x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

This was a focused Sebastian Vettel's best win yet

Sebastian Vettel's victory in Spain was the best of his 14 career Formula One victories and it showed how much he has matured as a driver.

Sebastian Vettel did not put a wheel wrong in Spain to hold onto the lead from Lewis Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel did not put a wheel wrong in Spain to hold onto the lead from Lewis Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel's victory in Spain on Sunday was the best of his 14 career Formula One victories, and it showed how much he has matured as a driver and why he looks very likely to win a second world championship this year.

This race was different from his previously wins in that he had to defend his lead for the last half of the race against a faster car, Lewis Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes.

We have been conditioned to seeing Vettel dominate races and run away with things at the front, but it was different at the Circuit de Cataluyna. He had to deal with tyres that were not to his liking, had problems with his Kers (kinetic energy recovery systems) system, as well as having arguably the best overtaker in F1 breathing down his neck.

Not ideal circumstances, you would agree, but Vettel did not put a wheel wrong.

Keeping a driver in a faster car behind you is not an easy task, but Vettel showed just how good the Red Bull Racing car is, and also that he knows the RB7's every strength and weakness.

I learnt the art of defensive driving in my karting days and I am sure that is the same for Vettel and the rest of the current generation, as well.

Racing karts, you learn the importance of making sure your vehicle is in the right place on the track to make it hard for anyone to get by you, and also getting the right entry and exits from corners to maximise your speed.

One problem which I have seen many a driver fall foul of is being so occupied with keeping the car behind them that they are hurting their own race pace by driving so defensively.

They are so concerned at looking at what is going on behind them that they are not looking at what is happening in front of them, and either make a mistake or begin losing speed by not taking corners correctly.

That is counterproductive, as while you are staying ahead, you are losing time and will probably be caught by even more cars.

I never fell into that trap when I was racing, and I was not an easy driver to overtake because I tried to concentrate as much as possible on what I was doing and utilising my own speed.

The only chance Hamilton had of getting by Vettel was down the start-finish straight, so the German knew that he had to be perfect out of the chicane leading onto it on every lap to be able to prevent the McLaren from getting a slipstream.

Vettel was never over-defending, and that was shown by the fact that Jenson Button in third place in the other McLaren did not close in dramatically on the fight at the front in the closing laps.

That is exactly what he did and it was a very mature drive, and while McLaren are continuing to improve and push hard, they need to start beating Vettel quickly if he is not to run away with the title.

In another case of defensive driving in the early laps of the race, Button was embroiled in a battle with Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso-Ferrari after making a poor start.

Despite being in a much slower car, Buemi was able to keep Button behind him for a couple of laps thanks to some good defensive driving and choosing the correct line into corners to make it awkward for Button.

David Coulthard, whom I raced against during my career, was critical of Buemi's driving during his commentary on British television and it was something that I very much disagreed with.

Coulthard said that Buemi was wasting his time battling Button, as the Briton was in a much faster car and that he should just let him past so he could concentrate on running at his own pace. That is nonsense in my view. Buemi is paid to go out and race by his team and that is what he did.

Yes, Button was in a faster car but it is his job to find a way past Buemi and other slower cars, and that is what he did in the end.

It is not Buemi's fault that he had a quicker car behind him, that was Button's fault in this car for having a poor opening lap.

But that is racing, and what we saw was a great battle between Button and Buemi, which we would not have seen if the Swiss driver had thought "there is no point in me defending".

Johnny Herbert is a former F1 driver with three career victories. His column is written with the assistance of staff writer Graham Caygill