Legends of F1 - V4TTEL (Originally written for the Red Bull special edition of @F1fansmag)
So far, This Column has featured former Formula One World Champions such as Hunt, Lauda, and Damon Hill. But what about our current World Champion? The newly crowned 4 time world champ? Anyone who wins 4 world championships is a legend. Right?
Back in 2007, Robert Kubica had a massive shunt in his BMW-Sauber during the Canadian GP. A shunt that is still etched on my memory as a real heart in mouth moment. Due to the injuries and required recovery period Kubica was not able to take part the following week in the US GP and as such BMW needed a stand in.
As the third Driver of the team Vettel was called upon to stand in for Kubica and immediately showed promise. At the age of just 19 years and 349 days being the youngest ever driver to score a point in Formula One.
Not long after this performance Vettel was released by BMW to take the seat at Torro Rosso, The Red Bull sister team (red bull had been funding his career thus far as a member of the Young Driver Program). He replaced Scott Speed from the 07 Hungarian GP onwards.
Within a few races for Torro Rosso, Vettel was making a name for himself, specifically rear ending his future team mate Webber during a safety car period & putting them both out of the race. With Vettel in tears, Webber was damning in his criticism of Vettel, as a Kid who was out of his depth in F1. Although in the following week at the Chinese grand prix he drove from 17th on the grid to an amazing 4th place. Torro Rosso’s best finish at that point.
2008 was to be a big year for Vettel’s career although it started badly with 4 poor results:
RET / RET / RET / 17th
However after this point the season improved with points in Monaco Germany and Europe. At the European GP the team noted a change in Vettel’s driving especially Giorgio Ascanelli (The technical director) who stated:
"Suddenly Vettel understood something about how to drive an F1 car quickly. It made a huge difference – not only to the speed he could unlock, but also to his ability to do so consistently."
After this we had the memorable wet race in Monza, Italy in which Sebastian scored his, and the team’s maiden GP win. A massive win as it put him on the map as hot property and a star of the future. It also made him the youngest ever Grand Prix Winner.
Red Bull Racing decided to snap up the youngster for the 2009 season to replace the retiring David Coulthard and partner Australian Mark Webber.
2009 bought a change in the regulations of Formula One which shook up the competitive order. with BrawnGP (Risen from the ashes of the departed Honda) stealing a march on all other teams with their Double Decker Diffuser. Clearly Mclaren and Ferrari not only missed this trick but had delivered poor cars and struggled to adapt to these rules.
The second best team quickly became Red Bull Racing. And this was without the trick diffuser. Red Bull duly had their first win in China, to make it even sweeter it was a 1-2 with Vettel leading home Webber.
As the car developed and Adrian Newey worked out a way of incorporating a Diffuser the Car became a lot more competitive and quickly started to take points out of Jenson Button and BrawnGP’s lead in the tables. Vettel took further wins in Britain, Japan and Abu Dhabi to earn 2nd place in the drivers championship in only his second full year in F1.
2010 Saw Vettel’s steepest challenge to date. With 5 Grand Prix wins, he never led the championship,however his consistency and tenacity saw him constantly scoring points throughout the year and keeping him in contention for the title. At Abu Dhabi, the win (and difficult races for Webber and Alonso) gave him the Championship. Oh and of course, he was the youngest ever championship winner to add to the records!
The year did however see his relationship with Webber deteriorate irreparably with their crash in the Turkish GP in which the team backed up Vettel even though the F1 paddock’s senior figures felt that the blame was pretty squarely on his shoulders, and then the front wing debacle at Silverstone in which Vettel damaged his new front wing, and the only other version of this was removed from Webber’s car and given to Vettel prior to qualifying. This became a very public spat and fanned the flames of favouritism towards Vettel within the team.
2011 bought more records to the young German. with 11 Grand prix wins and a dominant year for himself and the team. With the Title wrapped up at the Japanese GP with 4 races still to go, it was an amazing year for Vettel who had really grown in maturity and adapted very quickly to the new Pirelli Tires. (Unlike his team-mate who clearly struggled)
2012 was a more difficult year then the previous, with a tougher challenge for the title from Hamilton in the Mclaren and Alonso in the Ferrari. In fact Vettel struggled through the middle of the year and only gained the momentum in the championship with a momentous comeback in the final fly-away leg of the season. Vettel’s mental strength through stand out drives in Abu Dhabi and Brazil really showed his quality which had been previously questioned by many.
The 2012 Brazilian GP decided the World Championship and was certainly not without incident. Vettel got squeezed towards the wall by his team-mate at the start and ended up facing backwards after tripping over Senna’s williams. The Red Bull was badly damaged but managed to continue and earn the required points to take the third consecutive world title.
2013 has been an incredible year for Vettel. With a clumsy win in Malaysia in which he defied the team to take the win from Webber, and the even clumsier way he handled the press afterwards which led to booing from fans at his wins throughout the season whilst on the podium. Many fans booing as Vettel was the Villain of the pack in the webber incident, and his constant winning perceived to be boring by the casual fan.
Once again it was a relentless push in the latter part of the season which earned Vettel the title, and at the point of writing this column, Vettel has won every race since we came back from our August Summer break (8 back to back races- a new record!)
So Vettel is a four time world champion. Only the 4th driver to do so (Fangio, Prost, Schumacher being the others) He holds 45 Pole positions and 38 wins. He is also only 26 years old giving him plenty of years to add to this.
Vettel holds many records in F1 (Mostly in the ‘youngest driver to’ category) and will only continue to add to those. He is clearly the star of his generation who has found himself in the best team and best car on most occasions, but has clearly got the most out of the package he has been given. (Compared with Mr webber!)
Many fans find the ‘domination’ of vettel boring, much as they did when it was Schumacher dominating 10 years ago in a Ferrari, but I think its all about the way you look at it. Surely we are privileged to be watching greatness in action. A legend being created, and history being made.
In my mind, I look at Vettel, and see a legend. not in the same way as I look at Schumacher, or Senna, or Fangio, but with a different view, as Vettel IS a legend….a legend that is still being created.