Vettel: The Finger that held the racing world on its tip

By: Ishaan

The year is 2020. A staggering 35 million entered karting, just in the US. 20 racers, 10 teams and one champion. These are the statistics of Formula 1. It is the pinnacle of motorsport and is considered its most competitive form. What is about to follow is the journey of a man who shook the world of motorsport by not only becoming the youngest ever champion of Formula 1 but also achieving this phenomenal feat four times in a row. This German dominated this league against the best drivers the sport has ever seen. This is the story of one of the most talented drivers of this generation, and of all times: Sebastian Vettel. 

There is no doubt that the 20 racers on the grid are the best of the best. Rising above the millions of entrants, these people are true masters of their craft. But one quality that set every champion in the sport apart- be it Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, or Aryton Senna- was hunger.  Despite being nervous or afraid, and knowing the fact that they’re the most inexperienced driver on the grid, it was their hunger to win that truly gave them that edge. They did not care about anything else. They had their eyes set on the prize.

Vettel was just like them. He got his first chance to race in F1 during the 2007 United States Grand Prix. It was in place of Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber, who had suffered a crash Vettel was 19 at the time. Most others of his age would have gotten cold feet, but not this kid. Having started 7th and finished 8th, Sebastian became the youngest driver to score a point in the history of F1 at the time. This performance got him a place in the 2008 season as a driver for Toro Rosso, Redbull’s sister team.

However, things took time to pick up. After four races of the 2008 season, Vettel was the only driver to have failed to finish a single race, having retired on the first lap in three of them. At the Monaco Grand Prix, Vettel scored his first points of the season coming in at fifth, starting from 17th. Toro Rosso’s technical director Giorgio Ascanelli explained that something changed at the European Grand Prix in Valencia. He commented, “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.”

During the wet Italian Grand Prix, Vettel proved his worth by winning the race by a margin of 12 seconds, becoming the youngest F1 driver to win a race at the time and giving Toro Rosso their first win. 

This got the dice rolling for Seb. It led to Toro Rosso’s team boss Gerhard Berger making the statement, “As he proved today, he can win races, but he’s going to win World Championships. He’s a cool guy”, the German media dubbing him as “Baby Schumi”, and being awarded the 2008 Rookie of the Year at the Autosport Awards. 

All this given, Vettel was still considered a rookie. During the Japanese Grand Prix, he worked his way up to the third position behind Lewis Hamilton (who went on to win the championship that year) and Mark Weber. However, during the race, Vettel crashed into Weber causing both cars to retire. After the race, Weber in an interview quoted, “It’s kids isn’t it. Kids with not enough experience – you do a good job, and then they fuck it all up”. 

That being said, the fact remained that it was due to Vettel, that Toro Rosso had won a race before Red bull, in spite of being a sister team. Due to this reason, Vettel got on the Red Bull roster from the 2009 season.

The 2009 season had the greatest underdog story in the History of Formula One. With Brawn GP taking the Constructors’ Championship and Jenson Button winning the Drivers’ Championship, Vettel placed second, 11 points behind Button, winning the Chinese, Great Britain, Japanese, and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

In the 2010 season, Redbull was still being mocked by many for their sister team winning a championship before the team itself. Vettel was being doubted as his major competitors were Lewis Hamilton, who then had one WDC title, and Fernando Alonso, who had two. Defying these odds and silencing his naysayers, Vettel went on to win his first Championship becoming the youngest ever driver to win a World Driver Championship, at the age of 23, scoring 4 more points than Alonso. This was the start of an era of utter dominance by Red Bull Racing, and by Vettel. 

The 2011 season saw Vettel’s pure skill, talent, confidence, ability to perform under pressure, and his determination to win, claiming the title by a margin of 122 points. Vettel scored 392 points in that season. To put that in perspective, Scuderia Ferrari, which placed third in the Constructors Championship, had 375 points in total. 

The 2012 season was “slightly” disappointing for Ferrari, as Vettel won the title scoring 3 more points than Alonso. 

The world of F1 is such that your teammate could end up being your biggest rival. If your teammate manages to outperform you with the same machinery, it gives him the preference over you. This was what Mark Weber was going through then. Vettel on the other hand was facing problems of his own. As a fan, the one person you hate the most is the one that absolutely destroys your favorite driver. Even though Vettel had a lot of fans, there was a lot of hateful sentiment against him. His well-justified arrogance was not appreciated. Vettel was raging on to create his own legacy. The multi-21 incident, where he ignored team orders, battled and overtook his teammate for the lead, was proof of this.

Webber was furious after the race and said that, ” Vettel will have protection as usual and that’s the way it goes”. Their fallout was one of the key factors that led Webber to retire at the end of that season. The team principal Christian Horner, although unhappy with Vettel’s actions, pointed out that Webber had defied team orders on several previous occasions. He acknowledged that the already fragile relationship between the two drivers had further broken down as a result of the incident. Vettel stated that he was not sorry for winning and that if the situation presented itself again, he would do the same. He added that he felt Webber did not deserve to win the race. In the end, he gave one of the coldest quotes in F1 history when he said, “I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won”. Even though his public image had soured and he was being booed at, at every race, Vettel went on to win 9 races in a row that year, a record that still stands till date, making Tifosi cry during the Italian Grand Prix and claiming the pole position from his garage in Singapore. He then sealed his victory during the Indian Grand Prix, of which he is the only champion to this date. He claimed the title that year with 397 points, 155 points more than Alonso, who came in second. It was his greatest feat as Mercedes, which came in second that year, had a total of 360 points in total.

Sebastian Vettel sure was talented, but what made him the greatest wasn’t his skill or his talent. It was his mindset, his pure desire and focus to win. This also is a reminder to us all that no matter the odds if we want something and are willing to fight for it, we can achieve it.


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