Sebastian Vettel (German pronunciation: ; born 3 July 1987)  is a German racing driver who races in Formula One for Scuderia Ferrari. He is a four-time Formula One World Champion, having won consecutive titles in 2010–2013 with Red Bull Racing, and is regarded by many as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. Vettel moved to Ferrari for the 2015 season, and is contracted to stay with the team until the end of 2020. In addition to holding a number of ‘youngest’ records in Formula One, Vettel holds the record for the most consecutive race wins (9), as well as accumulating the third most race victories (53) and podium finishes (120), and the fourth-most pole positions (57).
Vettel started his Formula One career as a test driver for BMW Sauber in 2006 and made his racing debut with the team at the 2007 United States Grand Prix, replacing the injured Robert Kubica. Already part of the Red Bull programme, Vettel joined Toro Rosso later in the season, and was kept as a driver for 2008. In his first full season in Formula One, the 21-year-old became the youngest pole-sitter and race winner at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, although the latter record was broken by Max Verstappen in 2016. Vettel was promoted to Red Bull for the 2009 season, during which he won four races en route to becoming the youngest-ever World Drivers’ Championship runner-up.
The following year, Vettel became the youngest driver ever to win the World Drivers’ Championship, also helping Red Bull win their first World Constructors’ Championship. He followed up his first championship with three more titles in succession, becoming the youngest double, triple and quadruple world champion in Formula One. The 2010 and 2012 titles were decided in the final round; topping a four-way title battle in Abu Dhabi in 2010, and beating Fernando Alonso by three points in 2012, while the 2011 and 2013 titles saw Vettel dominating the seasons to secure the titles early. Ending his long-term association with the team, Vettel activated a clause to end his contract with Red Bull at the end of the 2014 season.
Soon after, it was announced that Vettel had signed a three-year contract with Ferrari for the 2015 season. In his first season with Ferrari, Vettel won three races and was the closest challenger to the Mercedes drivers. The next year however, he finished fourth in the 2016 championship in another winless season. Vettel and Ferrari enjoyed a resurgence in 2017 and 2018, winning a number of races and topping the standings a number of times in close World Championship battles with Lewis Hamilton. However, both years saw his title hopes end in Mexico as he finished both seasons as runner-up. Vettel endured a more difficult season in 2019, highlighted by a controversial time penalty costing him a win in Canada, although he rebounded to win in Singapore.
- 1 Early and personal life
- 2 Early career
- 3 Formula One career
- 3.1 BMW Sauber (2006-2007)
- 3.2 Toro Rosso (2007-2008)
- 3.3 Red Bull (2009-2014)
- 3.4 Ferrari (2015-present)
- 4 Race of Champions
- 5 Helmet design
- 6 Car names
- 7 Comparison to Michael Schumacher
- 8 Honours
- 9 Racing record
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Early and personal life
Vettel was born in Heppenheim, then West Germany, to Norbert and Heike Vettel. He has one younger brother, Fabian, and two older sisters: Melanie, a dental technician, and Stefanie, a physiotherapist for disabled children. Vettel suggested in an interview that he was terrible at school, but he passed his school leaving exams (“Abitur”) at Heppenheimth’s Starkenburg-Gymnasium (academic secondary school) with a respectable grade. He has said that his childhood heroes were “The three Michaels” – Michael Schumacher, Michael Jordan, and Michael Jackson and mentioned that he wanted to be a singer like Michael Jackson, but realised that he could not as he did not have the voice. Vettel is also a fan of The Beatles, collecting several records, including Abbey Road and his favourite song being “Drive My Car“. In an interview on Top Gear, Vettel stated that he was a fan of British comedy such as Little Britain and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Vettel lives in Thurgovia, Switzerland amongst other racing drivers and is a fan of German football team Eintracht Frankfurt. Vettel has described himself as competitive, private, and impatient. Vettel also appeared in advertisements for Head & Shoulders. Vettel provided the voice of character Sebastian Schnell in the version of the movie Cars 2 dubbed for German-speaking audiences.
