Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel

PROFILE

By becoming the sport’s youngest world champion in 2010, Sebastian Vettel firmly established himself among the top drivers in Formula One before laying claim to another three titles in the following three years. A product of Red Bull’s driver development programme, he is everything F1 wants in its world champion: smart, quick witted and above all very, very fast.

He started his career in karting before moving to Formula BMW in 2003 where he took rookie honours. Having found his feet he dominated the championship the following year and won 18 of the 20 races. A move to European F3 followed in 2005 before he was snapped up by BMW Sauber as its test and reserve driver in 2006. He stayed race sharp by competing in the World Series by Renault before making his F1 debut at Indianapolis in 2007.

Standing in for the injured Robert Kubica, he qualified a solid seventh and finished the race in eighth, scoring a point. That encouraged Red Bull to bring him back under its wing and he became a full-time Toro Rosso driver at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Following a few novice mistakes, he finished a strong fourth in the wet Chinese Grand Prix.

He endured a tough start to the 2008 season with Toro Rosso due to a number of accidents, but secured a very solid fifth-placed finish in Monaco. Gaining confidence, he recorded his first pole position and victory at the rain-hit Italian Grand Prix with an outstanding drive in a car that should have been knocking around in the midfield. Having finished eighth in the championship, he moved to Red Bull Racing and immediately challenged for the championship with wins at Shanghai, Silverstone and Suzuka.

2010 was his breakthrough year, though it took a dramatic finale to help him secure his maiden championship. Having looked like the quickest driver in the quickest car throughout the season, reliability issues and a few too many errors meant he went in to the final race as an outsider. But victory in Abu Dhabi while Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber came home seventh and eighth saw him snatch the title.

Ahead of his first defence Vettel had his contract with Red Bull extended until the end of 2015, and he responded with a dominant season that saw him win six of the first eight races, finish in the top two at 16 of the 19 rounds and wrap up the championship with four grands prix remaining.

2012 was more of a struggle as Red Bull haemorrhaged performance over the winter thanks to regulations changes regarding the car’s exhaust. But towards the end of the season the RB8 became untouchable and Vettel made the most of the performance gain to win the championship by three points from Alonso in a dramatic finale.

Defending the crown for a fourth time looked like it would be tough as Kimi Raikkonen won in Melbourne from Alonso, but Vettel responded by ignoring team-orders and winning in Malaysia. While his disregard for Webber hurt his popularity, Vettel just kept improving and once the RB9 was able to get the most out of the Pirelli tyres he was unstoppable. His dominant win in Singapore saw him at his brilliant best and he took nine consecutive victories at the end of the season as he wrapped up the title in India.

Strengths and Weaknesses
He is one of the fastest drivers on the grid and is an expert at leading from pole position. However, when further down the grid or beaten into the first corner, he can lose his cool – though with experience even those cracks are seen less frequently.

Career High 
Becoming the youngest world champion the sport has ever seen in 2010, closely followed by his unfancied victory in a Toro Rosso at Monza in 2008.

Career Low
Chasing a podium position in the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, a lapse of concentration saw him run into the back of second placed Mark Webber whilst running behind the safety car. Both drivers were eliminated with Webber highly critical of the then rookie driver, while Vettel returned to the Toro Rosso pit in tears. He received a ten position grid penalty for the next race for the incident.

Quotes
“The chequered flag is really just a stupid wooden stick and a piece of cloth. It’s a small thing, but it means so much when you cross the line.”

“Like a ship, a car should be named after a girl as it’s sexy. My original car was called Kate. But then it got smashed at the opening race in Australia. So we called this one Kate’s Dirty Sister because it is more aggressive and faster.”

“I sort of imagine Vettel laughing to himself and telling himself jokes down long straights like this. He seems to have that demeanour about him.” Martin Brundle on Vettel.

Trivia
Vettel is something of an anglophile and is well known for his love of British comedy and music including Monty Python, Little Britain and The Beatles. He is also partial to an English breakfast.

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