad – is McLaren-Mercedes ace Hamilton, who has found himself in hot water with FIA stewards on several occasions for his aggressive overtaking manoeuvres and some questionable collisions. Scheckter argues that whilst the Briton does go right to the limits of acceptability at times, he rarely strays over them.
“I would say that he's probably the best I've ever seen in traffic and in taking advantage of traffic,” the ten-time grand prix-winner opined. “I would say his moves in Monaco [on Felipe Massa and later Pastor Maldonado] were a bit silly – he wasn't going to make it, he went halfway, and if you only get that far, you're going to end up probably crashing. Otherwise, he's great.
“The difference between being a fantastic overtaker and being an idiot is so close. He's aggressive [and] he feels very comfortable in very tight positions – that's why he takes those chances. Sometimes they don't come off. Last year, when Schumacher went over and pushed [Rubens] Barrichello against [the pit wall at the Hungaroring], that for me was very bad, but that's very different to trying to dive [past] somebody and you just slip up. As I say, the difference between being an idiot and a hero is so close. I think [Hamilton] is doing a great job.”