Vettel married childhood friend Hanna Prater in early 2019. Vettel has three children by his wife Hanna: Emilie, born in January 2014, Matilda, born in September 2015, and a son born 28 November, 2019. In 2015, Forbes estimated that Vettel’s annual income was $44 million. On the Formula One circuit, Kimi Rikknen, his Ferrari teammate for 2015 to 2018, is a close friend. Sebastian’s younger brother, Fabian is also a racing driver. He competed in the 2017 Audi Sport TT Cup, finishing ninth, and currently competes in ADAC GT Masters driving for Mercedes. In 2019, he was ranked 86th in Forbes’ World’s Highest-Paid Celebrities list. Besides his native German and common Formula One language English, Vettel also speaks some Italian after racing several years for Toro Rosso and Ferrari.
Vettel started amateur karting at the young age of 3 and began racing in karts series in 1995, at the age of eight. Having shown early talent, he was accepted into the Red Bull Junior Team at age 11 in 1998, and kept on winning various titles, such as the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2001. In 2003, he was promoted to open-wheel cars and won the 2004 German Formula BMW Championship with 18 victories from 20 races. Having impressed in his first season of auto racing in 2003, Vettel was given a chance by Derrick Walker to test a Reynard Motorsport Champ Car in a two-day private test at the Homestead road course. In 2005 he drove for ASL Mucke Motorsport in the Formula 3 Euro Series. He was placed fifth in the final standings with 63 points, winning the year’s top rookie honours. He tested the Williams FW27 Formula One automobile on 27 September as a reward for this Formula BMW success. He then went on to test for the BMW Sauber team. He drove for Racing Engineering in one race of the Spanish F3 in Albacete.
2006 became a busy year for the 18-year-old racing driver that included being promoted to test driver for BMW Sauber in Formula One. Despite a competitive season with several victories, it did not yield any championship. Vettel finished as runner-up in his second season in the F3 Euroseries, behind series leader and teammate Paul di Resta. He also made his debut in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series at Misano, where he was promoted to second, after the original winner Pastor Maldonado was disqualified. At the next round at Spa-Francorchamps, however, his finger was almost sliced off by flying dbris in an accident, and he was expected to be out of racing for several weeks. Nevertheless, he managed to compete in the Ultimate Masters of F3 at Zandvoort the following weekend, finishing in sixth place. He also set the third-fastest lap time, surprising team boss Frdric Vasseur.
Vettel competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2007, and took his first win at the Nrburgring. He was leading the championship when he was called up to Formula One permanently. His seat was taken by Michael Ammermller.
Formula One career
BMW Sauber (2006-2007)
Vettel became BMW Sauber’s third driver at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, when former incumbent Robert Kubica was called up to replace Jacques Villeneuve for the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. On his testing debut, Vettel set the fastest time in the second Friday Free Practice before the race. In doing so, Vettel became both the youngest Formula One driver to participate in a Grand Prix weekend at 19 years and 53 days, though this record was broken by Max Verstappen. He also received the unfortunate record of collecting his first fine less than ten seconds into his career for exceeding the pitlane speed limit on the way to the track for the first time. In his second testing session in the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, he set the fastest time in both Friday practice sessions, a race weekend in which all the BMW cars were quick, with his predecessor Robert Kubica finishing on the podium in the race.
Vettel was confirmed as BMW’s test driver for 2007. Following the serious crash of regular BMW driver Kubica at the Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel substituted for him at the United States Grand Prix. He started in seventh position on the grid, finishing in eighth position on Sunday to become the youngest driver to score a point in Formula One, a record previously held by Jenson Button.
Toro Rosso (2007-2008)
On 31 July 2007, BMW released Vettel to join Red Bull‘s Scuderia Toro Rosso team, replacing Scott Speed as one of its drivers from the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards (as he was already under contract to Red Bull). He earned approximately US$165,000 for finishing the season with Toro Rosso. Before the race, it was also announced that Vettel would drive for Toro Rosso in 2008, alongside Sbastien Bourdais.
In the rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, Vettel worked his way up to third, behind Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, and seemed to be on course for his and the team’s maiden podium finish. However, Vettel crashed into Webber under safety car conditions, forcing both cars to retire. Webber said in an interview after the race, “It’s kids isn’t it. Kids with not enough experience – you do a good job and then they fuck it all up”, and also criticised Lewis Hamilton‘s contribution toward the accident, describing his antics behind the safety car as “shit”. Vettel was initially punished with a ten-place grid penalty for the following race, but this was lifted after a spectator video on YouTube showed the incident may have been caused by Hamilton’s behaviour behind the safety car.
