Written by: Jeonghyeon
Edited by: Justin
Visual by: Zoe
Sebastian Vettel. 4 world championships, 53 career wins, 122 career podiums, and 299 race starts. Boasting a monumental career lasting 16 years, from legendary teams such as BMW Sauber, Toro Rosso (now known as Alphatauri), Red Bull, Ferrari, and Aston Martin. Considered one of the greats, Vettel holds the record for being the youngest world champion in Formula One, has the third-most races and podiums won, and fourth-most pole positions in all of F1 history. In July of this year, however, many fans were surprised to find out that this living legend would finally end his career and retire.
Vettel started his racing career in 1995 in go-karts at the age of 3. He grew up idolizing a fellow legend by the name of Michael Schumacher, one of the all time greats of Formula 1 with 7 world championships and 91 career wins. His potential in racing was uncovered when he was 12 years old: Red Bull Racing began sponsoring Vettel’s karting career, helping fund for an extremely financially taxiing sport. This ultimately allowed Vettel to win multiple world titles in kart racing, such as the European Championship ICA Junior, German Junior Kart Championship, and Monaco Kart Cup. This dominance continued at the next level, where he managed to join the German Formula BMW championship in 2003, securing a strong 2nd place in his rookie year in the series, then dominating the competition the year after winning 18 out of 20 races to secure yet another championship at 17 years of age. This spectacular show of talent allowed Vettel to gain the role of test driver with the BMW Sauber F1 team in 2006.
In June of 2007, Vettel would get his first opportunity to showcase his talent on the massive F1 stage. Robert Kubica, out with an injury, allowed Vettel to jump in for the race weekend. He took advantage of this opportunity, managing to qualify 7th, and finish 8th in his debut race. At the time, aged 19 years and 349 days, Sebastian Vettel was the youngest points scorer in the history of Formula 1.
This showing would allow for Red Bull Racing’s sister team, Toro Rosso, to sign Vettel, where he then managed to show outstanding results. As he transitioned into the 2008 season, Vettel would secure an accomplishment that only few would ever manage to do throughout their F1 careers; Vettel would win his first race at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. Supported by the slippery, rain-soaked conditions, Vettel managed to secure pole position (1st place) in qualifying, and maintained position for the rest of the race, not only becoming F1’s youngest race winner at the time, but gifting Toro Rosso their first victory (before their more dominant sister team Red Bull Racing).
Vettel and Red Bull would push for the world championship in 2010, where fierce competition in Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton would also manage to contend. The 2010 championship, after a dramatic season filled with car retirements and crashes, would be decided at the final race in Abu Dhabi, where Vettel was able to steal the title from fellow Red Bull driver Mark Webber and the aforementioned competition by just 4 points. Becoming the youngest world champion ever to race in F1 at the age of 23 years and 134 days, this would mark the start of the infamous Red Bull dominance of the early 2010’s.
Vettel would manage to win three additional world titles from 2011 to 2013, beating both Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, a two time champion, multiple times. The 2011 and 2013 season were remarkable seasons where fans could expect Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel to win every race, or at the bare minimum score a podium. The 2011 season would see him score 17 podiums and 11 wins out of 19 races, and the 2013 season would see him win 13 races of 19, where he managed to win 9 consecutive races after the summer break. The next season, however, would not allow Vettel’s dominance to continue. A new regulation change saw Mark Webber retire from Formula 1 racing and Red Bull would drop down the order to second place, losing to the dominant Mercedes team, who won 16 of 19 races that season. This led to Vettel following in his hero’s footsteps and joining the ranks of Ferrari.
This bid would ultimately be seen as “unsuccessful,” as Vettel failed to win a championship throughout the 6 years that he would spend with the prancing horses. Seasons such as 2017 and 2018 showed promise, as Vettel was leading the championship until a certain point, yet both driver error and mechanical retirements cost Sebastian and Ferrari multiple driver and constructors championships. Many fans speculated whether Ferrari lost hope in Sebastian Vettel, and their questions were answered in 2020, where Ferrari would sack Vettel for Carlos Sainz and he would move on to join the newly branded Aston Martin team.
The new team, however, showed a lack of competitiveness and only allowed Vettel to score points on occasion, not fighting for wins. Vettel’s talent was yet again shown to the world when he managed to win a podium in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which was the sole highlight of the season. However, without a competitive car that could compete for wins, along with various other personal reasons such as focusing on spending time with his family and pursuing business ventures, Sebastian Vettel was eventually led to announce his retirement to the disappointment of many fans.
Vettel leaves behind a remarkable legacy not only in terms of F1 racing, but also in terms of sustainability and social responsibility, acting as one of the few drivers to use their platforms to speak out against issues such as human rights violations, global warming, and supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately, he stands as one of the best drivers to ever take part in Formula One, standing amongst legends such as Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, and Lewis Hamilton, leaving behind a magnificent legacy for many future drivers to follow.
“Sebastian Vettel.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sebastian-Vettel#:~:text=Vettel%20grew%20up%20idolizing%20German,his%20own%20youth%2Dkarting%20career.
“Sebastian Vettel.” Sebastian Vettel | Racing Career Profile | Driver Database, Driver Database, https://www.driverdb.com/drivers/sebastian-vettel/.
Widdicombe, Charlie. “From Karting to Question Time: Sebastian Vettel – Legends of Formula 1.” The Sporting Blog, The Sporting Blog, 30 Sept. 2022, https://thesporting.blog/blog/from-karting-to-question-time-sebastian-vettel-legends-of-formula-1.