Sebastian Vettel is not a multiple world champion just because he drives the best car, says Christian Horner.
Vettel has won the last three Formula One championships and will start as favourite when the new season starts here on Sunday and the Red Bull principal said: "We run two cars, not one, and [team-mate] Mark Webber is an extremely capable and fast racing driver. And to have achieved the amount of victories, the amount of championships, the amount of results when the pressure has really been on, is fantastic.
"If Sebastian stopped tomorrow and did nothing else with his career, he would still have to be regarded as one of the very best."
There appears to be a small and mutual admiration society in Formula One, featuring Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who have heaped praise on each other in recent months. Both drivers appear to think that Vettel's astonishing feats – he has won 26 of his 101 races and is one of only three drivers to win three straight titles – are largely down to the fact that he drives the dominant car in F1.
However, Horner said: "I doubt the two of them would have said what they have said when they drove for the same team [McLaren]. They both seem to have found a mutual admiration with the common denominator being that Sebastian has done all the winning over the past three years. It is impossible to ignore what Sebastian has achieved."
Horner added: "If you look at the championships that we have won, two out of three have gone to the last race and have been against the odds. In 2010 Sebastian's victory was against all the odds, 2011 he totally dominated but in 2012 he was out of it for a large part of the summer.
"It was Alonso's championship to lose but Seb fought his way back into it. As long as you have got competition, then I think the public want to see the best person win. Of course, everybody loves an underdog and it is easy to say Sebastian had the best car and therefore he won.
"The reality is he didn't have the best car last year. The McLaren was the best car for a large percentage of the year. Lewis had more pole positions than Sebastian. But Sebastian grabbed, with both hands – as the team did – the opportunities when they arose."
Horner also pointed out that Vettel did win when he certainly did not have the best car. "He won in a Toro Rosso in the wet, arguably in a race that he shouldn't have been anywhere near where he was at."
But Horner believes Vettel will find it almost impossible to be as dominant as compatriot Michael Schumacher, who won five straight titles as a Ferrari driver. "Ferrari, quite simply, had everything wrapped up," he said. "They had the best tyres, they had the best car, they had a tremendous amount of resource and testing open to them and they had the best driver. That combined created an era of total domination.
"In today's Formula One, with the regulations the way they are, everybody has the same tyre, everybody has the same amount of testing they can do, everything is much more confined. To achieve dominance to the level Michael achieved is virtually impossible, if not impossible.
"And I think it would be unhealthy for the sport to have a Schumacher level of dominance where it wasn't just Schumacher, it was the Ferrari's finishing one-two at every race.
"Even though we won the last three championships there has been fantastic racing. We had seven different winners from the opening seven races last year. It wasn't until race four that Sebastian won a race. The competition is closer than ever in today's Formula One."
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