It's quite a big period of time for one driver to out perform another over and still not be considered better. That was almost half their careers at that point.
The fact is that Vettel had the better car and team during that window of time and Hamilton performed better than him in 2012. If we look at the entire 12 seasons that they have been in F1 together, I'd say 2011 and 2013 are the only two years where Vettel performed better than Hamilton as a driver. One was the worst year of Hamilton's career and the other was Lewis's first season with a new team (a team that was completely focused on the next season).
I'm sure there were people who put Vettel above Hamilton during the window you're talking about but I was never one of them and neither were many others (including Alonso). As impressive as 2011 and 2013 were, they were both years where Vettel had the dominant car and where his teammate wasn't competitive. I certainly think Vettel proved himself in that scenario but that doesn't tell you much about how he compares to the other guys.[/quote]
Yet Hamilton has only finished ahead of Vettel since '14.
At no time in the Vettel era was Hamilton his main challenger through '10-'13.
Hamilton wasn't better than him in '12, Redbull having to redesign the back of the car and Vettel having to adjust to the loss of the blown diffuser and suffering a lot of Reliability problems and Renault alternator.