Sebastian Vettel could topple all Formula One statistics—including those chalked up by idol Schumacher
AT the age of 26 Sebastian Vettel has already established an era of dominance, putting him on course to becoming the most successful driver in Formula One history. With four championships in four successive years, the unassuming but steely German will now be eyeing the seven world titles totted up by his great compatriot, Michael Schumacher.
Breaking records has become a habit for the carpenter’s son from Heppenheim, who graduated from go-kart racing and junior circuits to become Formula One’s youngest participant, aged 19 years and 53 days, with a practice drive in Turkey in 2006. The next season, on his race debut in the US, Vettel became the youngest driver to score a point in Formula One. That year in Japan, he also became the youngest to lead a race.
And in 2008, at a rain-hit Monza, the big one: Vettel became both the youngest pole-sitter and then youngest race winner, at the age of just 21.
That stunning result for Toro Rosso triggered a move to Red Bull for 2009 when he almost landed the drivers’ title in his first season, but had to settle for runner-up behind Jenson Button. What followed has been extraordinary.
In 2010 Vettel won the final race at Abu Dhabi to snatch the world title from third in the standings, becoming the sport’s youngest champion.
The 2011 season was a parade as the increasingly confident star racked up 11 wins and a record 15 pole positions to seal the title with four races remaining. A late surge, helped by four wins in Asia, carried him to the 2012 title, again clinched under huge pressure on the last day of the season in Brazil.
And a comparatively slow start to the current season has accelerated into another landslide win triggered by six straight wins after the mid-year break. However, Vettel has not had it all his own way. In unaccustomed scenes for F1, he was booed on the podium in Belgium, Italy and Singapore by a section of disgruntled fans. The disaffection may be traced back to Vettel ignoring team orders and overtaking teammate Mark Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.
Alternatively, it may be simple frustration at Vettel’s preeminence. After another wire-to-wire win in South Korea, Lewis Hamilton suggested he was making Formula One boring.
“Anyone but Vettel,” Twitter and Facebook accounts tell their own story. But fans would be advised to enjoy the dream combination of Vettel’s supreme mastery and Red Bull’s superior car.
Next season, with enforced engine changes, may be very different for Vettel. But after signing a contract extension until 2015, don’t be surprised if he has won another two championships by then.