Sebastian Vettel needs to leave Red Bull and win the Formula One world championship with another team if he wants to strengthen his claims to greatness, according to the BBC commentator and analyst David Coulthard.
As one of only three drivers to have won three straight titles – Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher are the others – Vettel has already achieved greatness according to most respected judges within the sport. But Coulthard, talking before Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix here, says Vettel can strengthen his legacy by finding success somewhere else. Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Schumacher all enhanced their reputations by following in the tracks of Fangio and winning with different teams.
Coulthard, whose views carry extra weight because he himself was a Red Bull driver and carried on working for the team as a consultant when he retired in 2008, said: "I don't think Seb has to do anything but keep winning to satisfy his own desire to be a winning grand prix driver.
"But do I think he has to move to cement his legacy? Yes, I do. For whatever reason, whether it's just the way we are as humans, or to satisfy the purists who have followed the sport for many, many years, we like to see people not just do it once but multiple times and over different scenarios.
"There is this thing about cementing a place in history and it does seem to mean winning championships with different teams. You think of Lauda, winning at Ferrari and McLaren. He made a comeback after losing a year. Piquet had battles with [Nigel] Mansell and he did win a championship at Brabham and at Williams," Coulthard said.
Two of the greatest drivers – perhaps the two greatest – were single-team men. Jim Clark won both his titles with Lotus and Ayrton Senna did his treble at McLaren.
However, Coulthard added: "Senna didn't win any championships anywhere else. But he won races at Lotus. He didn't manage to win races at Williams but he won poles there. Do you need to move? I guess the answer is yes, ultimately, you need to move.
"Seb is a good driver, a world-class driver. But he hasn't overcome adversity yet in terms of being with another team or being up against a team-mate who was already world champion. Has he done an amazing job to be a multiple world champion? Yes, he has.
"But if he goes somewhere else and continues his winning ways, then to the wider public he will get a new-found respect. Because, if it appears as a magic carpet ride, none of us like to see that. We like to see people overcome a bit of adversity."
In recent months Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have paid each other rich compliments, appearing to marginalise Vettel – these are the three leading drivers in F1 and Vettel has been champion for the past three years. But Coulthard says: "It's partly gamesmanship between those two. Lewis and Fernando have also gone toe-to-toe with each other as team-mates, like boxers who have gone toe-to-toe for 12 rounds. And when some other young contender comes up there is a temptation to dismiss them in boxing talk. It doesn't apply so much in other sports but there is still a temptation to question the young pretender," he said.
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