Vettel finished a career-best fourth a week later at the Chinese Grand Prix, having started 17th on the grid while in mixed conditions. He collected five championship points, making it both his and Toro Rosso’s best race result. Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz stated his belief Vettel would be one of Formula One’s big stars in the future. “Vettel is one of the young guys with extraordinary potential He is fast, he is intelligent, and he is very interested in the technical side.”
2008: Youngest polesitter and first race win
See also: 2008 Formula One World Championship
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. In each of these three instances, he was involved in accidents caused by other drivers, the other being an engine failure. However, at the fifth round at the Turkish Grand Prix, he finally saw the chequered flag, albeit finishing in 17th after qualifying 14th and suffering a puncture on the opening lap. In the next race at the Monaco Grand Prix, Vettel scored his first points of the season with a fifth-place finish, after qualifying 17th. He scored again at the Canadian Grand Prix fighting off Heikki Kovalainen in the last few laps for the final championship point, having started from pit lane. Vettel finished 12th in France, before retiring on lap one at the wet British Grand Prix after being clipped by David Coulthard and aquaplaned into the gravel trap along with Coulthard. He earned another point at the German Grand Prix, fending off Fernando Alonso and securing eighth after Jarno Trulli ran wide. Vettel retired in Hungary after his engine overheated during his first pit stop. He impressed many at the European Grand Prix by setting the fastest times in the first practice session and second qualifying session, before qualifying sixth on the grid. Vettel finished the race in sixth, two seconds behind Jarno Trulli. Toro Rosso’s technical director Giorgio Ascanelli explained that something changed at the European Grand Prix in Valencia: “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.”
At the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, Vettel became the youngest driver in history to win a Formula One Grand Prix. Aged 21 years and 74 days, Vettel broke the record set by Fernando Alonso at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix by 317 days when he won in wet conditions at Monza. Vettel led for the majority of the Grand Prix and crossed the finish line 12.5 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen. It was the first podium of both Toro Rosso and Vettel. As of 2019[update] it is also Toro Rosso’s only win. Earlier in the weekend, he had already become the youngest polesitter, after setting the fastest times in both Q2 and Q3 qualifying stages, and his win also gave him the record of youngest podium finisher. Toro Rosso team boss Gerhard Berger said, “As he proved today, he can win races, but he’s going to win world championships. He’s a cool guy”. Hamilton praised the German, stating that this victory showed “how good he is”. The nature of the victory and the story of the 21-year-old’s fledgling career led the German media to dub him “baby Schumi“, although Vettel was quick to downplay the expectation the result had brought, particularly the comparison with the seven-time World Champion: “To compare me with Michael Schumacher is just a bit ridiculous… It will be difficult in normal conditions for us to repeat this achievement”. He then went on to finish fifth in Singapore. In Japan, he finished sixth after being promoted from seventh after teammate Bourdais was penalised for contact with Felipe Massa.
In the Brazilian Grand Prix, after running as high as second in the race on a 3-stop strategy, Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton in the rain for fifth place on the penultimate lap to contribute to a thrilling climax to the season. He nearly deprived the McLaren driver of the championship before Timo Glock slowed dramatically on the last lap (he was struggling with dry tyres in the ever-increasing rain) enabling both Vettel and Hamilton to pass him, earning Hamilton the title, and Vettel fourth place.
