I am not an advocate of naming anyone to win a championship before a season starts, let alone before the preceding season starts; however, barring major changes to Formula One's technical regulations or massive injuries, I think I've found a solid lock. The rationale for this extravagant prediction includes history and technological regulations.
In the last two years, Vettel has won the championship twice. 2010 was close in points with Alonso coming up only 4 points short, but Vettel still lead twice as many laps during the season with just as many wins and podium positions as Alonso. In 2011, Vettel won the majority of races and lead almost twice as many laps as all other drivers combined. These numbers indicate not only his competence but the technological superiority of the Red Bull program.
This brings us to the frigid technological regulations that have somehow failed to stop diehards from calling it "the pinnacle of motorsport." With the engine freeze in place, neither Ferrari nor Mercedes will surprise the Renault customers with a sudden horsepower gain. The absence of in-season testing combined with limited winter testing means that any chassis improvements must come in the late stages of the year, once all other teams realize they can't beat Red Bull. This has long created an opportunity to find natural parity in the past. Red Bull has an ace in the hole that lets them test every week: Torro Rosso. With Torro Rosso testing parts, on what can only be called a "different car" in the most academic sense, Red Bull can start thinking about next year's car before the failed contenders surrender.
Between 2000 and 2004 Michael Schumacher won 5 consecutive championships. It was not until 2005 that McLaren and Renault could best Ferrari in the points. This was in a time with fewer regulations inhibiting technological development and a tire war to boot. In comparison, expecting Vettel to win fewer championships with fewer chances to find natural parity seems modest.
Technological regulations are also the reason I expect the streak to stop at 4. 2014 will be the year F1 switches to turbocharged V6 engines. It is possible that Red Bull may be initially stuck with unreliable or underperforming engines (a problem no one has in this era of race limits and minimum race limits). It is highly unlikely that the FIA will make any significant changes to the chassis regulations between now and then.
Red Bull fans are welcome to let the good times roll for the next two years. Any Ferrari or Michael Schumacher fans are more than welcome to complain about how boring it is when the same guy wins every week, provided they do so loudly.
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