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Anyone but Vettel - A look at the 2013 season without that chirpy little Wunderkind

Published by Stuart Taylor

One happy Ferrari driver
Credit: Pirelli S.p.A.

Unfortunately for fans of competitive racing, that boy Sebastian Vettel has only gone and run off with the championship again. Even his boyish yelps and Mario-esque ‘woohoo’s during the victory lap cannot hope to cover the snores from our armchairs and the boos from the crowds.

Here at Sidepodcast, a great number of the commenters have chanted, ‘anyone but Vettel’: perhaps the only thing most of us can agree on! But where would we be if our dreams were answered, Frank Capra style, and Vettel was erased from history?

Well, wonder no more! I’ve decided to swoop in, like the angel Clarence himself, and look at the 2013 season without the chirpy little Wunderkind. For the purposes of this hypothetical, I haven’t bothered to insert a replacement Red Bull Racing pilot – let’s just assume Mark Webber is joined by Taki Inoue for this season only.

Round 1 - Australia

Much as before, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso go head to head, with the Finn coming out on top. In Vettel’s absence, Felipe Massa returns to the podium, to the delight of everyone.

Round 1 Standings
1Kimi Räikkönen251 win
2Fernando Alonso18
3Felipe Massa15
4Lewis Hamilton12
5Mark Webber10

Round 2 - Malaysia

The result that should have been. Mark Webber takes control in Sepang with the two rubber-struggled Mercedes drivers supporting him on the podium. Valtteri Bottas gets a crucial point for Williams. It is revealed after the race that Red Bull ordered Webber and Inoue to adopt a “Multi 1-18” strategy. Webber takes the lead of the championship for the first time since 2010.

Round 2 Standings
1Mark Webber351 win
2Kimi Räikkönen331 win
3Lewis Hamilton30
4Felipe Massa27
5Fernando Alonso18

Round 3 - China

Alonso holds off Kimi and Hamilton to make it three wins from three drivers. Jenson Button surprises everyone by coming within one place of the podium. Kimi rises to the top of the table, followed by a consistent Lewis Hamilton. A retirement from Webber drops him four places in the championship.

Round 3 Standings
1Kimi Räikkönen511 win
2Lewis Hamilton45
3Fernando Alonso431 win
4Felipe Massa37
5Mark Webber351 win

Round 4 - Bahrain

Lotus dominate in the desert, with Räikkönen and Grosjean duelling it out for victory. Scottish fans go wild as Paul di Resta scores his first ever podium! He declares the result, ‘pretty OK, actually.’ Kimi extends his lead to 19 points over Lewis Hamilton who bursts into hysterical laughter when asked about his move from McLaren.

Round 4 Standings
1Kimi Räikkönen762 wins
2Lewis Hamilton57
3Fernando Alonso491 win
4Mark Webber431 win
5Felipe Massa37

Round 5 - Spain

Alonso wins in front of his home crowd, with Mercedes struggling to manage their tyre wear. His win elevates him to second in the championship, but Kimi is still able to extend his overall lead by a single point. Paul di Resta is a strong sixth in the overall table.

Round 5 Standings
1Kimi Räikkönen942 wins
2Fernando Alonso742 wins
3Lewis Hamilton57
4Mark Webber551 win
5Felipe Massa52

Round 6 - Monaco

Rosberg wins in a smashy-crashy Monaco, but is hounded all the way home by Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton. A late clash between Räikkönen and Pérez sent the Finn back to the pits for new tyres and he was only able to recover to ninth place. The battle for the championship is tight at the top, with a win separating the top four and the balance of power shifting from race to race.

Round 6 Standings
1Kimi Räikkönen962 wins
2Fernando Alonso822 wins
3Mark Webber731 win
4Lewis Hamilton72
5Nico Rosberg541 win

Round 7 - Canada

Alonso beats Lewis Hamilton to victory by just one second after passing the Brit in the last few laps on fresher tyres. Valtteri Bottas started on the front row of the grid, but was unable to bring home any points for Williams, crossing the line in 13th place. With this win, Alonso takes control of the championship, just seven points ahead of Räikkönen and 17 over Lewis. Fernando declares this season, ‘The funnest ever. For reals, y’all.’

Round 7 Standings
1Fernando Alonso1073 wins
2Kimi Räikkönen1002 wins
3Lewis Hamilton90
4Mark Webber881 win
5Nico Rosberg661 win

Round 8 - Britain

There are tyre blowouts throughout the field, with Taki Inoue losing all four wheels simultaneously while leading the race by 45 seconds. Nico Rosberg survives the chaos to take his second victory of the year. Alonso bolsters his championship lead, while Lewis drops back but remains ‘optimistic’.