Red Bull (2009-2014)
2009: Championship runner-up
At the start of the 2009 season, Vettel replaced the retired David Coulthard at Red Bull Racing, and began strongly at the Australian Grand Prix, qualifying third and running in second for the majority of the race. However, a clash with Robert Kubica over second place on the third to last lap of the race forced both to retire. Vettel attempted to finish the race on three wheels behind the safety car to salvage some points, but eventually pulled off to the side. He thought that he would be able to attempt this because the yellow flag resulting from his incident forbids overtaking; instead he was given a ten-place grid penalty for the next race, the Malaysian Grand Prix, and his team was fined for instructing him to stay on track after the damage occurred. In Malaysia he qualified in third position, but was demoted down to 13th due to his ten-place grid drop. He spun out of the race while eighth, just before the race was stopped due to adverse weather conditions. However, in China he went on to take pole position, the first for the Red Bull Racing team. He went on to win the race ahead of teammate Mark Webber, again a first for his team, which scored its first victory and 1-2 finish in the same race. At the age of 21 years and 287 days, Vettel became the youngest Grand Prix driver in history to win for two different teams, having won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix for the Toro Rosso team.
In the Bahrain Grand Prix, Vettel qualified in third, and finished second behind Jenson Button in the race. In Spain, he qualified in second but finished the race in fourth, behind his teammate Webber who finished in third. Vettel won the British Grand Prix after claiming pole position in qualifying. At the German Grand Prix he qualified fourth and finished second, behind Webber, who won his first Grand Prix. At the Hungarian Grand Prix, Vettel qualified second after an eventful qualifying, but had to retire from the race on lap 30 after his car sustained damage from contact with Kimi Rikknen‘s car on the first lap.
At the European Grand Prix, he qualified fourth but had to retire from the race with an engine failure. It was the second engine failure for Vettel during the weekend, and the RB5’s reliability issues began to show. He finished third at Spa-Francorchamps, and struggled for pace at Monza, finishing 8th at a race he previously won. He qualified 2nd at Singapore, but was given a drive-though penalty for speeding in the pit lane and damaged the diffuser on a kerb, struggling to 4th. He subsequently won the Japanese Grand Prix from pole position, leading every lap and only being denied of the fastest lap by 0.002 seconds by teammate Mark Webber, who did so on the final lap. He would have to wait until the 2011 Indian Grand Prix until he finally achieved a Grand Slam.
At the Brazilian Grand Prix, Vettel qualified 16th in a rain-hit session, behind title rivals Button (14th) and Rubens Barrichello (1st), while his teammate Webber qualified second with Adrian Sutil in third. Vettel needed to score at least second place in the race to keep his title hopes alive. He finished fourth with Button behind, giving Button the Championship and moving Vettel up into second place. He officially claimed second place by winning the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, again ahead of Webber with Button completing the podium. He also scored his third fastest lap of the year, drawing him level with teammate Webber. However, as Vettel had more second fastest laps, he won the 2009 DHL Fastest Lap Award.
On 21 August 2009 it was announced that Red Bull and Vettel had extended his contract until the end of the 2011 season with an option for 2012. The option was later taken up on 14 March 2011, as Vettel extended his contract with the team until the end of 2014.
2010: Youngest world champion
See also: 2010 Formula One World ChampionshipThis section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.
Find sources: “Sebastian Vettel” – news newspapers books scholar JSTOR (February 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) Vettel driving for Red Bull Racing at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix, where he took the first pole position of the season
Vettel continued with Red Bull for 2010, and took the first pole position of the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Vettel went on to lead most of the race but a spark-plug failure meant that his lap times slowed down, and as a result the two Ferraris and the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton passed him. After a brief challenge from Rosberg he brought the car home in fourth.
At the Australian Grand Prix, Vettel was appointed as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association. He took his second consecutive pole position in Australia, ahead of teammate Mark Webber, but spun off when leading the race, due to a loose wheel nut. In Malaysia, he took his first win of the 2010 season with Webber coming in second place, having passed both him and Nico Rosberg at turn one.
Vettel qualified on pole at China alongside Webber. At the start of the wet race Fernando Alonso jump-started and Vettel was passed by Webber, dropping back to third. The increasing rain forced Vettel and Webber to pit at the same time for intermediate tyres that wore out after only a few laps and dropped them back into the midfield. Vettel slowly climbed back up to finish sixth, ahead of Webber. In Spain, Vettel was outqualified by teammate Webber and claimed second on the grid. Despite having a major brake problem during the last eight laps, Vettel managed third place after Hamilton crashed on the penultimate lap.
