The history of a Champion
For a man who outwardly shows scant regard for the statistics Formula One thrives on, Sebastian Vettel has made a seemingly unbreakable habit of writing himself into the F1 record books from the very start of his grand prix career. From becoming the sport’s youngest ever point scorer on his debut at the US Grand Prix in 2007 and the sport’s youngest race winner with victory at the 2008 Italian GP, to his status as F1’s youngest champion, and then double and triple title winner, Seb has spent the last six and half seasons setting new benchmarks across the sport.
However, as impressive as those statistics are – along with his numerous other records – 2013 perhaps marked the year that the young man from Heppenheim truly joined the greats of the sport. In winning his fourth Drivers’ crown, Sebastian joined legends Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher to become one of just four drivers to win four titles and only the third, alongside Schumacher and Fangio, to score four on the bounce.
Seb’s knack for racking up records should come as no surprise however, as the 26-year-old has been doing just that since first taking the wheel of a go-kart.
After a kart career that included a European karting crown, Vettel moved up to single seaters in the Formula BMW category. He utterly dominated the 2004 season, winning 18 of the 20 races to take the overall title.
The performance marked him as a star in the making and he was fast-tracked to a testing role with BMW-Sauber. When the team’s reserve driver Robert Kubica stepped into a race seat, Vettel took over as third driver, becoming the youngest driver to take part in a grand prix weekend at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix. When Kubica was briefly sidelined following an accident at the 2007 Canadian GP, Seb’s chance arrived and he made his Formula One debut at the US Grand Prix. He seized the opportunity with both hands and his point for eighth place made him the sport’s youngest-ever scorer.
Despite the success, Vettel’s closest ties were still with Red Bull, where he had been schooled as part of the Red Bull Junior
Team programme, and late in the 2007 season he moved to a race seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso, where, the following year, he made his next big mark, scoring his maiden victory in a rain-lashed Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
In 2009 Vettel joined Red Bull Racing where he again made an immediate impact. At the wheel of an RB5 he scored the team’s first win, again in the wet, at the Chinese Grand Prix. He went on to score three more wins that season and finished as championship runner-up.
The following season he went one better. Victories at the Malaysian, European, Japanese and Brazilian Grands Prix put Vettel in contention for the title, though with two heavy-hitting rivals, team-mate Mark Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, ahead of him on points going into the final round, Vettel’s chances looked slim.
However, nobody appeared to have let Seb know that and an almost perfect weekend in Abu Dhabi saw Vettel take pole and the race win. The victory made him the sport’s youngest champion.
If the 2010 season had been a fight to the finish, the following season was one in which Vettel, armed with the quick and reliable RB7, could display his prodigious skills to the fullest. On the way to a dominant second title win he notched up 11 victories and a single-season record of 15 pole positions.
The 2012 season, by contrast, was one of struggle, albeit with a triumphant end. A difficult first half of the season saw Seb take a single win, in Bahrain, and go into the season’s summer break 42 points off the championship lead.
However, a second half, hard fought surge saw Seb bounce back, and with four wins in a row from Singapore to India, Seb put himself in the ideal position to eventually claim his third crown at the season finale in Brazil.
The 2013 campaign began as a similarly tight affair, though the four wins Seb took from the first 10 races resolutely kept him in the title fight. After the summer break, however, the defending champion was simply unstoppable. Victories in Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea, Japan and India handed him an incredible fourth world title in a row with three rounds to spare.
There was more to come, however, and wins at the final three GPs saw the champion match Alberto Ascari’s record for consecutive wins. It also put Seb level with Michael Schumacher in the standings for most wins in a single season, with 13 appearances on the top step.
Seb’s 2013 feats have undoubtedly secured him a headline spot in the annals of F1. The only question now remaining is just how big a chapter he can write for himself in the future.
Sebastian Vettel photo gallery