Sebastian Vettel

Date published: January 21 2013 - Editor

With three successive Drivers’ Championship titles to his name, Sebastian Vettel is undoubtedly the driver to beat in 2013…

With three successive Drivers’ Championship titles to his name, Sebastian Vettel is undoubtedly the driver to beat in 2013…

He started as BMW’s test driver from the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix onwards and made his Formula One race debut when he drove for the German team at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. Vettel was called upon to stand in for the injured Robert Kubica.

That race weekend saw Vettel set a few F1 records when he became the sixth youngest driver to start a grand prix and the youngest driver to score points in a World Championship point. He finished the race in eighth place.

Vettel returned to his role at test driver the next day for BMW, however, it wasn’t long before he was back racing after signing a deal with the Scuderia Toro Rosso outfit to replace Scott Speed.

The German driver made his STR debut on the 2007 Hungarian GP and almost scored Toro Rosso’s first podium finish at the Japanese GP in September. However a crash with Mark Webber brought an end to that dream.

He did, however, redeem himself one race later when he claimed fourth place at the Chinese GP – earning Toro Rosso their best result ever.

Vettel remained with Toro Rosso in 2008 where he partnered ChampCar Champion Sebastien Bourdais, although it was his team-mate who had the better results in the opening stint, it was Vettel who came to the fore with the introduction of the STR3.

The German soon began putting in results many predicted were beyond the car’s capabilities, including pole position and the victory at a wet Italian Grand Prix.

It was a moment that sealed Vettel’s description as a future F1 World Champion and landed him a Red Bull race-seat for the 2009 Championship.

Vettel backed up Red Bull’s faith in him with an impressive run in 2009, bagging four race victories as he fought Jenson Button tooth and nail for the World title.

However, the fact that Red Bull’s start to the Championship was not as dynamic as Brawn GP’s, nor where their Renault engines are reliable as Mercedes’s, meant Vettel came up short, losing the title to Button at the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.

The German, though, showed his tenacious side, highlighting that a World title is just around the corner, when he came back from the disappointment to win the season-ending Abu Dhabi race.

2010 began with a great deal of promise as Vettel’s RB demonstrated an impressive turn of pace. But it also demonstrated impressive fragility with Vettel being robbed of the race win in Bahrain and Australia. The team, though, worked on their issues and Vettel finally took to the top step of the podium in Malaysia.

However, on-track issues weren’t the only complaint of 2010 as the team had to suffer through several moments of in-fighting with Webber bemoaning the team’s alleged favouritism to Vettel. The problem wasn’t helped by the duo crashing into each other in Turkey while fighting for the win.

But when they got it right they got it right. The Bulls were heads and shoulders above their rivals in qualifying however on race day their rivals, McLaren and Ferrari, often fought back. The end result was a four-way title fight going into the final race in Abu Dhabi.

Vettel, third in the standings behind Fernando Alonso and his team-mate Mark Webber, did all he could to take the title, claiming pole position and the race win. His own performance coupled with pit strategy errors from Ferrari and on Webber’s side of the pit wall saw Vettel crowned F1’s youngest ever World Champion.

However, it was in 2011 that the German really came into his own, dominating the field in the highly-impressive RB7. The year started with pole positions and back-to-back victories that quickly grew into a run of nine successive podium finishes – six of which were wins.

In fact, Germany, where he finished fourth, was one of only two races that Vettel did not finish on the podium. The other was Abu Dhabi, which he started from pole, but retired on the opening lap after a puncture caused suspension damage.

Vettel’s performances were so epic that he wrapped up the World title, his second in a row, with four races to spare and in doing so claimed the record for youngest double World Champ and the youngest back-to-back Champ. He also now holds the record for most poles in one season have started in the P1 slot on 15 occasions.

And after a season that was Schumacher-esque in his level of domination, many wondered if Vettel could do it again. He did but he didn’t…

The German’s 2012 season got off to a slow start as Vettel struggled to come to grips with his RB8, claiming just one victory in the first half of the campaign as Red Bull were hit with bans to their suspension, a hole in their floor and even brake ducts.

However, the cream always rises to the top and it did just that after the winter break when Vettel went on a run of four successive race victories as he added Singapore, Japan, India and Korea to his earlier Bahrain triumph. The German’s run put him at the top of the Drivers’ Championship as he stole the lead from Fernando Alonso.

The duo fought it out over the last three races where a sixth-place finish in the season finale in Brazil ensured Vettel of his third title by a mere three points! It was by no means a dominant display like in 2011 but perhaps did his reputation more good as he was forced to scrap it out even racing from the very back of the grid to third in Abu Dhabi, his most impressive race of the season.

Vettel will be chasing his fourth Championship in 2013 with Red Bull where he will be a hunted man. As to what his future holds after that, the rumour mill is spinning…