In Monaco Vettel was again outqualified by Webber. In the race he passed Kubica at the start and stayed there for the remainder of the Grand Prix and made it a Red Bull 1-2. After the race, the two Red Bull drivers were equal on points in the Drivers’ Championship, with Webber being a championship leader based on total wins. At the Turkish Grand Prix he qualified third and was running second behind Webber when he made a passing move on the Australian. The two collided, putting Vettel out of the race and dropping him to fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, with neither driver accepting responsibility for causing the collision. He finished fourth at the Canadian Grand Prix, maintaining his position in the standings. He started the European Grand Prix in pole position and led from start to finish to score his second win of the season.
At Silverstone, both Vettel and Webber’s cars were fitted with a new design of front wing. Vettel’s front wing was damaged in the third practice session, and Webber’s sole surviving example was removed and given to Vettel. Vettel qualified in pole position ahead of his teammate, but suffered a puncture caused by driving wide off the track on the first lap of the race and fell to the tail of the field. He fought back to finish seventh while Webber took the victory. At the German Grand Prix he took pole by 0.002 seconds, and finished in third position in the race, behind the Ferraris of Alonso and Felipe Massa, after a poor start. Since Ferrari swapped positions between the drivers in an apparent team order Vettel could have been handed the win, but the FIA let the result stand, then legalised team orders again. He also finished third in Hungary after serving a drive-through penalty for exceeding ten lengths behind the previous car, teammate Webber, under neutralised safety car conditions. In Belgium, he had a tough race, hitting Button’s car whilst attempting to pass, causing Button to retire. Vettel pitted and carried on, but then suffered a puncture whilst passing Liuzzi at the same place, completing a whole lap with a puncture. He eventually finished 15th, his lowest placing of the season (other than his retirements in Australia and Turkey). At Monza he finished fourth after an engine problem scare, and at the Singapore Grand Prix, Vettel qualified and finished second, sticking on Alonso’s tail for most of the race, the entire weekend being very close between the two. He passed Button for fourth place in the championship. At the Japanese Grand Prix, he dominated all practice sessions bar one, as it was postponed after heavy rain. He qualified on pole ahead of teammate Webber and went on to win with a lights-to-flag victory. Aged 23 years and 98 days, Vettel became the youngest Grand Prix driver to win at the same track on two occasions, having also won the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in 2009. At the first Korean Grand Prix, Vettel took pole and led the first 45 laps of the race before retiring with engine failure, handing victory to Alonso.
At the Brazilian Grand Prix, Vettel qualified second but took the lead at the first corner from the Williams of Nico Hlkenberg and led for the entire race to victory. With Webber taking second place, and Alonso finishing third, Vettel went into the final race of the season with a 15-point deficit to Alonso, and a 7-point gap to Webber. With the 1-2 finish in Brazil, Vettel and Webber secured Red Bull Racing’s first Formula One World Constructors’ Championship. He won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole again, to take the Drivers’ Championship lead for the first time in his career and became the youngest world champion in the sport’s history. Following John Surtees in the 1964 season and James Hunt in 1976, this was also only the third time in Formula One history when the World Champion had not been championship leader at any earlier point in the season.
2011: Successful title defence, most poles in a season
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Find sources: “Sebastian Vettel” – news newspapers books scholar JSTOR (February 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) Vettel won the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, which was his fourth consecutive victory
After the postponement of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Vettel started his title defence in the Australian Grand Prix with pole position and a victory of 22 seconds over title rival Lewis Hamilton, who was nursing home his broken McLaren. Vettel continued his title defence in the Malaysian Grand Prix, where he pipped Hamilton for pole position by a tenth of a second, and went on to win the race from Jenson Button. Vettel completed his third pole position of the season at the Chinese Grand Prix, and appeared to be in dominating form for the majority of the race. However, poor tyre management haunted him in the last several laps, possibly being related to his inability to properly communicate with his team, as his radio was broken. He finished the race second, his championship lead cut to 21 points over Hamilton after three races.
