Sebastian Vettel's incredible season
Sebastian Vettel's second title in successive seasons makes him the youngest double world champion of all time. However, the Red Bull man has actually broken quite a few other records in the youth stakes. He is not only the youngest driver ever to have competed in a Grand Prix but also the youngest winner of a Formula One race, the youngest driver ever to have started from pole position, the youngest driver to have scored race points and the youngest world champion of all time.
What's more, the twice world champion looks set to scale even greater heights: Alan Jones, Formula One champion of 1980, has expressed the view that the records set by Michael Schumacher are already looking vulnerable to the challenge from his young compatriot. In his career to date, Vettel has had 19 GP victories. He may still have some way to go before equalling the 91 victories, seven world titles and 68 pole positions notched up by Schumacher, but at 24 years of age, Sebastian Vettel still has time.
In 2010, it was touch and go right up to the last race whereas this season he clinched the title in imperious style with four races left on the calendar. The similarities with Schumacher when he was claiming title after title with Ferrari are striking. In terms of speed, Red Bull were already streets ahead last season. However, various technical defects and a few team mistakes ensured that the championship went to the wire and that the title was only won in Abu Dhabi because of a serious strategic error by Ferrari.
Both driver and team have since matured. Gone are the days when Sebastian Vettel was tempted to mount rash attacks, the car was unreliable, sloppy errors were made and points were gifted to the opposition. In 2011, Red Bull and Vettel dominated almost the entire season; even during the mini-slump just before the summer break, the Red Bull driver never finished lower than fourth.
At the season opener in Australia, Red Bull thumbed their noses at the rest of the field as Vettel took pole position and the race victory without the additional boost supplied by KERS. The foundation stone was laid, and Red Bull's rivals already had a mountain to climb.
Sebastian Vettel showed his maturity in Barcelona when he was forced to defend his lead against Lewis Hamilton, lap after lap. Despite having the advantage of DRS, the McLaren driver was unable to find a way past.
Just one week later, Vettel once again demonstrated nerves of steel when, with the tread on his tyres almost gone, he held off the challenge from Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button who were both on fresh rubber.
In the end, he was helped out by an interruption to the race which enabled him to fit new tyres five laps from the finish, but up to then, he had more than demonstrated his qualities under pressure. There was no sign of the impetuosity occasionally witnessed in 2010: what we saw this year was a seasoned champion, totally focused on doing what had to be done.
Even more impressive, however, was the way he coped with defeat. While his opponents were going home empty-handed after off-days on the track, Sebastian Vettel reached his nadir at the Nürburgring where he finished a 'lowly' fourth - a result which the majority of drivers on the grid can only dream of.
Brilliant and impressive as his victories were, the important points are the ones that a driver gets in races where things don't quite go to plan. In 2011, Vettel has demonstrated a maturity that suggests he hasn't finished setting new records.