The ‘Weltmeister’ - Vettel’s incredible F1 career
With an illustrious career dating way back to his famous debut in 2007, Sebastian Vettel will hang up his helmet after this weekend’s Abu Dhabi GP as he applies the brakes on his incredible F1 journey.
22nd November 2022 Rhonan Colquhoun
Note: This article was intended to be published on a different site on the lead-up to the Abu Dhabi GP last weekend.
A winner of 53 Grand Prix’s, 122 Podium appearances, 57 Pole Positions and Four World Championships, Sebastian Vettel will go down in the history books as one of the all-time greats of the sport.
The majority of Vettel’s success came in the early 2010’s when the German drove for Red Bull - and at times was an unstoppable force. A move to Ferrari, following in hero’s Michael Schumacher’s steps in 2015, yielded two close seasons but he couldn’t overthrow Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. After a six year stint, Vettel found his current home at Aston Martin.
As the German prepares for this 299th race start, Vettel will look back on his incredible career with a huge amount of joy and celebration.
The 2006 Turkish GP weekend was the first time that Vettel participated in the racing action and it’ll go down in history as one of the most memorable for a few reasons. He became the youngest driver to compete in a GP weekend, finishing second, but he also, still holds, the record for the quickest penalty - just six seconds into his career as he sped exiting the pits.
He finally got the chance to take part in a race weekend in 2007 at the United States GP with BMW Sauber - deputising for the injured Robert Kubica. A seventh place in Qualifying led to an eighth place finish and at that time, points were only awarded for the top eight drivers. Picked-up by Toro Rosso, he joined the Italian team from the Hungarian GP onwards.
Having graduated from Toro Rosso, where he claimed the team's first and only victory to date at a rain-soaked 2008 Italian GP, Vettel started challenging for the title from the get go - being a thorn in the side of Jenson Button’s 2009 campaign.
With a packed grid in 2010 - featuring star-studded names such as returning Seven Time Champion Michael Schumacher, Button and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, Vettel had experienced Aussie Mark Webber alongside him.
Throughout the season, Vettel hid in the dark while team-mate Webber and Alonso appeared to be the main contenders until Vettel appeared from the shadows right at the season finale.
With the Australian and the Spaniard focusing on each other, it allowed Vettel to slip through, win the Grand Prix and therefore become Champion despite having not led the championship at any stage during the 19 round season.
It was a common sight, more so during the 2011 and 2013 Seasons, that Vettel would qualify on Pole Position and then when the five red lights went out on Sunday, off he went into the distance - never to be seen until he crossed the chequered flag.
The 2012 Season would be far closer as Alonso once again stepped-up to challenge the German. The most memorable season to date went down to the wire at the Brazilian GP with mixed conditions and only a few points between the two drivers, making for a nail-biting 71 laps.
Despite facing backwards on the opening lap after a collision, Vettel blitzed his way through the field and while Alonso finished on the podium, sixth place was enough to secure yet another title.
As Mercedes rose to the top after perfecting the new regulations introduced in 2014, Vettel, now partnered by Daniel Ricciardo, was upstaged by the constantly grinning Australian and left a year before his contract to move to the Prancing Horse for 2015.
As the Silver Arrows machine grew from strength to strength, Vettel and the Scuderia had to take the maximum of what little opportunities there were. In only his second race in Red, he delivered and his passionate comments on the radio showed how Vettel had integrated himself.
Vettel’s best chances of securing another title came in both 2017 and 2018 when Ferrari seemed to have designed, and built, a championship-winning car. However, cracks in Vettel himself and in the team, led to major strategy blunders with momentum fizzling out.
With the arrival of Charles Leclerc to the team in 2019, Vettel found himself battling the other side of the garage as Ferrari failed to produce a consistent challenger. Vettel’s 53rd and final F1 victory would come under the floodlights of Singapore - a track he adores - after executing the better strategic option to leapfrog Leclerc.
With the pair famously colliding mid-race in Brazil later that year, and Ferrari producing their worst car in decades in 2020, an inevitable split caused major moves up and down the F1 grid ahead of the 2021 Season. Vettel swapped the Red overalls of the Scuderia, for the British Racing Green of newly formed Aston Martin.
With grand objectives and a constant stream of income, Aston Martin took over from the Racing Point team with the marquee showing a statement of intent by signing the German. Since then, competing in the mid-field has been a highlight for Vettel, apart from an outstanding 2nd place in Azerbaijan in 2021, where points have come more often this season.
Like every single racing driver on the planet, there were times Vettel got a little hot under the collar and acted out - with his numerous clashes with fellow drivers becoming infamous.
Spinning out of the 2010 Turkish GP after a collision with Red Bull team-mate Webber left Vettel to step out of his car and while walking away, made the ‘crazy sign’.
Despite being told to hold station, Vettel ignored team orders at 2013 Malaysian GP, “Multi-21 Seb”, to battle Webber for the victory - the duel ending in the German’s favour.
As both Hamilton and Vettel prepared for the restart of the 2017 Azerbaijan GP, the Brit “brake-checked” Vettel which led to him driving alongside his rival and banging tyres in frustration.
Despite a number of occasions where Vettel saw red, instead of wearing it, he’s matured with age and with that, he’s been fighting off the track for change. Having been seen numerous times removing litter from Grandstands after races, the 35 year-old has also demonstrated topics that matter to him - mainly environmental and other social justice issues.
His popularity with fans has never been higher - something that eluded him during his Red Bull days - but grew massively when he donned the famous Ferrari overalls. His down to earth nature, and recently, his stance on important issues, has brought his fans closer.
His fellow competitors have been paying tribute to him and his legacy - as all of the current grid went out for dinner on Thursday night - racking-up quite a hefty bill!
It’s clear to many that the Paddock and the F1 circus won’t be the same without Vettel - a hero, mentor and inspiration to all.