The Turkish Grand Prix started out poorly for Vettel, where he had very little practice time during the Friday free practice sessions, including a crash in the first session. Even with the limited practice, he claimed his fifth consecutive pole position and converted it into a win, extending his championship lead over Hamilton to 34 points. At the Spanish Grand Prix, his pole position streak ended as his KERS failed him during qualifying. His teammate Webber took pole, but Vettel went on to win the race by 0.6 seconds over Hamilton, with Hamilton chasing him down at the end on prime tyres, and Vettel having to deal with a frequently malfunctioning KERS. The following weekend, in the Monaco Grand Prix, he took pole with the second fastest qualifying time in Monaco’s history. Vettel was leading the race with a 5-second gap over second-placed Button. Due to a radio malfunction, the Red Bull pit crew was not prepared for Vettel when he pitted. The net result was that the pit stop was slow, and that he was sent out on the wrong tyres, handing the lead to Button as well. Vettel switched to a one-stop strategy, and stuck with one set of soft tyres for 56 laps. He was caught by Alonso and Button as his tyres deteriorated, but neither were able to pass him on the narrow streets of the Monte-Carlo circuit. With a few laps remaining, the race was red-flagged after Vitaly Petrov required an ambulance after an accident. The suspended race allowed teams to change tyres and work on the cars, and when the race was restarted under the safety car, Vettel was able to retain the lead during the last few laps.
In Canada, he took his sixth pole position in seven races ahead of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Vettel kept his lead from the start of the race, and for the vast majority of the race he held on to it. The record six safety car periods due to the down-pouring rain and 2-hour race suspension profoundly hurt Vettel’s chances of victory, however, as after every safety car restart, Vettel would lose the gap he had previously built up on the other drivers. With much fresher tyres, Button caught Vettel and began to pressure him in the last lap. Vettel slid on a damp part of the track at Turn 6, and Button used the opportunity to slip past him to take the victory. Vettel finished second, yet still extended his championship lead to 60 points ahead of Button.
At the European Grand Prix, the FIA began enforcing a controversial ban on engine mappings. It was believed by many in the press that this was an attempt by the FIA to thwart Vettel’s domination of the season. The changes appeared to do little to hinder Vettel, as he took pole with the fastest qualifying lap in Valencia Street Circuit’s history. He dominated the race with his first hat-trick of 2011 and won his sixth race out of eight races. It was the first time in Formula One history that a driver had finished second or better in each of the first 8 races of a season and won at least 6 of them.
Vettel took his ninth victory of the season at the Singapore Grand Prix after leading from lights to flag, leaving him within one point of his second World Championship
The second set of controversial mid-season changes were implemented at Silverstone, targeting the blown diffusers. Red Bull believed the changes cost them about half a second per lap. Webber just edged Vettel for pole position by 0.032 seconds in qualifying. On race day, Vettel made a better start, immediately took the lead and led the first half of the race. A delay at one of his pit stops allowed Alonso to pass him in the pit lane and dropped Vettel back to third, behind Hamilton. Despite a malfunctioning KERS unit, he was able to jump Hamilton in the stops and held off the faster Webber, who ignored a radio message from team principal Christian Horner to hold position, for second place, extending his lead in the championship.
Vettel’s run of fourteen successive front-row starts and eleven successive top two finishes ended at his home race, where he qualified third and finished fourth. McLaren‘s mechanical grip beat Red Bull in the wet in Hungary, and despite leading into the first corner from pole, he was quickly passed by both Hamilton and Button. Vettel eventually finished second in the race, held in mixed conditions. In Belgium, Vettel qualified on pole and won the race, his seventh victory of the season and seventeenth of his career. In victory, Vettel extended his lead in the championship to 92 points and, even with seven races left, his tally of 259 points surpassed his own record (from 2010) for the highest number of championship points accumulated in a season. At the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, he took his tenth pole position of the year – joining Ayrton Senna as the only drivers to have taken ten pole positions in two separate seasons – and the 25th of his career, and eventually won the race after passing Alonso, who had overtaken Vettel at the start. Vettel led every lap from pole position in Singapore, despite a safety car period eliminating a 22-second lead that he had held. His ninth win of the season left only Jenson Button in championship contention, who was 124 points behind with five races remaining.
