#5 SEBASTIAN VETTEL
Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel became Formula 1’s youngest winner in just his second season in the sport in an under-performing car. With a car at its best, he dominated the pinnacle of motorsport for four seasons with Red Bull and is now on the search for a fifth title with Ferrari.
|Full Name||Sebastian Vettel|
|Date of Birth||3rd July 1987|
|First Race||2007 US Grand Prix|
|First Win||2008 Italian Grand Prix|
Sebastian Vettel, born in West Germany in 1987, began his karting career in 1995. After early karting success, 2001 saw him win both the German and European titles. In 2003, Sebastian moved to Formula BMW with backing from Red Bull and finished on the podium at every race, 18 of those being race wins. He had his first F1 test the following year with BMW Williams. In 2007, Vettel was leading the Formula Renault 3.5 championship but quit when a Formula One opportunity arrived.
Robert Kubica is to thank for Vettel’s F1 début. His crash at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix put him out of action for the USA Grand Prix, and Vettel – who had been a Friday driver for BMW Sauber on five occasions throughout 2006 – took his place and finished in the points on his début. Red Bull, impressed by their junior driver, placed him at the Toro Rosso team for the second half of the season and kept him on for 2008 after getting the team’s best result to date – a fourth place in China. Toro Rosso were regular points finishers that season, and Vettel remarkably took pole and his maiden win on a soggy weekend at the Italian Grand Prix.
His performance that season was, unsurprisingly, enough to earn him a seat at Red Bull for 2009, a season in which he took the team’s maiden win, in China, and remained in the championship fight until the closing rounds of the season. In 2010, Vettel led the championship only once, but it was when it mattered, as he became the youngest ever World Champion following a season-long battle with four other title contenders. Dominance in 2011 followed, before a championship duel with Fernando Alonso in 2012, which saw Vettel crowned champion once again after an impressive recovery drive in Brazil. In 2013, Vettel’s dominance continued, and he took a record-breaking nine race streak of victories in the second half of the season. Sebastian’s 2013 season is also memorable for the now infamous Multi 21-gate, in which he overtook his team-mate Mark Webber against team orders to claim victory at the Malaysia Grand Prix.
As the hybrid era came along in 2014, Red Bull were no longer at the top and Vettel struggled against his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian looked for a new challenge in 2015 as he joined Ferrari with the hope of emulating his childhood hero Michael Schumacher. Vettel scored three wins in his first season with the team. A win-less year followed in 2016 as rumours of a tense relationship between Vettel and Ferrari swirled around the F1 paddock. Vettel’s frustrations came to a head with an ill-advised radio rant to race director Charlie Whiting during the Mexico Grand Prix.
Ferrari, and Sebastian Vettel, returned to winning ways in 2017. The German stood on the top step of the podium five times and led the title race for the first twelve rounds of the season, before his team seemingly imploded. He gained plenty of media attention when his anger got the better of him once again in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, in which he drove into the side of Lewis Hamilton’s car under Safety Car conditions. He tried everything he could to swing the championship back in his favour in Mexico, but it wasn’t enough to undo the damage that had been done over the Asian races.
In 2018, Vettel became the fourth driver to reach 100 podium finishes in F1, and once again put up a fight for the title against Hamilton. With poles in three of the first four races and wins in two, the Ferrari driver opened his campaign strongly and by the time of the Canadian Grand Prix, in which he became the first driver to take three wins it the season, he looked like the man to beat. A first lap error at the French Grand Prix, which ruined both his and Valtteri Bottas’ races, was followed by another win in the British Grand Prix. But then, at his home event, Vettel crashed out in the rain of his own accord, losing the title lead. He’d go on to win just one more race over the course of the year, while more errors and spins in Italy, Japan and the USA took their toll on his championship challenge.
VETTEL IN 2019
For only the second time in the last eleven seasons, Sebastian Vettel finished outside of the top four in the 2019 Drivers’ Championship. His worst year since 2014 bore some resemblances to his final Red Bull season, in which a younger driver entered the team and, arguably, upstaged him.
While the general perception is that Vettel was out-performed over the course of the season by Charles Leclerc, the stats show that the battle was close. The qualifying battle finished 11-9 in Leclerc’s favour, with an average gap of 0.013 seconds per sector in his favour – the second-closest pairing of the year. In the races, Vettel finished ahead of Leclerc more regularly, again with this battle ending 11-9, despite Leclerc scoring more points. The only race that is not counted in the latter tally is Brazil, in which both drivers collided and ended Ferrari’s afternoon.
There were high points in Vettel’s 2019 season. As others faltered, he mastered the wet weather to drive from the back of the grid to second place in Germany, and took a long awaited win at the Singapore Grand Prix, proving he still has the form to be a frontrunner. But 2019 is a year which is likely to be remembered for Vettel’s lows rather than its highs. Take Bahrain, where he spun of his own accord after being overtaken by Lewis Hamilton, or Britain, where he clattered in to the back of Max Verstappen, or him picking up the maximum possible penalty (without being disqualified) for unsafely re-joining the track at Monza after another spin while his team-mate romped to a home win for Ferrari. Other times it was luck that was not on his side: an error in Montreal led to him picking up a five-second penalty and losing a race win; he was set for a good result in Sochi before retiring with an engine failure; and a suspension failure ended his race in Texas. Read more: Sebastian Vettel’s 2019 F1 Season in Stats.
Over the season, rumours of Vettel falling out of love with the sport and retiring at the end of the year continued until Abu Dhabi, but the four-time champion will be back in 2020. Will a rejuvenated Vettel be able to mount a charge for a fifth crown?
SEBASTIAN VETTEL’S F1 RECORD
|Year||Team||Final Position||Points Scored||Wins||Poles||Podiums|
|2007||BMW Sauber / Toro Rosso||14th||6||0||0||0|