Round 8 Standings
1Fernando Alonso1223 wins
2Kimi Räikkönen1102 wins
3Mark Webber1061 win
4Lewis Hamilton102
5Nico Rosberg912 wins

Round 9 - Germany

Controversy at the Nürburgring after Grosjean is ordered to hand over the lead of the race with five laps to go. The Frenchman was denied his first ever victory as a twitchy Éric Boullier banks on Kimi for the championship. The final podium position was taken by Alonso who chased Grosjean all the way to the line on fresher tyres. When asked how he felt about team orders, Kimi said, ‘I don’t know, you know, it’s not really racing, but I don’t know, we got the win, I don’t know, we finished where we needed to and, I don’t know, the car or something.’ Fernando Alonso calls the last-minute switch ‘an abomination to the spirit of racing.’

Alonso and Räikkönen now have three wins apiece and are separated by two points.

Round 9 Standings
1Fernando Alonso1373 wins
2Kimi Räikkönen1353 wins
3Mark Webber1141 win
4Lewis Hamilton114
5Nico Rosberg952 wins

Round 10 - Hungary

Lewis Hamilton finally wins, beating Räikkönen and Webber in the dustbowl. Grosjean was in for a chance of the win, but was given a drive-through penalty after throwing what appeared to be some form of exotic turtle shell at Mark Webber. Hamilton remains within reach of the title as Kimi retakes the lead.

Round 10 Standings
1Kimi Räikkönen1533 wins
2Fernando Alonso1493 wins
3Lewis Hamilton1391 win
4Mark Webber1291 win
5Nico Rosberg952 wins

Round 11 - Belgium

After the summer break, Ferrari return with serious form. Alonso dominates at Spa, with Mercedes scrapping for the final podium places. Webber is asked if he plans to retire and laughs it off: ‘You’re having a laugh, mate! I’m having the time of my life.’ After Spa, Mark, Taki, Horner and Newey go on a golfing trip together and eat cake. Fernando’s victory (taken from eighth on the grid) is a masterstroke, taking him to the lead of the championship, the fifth change this year. Kimi falls to third after scoring no points.

Round 11 Standings
1Fernando Alonso1744 wins
2Lewis Hamilton1571 win
3Kimi Räikkönen1533 wins
4Mark Webber1411 win
5Nico Rosberg1102 wins

Round 12 - Italy

Fernando drives the Tifosi wild by winning in Monza. After starting from fourth, Alonso was quickly ushered through by his team mate before he forced his way past Mark Webber for the lead of the race. The Tifosi were on the edge of their seat as the Australian chased Alonso all the way to the line, but the Spaniard held on for gold! Massa was able to wave to the crowd from the podium, while Kimi Räikkönen was only able to score a single point, dropping him from 1st to 4th in just two races. Lewis now fancies his chances against his old rival, but is the 38 point gap for Fernando just too much to overcome?

Round 12 Standings
1Fernando Alonso1995 wins
2Lewis Hamilton1611 win
3Mark Webber1591 win
4Kimi Räikkönen1543 wins
5Nico Rosberg1202 wins
6Felipe Massa95
7Romain Grosjean74
8Jenson Button64
9Paul di Resta50
10Adrian Sutil32

Without Vettel, we have a much tighter championship, despite Alonso jumping to a commanding position in the last couple of races. On paper, the standings as of Italy look like Alonso has dominated, with five wins and a huge margin to Hamilton. But the balance of power shifts constantly between the teams and the viewers expect a few more Mercedes-led races and Lotus-powered victories as the season moves into its climax.

Cumulative points without Vettel

Räikkönen and Hamilton are due more victories in Asia and we’re excited to see if they can bring the game to Alonso. Webber, Grosjean and Rosberg’s reasonable consistency are great for the championship as they often provide a buffer between the rivals, allowing large points leads to be overcome. Expect some team orders over the next seven races and some cunning tactics.

More importantly, even if our pal ‘Nando runs off with the championship, he’ll have earned our appreciation. He’s had to fight through from some seriously ugly qualifying positions to take his victories; in fact, the Spaniard has yet to take a single pole position. His victories have been entertaining as he fought with Räikkönen, Hamilton and Webber for key positions.

Look at this chart detailing the championship positions over the first twelve races:

Championship positions without Vettel

There are some serious battles going on here, with the development race and the battle to understand the management of the Pirelli tyres swinging dominance back and forth between teams and drivers. See, Vettel is an excellent driver with the full support of an excellent team. His all-roundedness has masked some real competition happening within F1, right now. Monza wouldn’t have been a snoozefest: Webber and Alonso would have battled for victory from start to finish.

Granted, chaos prevents us from taking a real look at what would have happened. An absence of Vettel would have changed everything, even if he’d been replaced with Taki Inoue; we can’t just shuffle all the results up and pretend this simplistic simulation is accurate. What we can do, however, is gain an appreciation for Vettel’s style of winning. His qualifying dominance and ability to control the lead drain the life out of races; everyone else has to fight for position, be on their toes, tactically and respond to changing conditions. Vettel just is. He’s a non-entity. It’s hard to get excited about him, because he doesn’t really do anything. When he cheers and screams with every victory, I find myself thinking, ‘if you think that’s exciting, you should have seen Kimi’s race to fourth – it’ll blow your little cotton socks off.’

Here’s to hoping the 2014 shake up will destabilise Vettel’s dominance, that Ricciardo will give him something to think about, that a giant piano will fall on his foot.