Vettel arrived in Japan needing only a single championship point, tenth place, to secure his second championship. In qualifying, Vettel recorded his twelfth pole position of the season – his fifth in succession – edging Button by 0.009 seconds. In the race, Vettel held the lead until the second pit-stop phase, when Button used the undercut to get past. He remained second after a safety car restart, but because his tyres wore out not long after that, he slipped down to third behind Alonso. He tried to fight Alonso for the position, but after several unsuccessful passing attempts, his race engineer told him to hold position and defend his championship. This podium finish secured his second successive title with four races remaining, making him the youngest ever double world champion and also the youngest back-to-back champion, joining only eight other drivers who had won consecutive titles. In Korea, Vettel started second, but won the race – becoming the second driver to take at least ten wins in a season after Michael Schumacher – after overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the first lap, building a healthy gap for the rest of the race, and recording the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. He helped secure Red Bull’s second successive Constructors’ World Championship in the process. Vettel took his eleventh victory of the season in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, leading every lap from pole position, as well as setting the race’s fastest lap on the final lap, despite Red Bull having detuned his engine in an effort not to risk the race victory.
At the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel took his fourteenth pole position of 2011 to equal the record of poles in a season set by Nigel Mansell in 1992. Vettel had a good start to maintain the lead by the first corner, but at the second corner, a right rear puncture saw him go sliding off the track. He returned to the pits, but suspension damage forced his first retirement since the 2010 Korean Grand Prix. Vettel then broke the record for the most poles in a season at the next round, the season finale in Brazil. He maintained his lead into the first corner but was slowed by gearbox trouble early in the race. He allowed teammate Webber to pass him as his problem worsened, but eventually finished second ahead of Button to complete a 1-2 sweep for the team upon Webber’s only victory of the year. Vettel completed the year with 15 poles, 11 victories, and 17 podiums from 19 races; he also earned a record total of 392 points in the process.
2012: Triple world champion
Vettel remained at Red Bull for the 2012 season, and was again partnered by Mark Webber. He scored a second-place finish at the opening race of the season in Australia. Vettel started fifth in Malaysia, promoted from sixth after Kimi Rikknen suffered a five-place grid penalty. Vettel spent the majority of the rain-affected race in fourth place, but picked a puncture from a collision with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan on lap 47. He dropped to twelfth after pitting to replace the tyre, and finished eleventh after Pastor Maldonado retired late in the race with an engine failure. This was Vettel’s first finish outside the points since the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix; Karthikeyan was given a 20-second post-race penalty for his part in the collision, which dropped Karthikeyan from 21st to 22nd and last.
After the race, Vettel and Red Bull boss Christian Horner criticised Karthikeyan’s driving, with Vettel calling Karthikeyan an “idiot”, and a “cucumber”. Karthikeyan hit back at Vettel, calling him a “cry-baby”. Later, Karthikeyan decided to call a truce with Vettel, stating his respect for Vettel’s abilities and saying “I think we have to deal with it in a mature way and forget about it.” Vettel qualified eleventh for the Chinese Grand Prix; the first time he had qualified outside the top ten since the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, although he ran as high as 2nd with 7 laps remaining until tyre wear on a 2-stop strategy took its toll and he dropped to 5th by the flag.
Vettel qualified in pole position for the first time in 2012 at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Vettel was able to lead for most of the race, despite coming under pressure from Kimi Rikknen, and crossed the line in first place to take his first victory of the season; the result also saw Vettel go top of the drivers’ standings for the first time in 2012. At the Spanish GP, he maintained his championship lead, albeit only on countback, after a 6th-place finish having started 7th. Vettel received a drive-through penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags during the race as well as having to change his front wing as a result of debris from an incident involving Michael Schumacher and Bruno Senna. After an eventful race at Monaco, he placed fourth, gaining 5 places from his ninth-place grid position.
Vettel claimed his 2nd pole position for the season in Canada, however he dropped to 3rd after the first pit stops and then trying to go the remaining distance of the same tyres, he fell back in the closing stages and had to make a late stop for new tyres. He eventually came 4th. At the following race in Valencia, he claimed his 33rd pole position, going 3rd equal with Jim Clark and Alain Prost in the all-time list. However a 20-second lead in the first 20 laps was reduced to nothing by a safety car appearance. On the first lap of the restart, his car ground to a halt, with an alternator failure being the cause. Vettel would have taken the lead in the standings- instead, he fell back to 4th behind Alonso (who won), Hamilton and Webber.
At Silverstone, Vettel qualified 4th after a wet session which, at one point, had to be suspended for over 1 hour due to torrential rain. In the dry race he overcame a slow start, where he dropped to 5th, to finish 3rd behind Webber and Alonso. In Germany he started second, but before the third pit-stop, he was attacked by Hamilton, who wanted to unlap himself, lost some time, and was overtaken by Button after the pit-stop. On the penultimate lap he passed Button and finished second behind Alonso. After the race, however, the stewards found that Vettel was off the track when he overtook Button and so they awarded him a 20-second time penalty which dropped him back to fifth. At the following race in Hungary, Vettel finished 4th after starting 3rd.
After the summer break, at the Belgian Grand Prix, he fought back from a poor qualifying, where he was knocked out in Q2 to start 10th, and a poor start in which he had to avoid the big accident ahead of him. Having ended the first lap in 12th, he managed to finish 2nd. At Round 13 in Italy, Vettel started 5th and was running 4th until he forced Fernando Alonso onto the grass, for which he received a drive-through penalty, dropping him to 9th. Then, having recovered to 6th with 5 laps to go, the alternator on his car failed for the second time in the weekend. Vettel was classified 22nd, with championship leader Alonso coming 3rd and Hamilton winning. The next race was the Singapore Grand Prix, where Vettel qualified 3rd. He overtook Pastor Maldonado at the start before the leader Lewis Hamilton retired with a car failure, Vettel then kept the lead until the 2-hour race limit was reached. It was his first win in 10 races, ending his worst run since his maiden win (which came in his 22nd race).
At Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel took his 2nd career Grand Slam (Pole, Fastest Lap and lead every lap) and coupled with Alonso retiring on the first lap, he cut the gap down to just 4 points. On 14 October he won his third consecutive race at the Korean Grand Prix. He overtook his teammate Mark Webber, who took the pole, to finish the race ahead of him, making it a Red Bull 1-2 finish. With this win, Vettel took the lead in the overall championship from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The Indian Grand Prix brought another victory, with Vettel topping all 3 practice sessions before taking pole position and leading every lap of the race to a comfortable win, ahead of teammate Mark Webber in 3rd – who lost his 2nd place when a KERS failure slowed him down.
Abu Dhabi presented one of Vettel’s most controversial qualifying sessions of the season when, after setting the third fastest time in Q3, he was told to stop the car. A fuel pump issue was later found to be the source of this problem and the ensuing penalty meant Vettel was to start the race from last, but as Red Bull then decided to make changes to the car, he was forced to start from the pit lane. However, in the race, Vettel managed to fight his way back to 3rd place to complete the podium. After a podium in the US Grand Prix Vettel was well set up to win the championship in Brazil. Vettel started the race with a 13-point cushion against title contender Fernando Alonso. After a close eventful race full of spins, which included Vettel’s opening lap incident with Bruno Senna, crashes and changing weather conditions, Vettel finished 6th while Alonso finished 2nd, resulting in Vettel winning the championship by three points. This was Vettel’s third consecutive championship, and at age 25 he became the youngest ever triple world champion, beating Ayrton Senna‘s previous record. Senna won his third F1 world championship title in 1991 at age 31. Vettel also became the third driver to acquire three-consecutive championships, after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
2013: Quadruple world champion, 13 wins, 9 wins in a row
Vettel started his fifth season with Red Bull Racing by qualifying on pole for the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, before going on to finish the race in third place, twenty-two seconds behind race winner Kimi Rikknen. He took pole again for the Malaysian Grand Prix in dominant display of wet weather driving, lapping over 2.5 seconds faster than teammate Webber. He went on to win the race, though not without controversy, after Vettel ignored team orders not to pass teammate Mark Webber. Webber emerged from the pits a fraction of a second ahead of Vettel as they went side-by-side into the first corner. Although Red Bull told both drivers that they were to finish with Webber to take the win, after two laps Vettel eventually overtook Webber for the lead with eleven laps remaining in the race. Webber was furious after the race, saying Vettel “will have protection as usual and thats the way it goes”. Team principal Christian Horner, although unhappy with Vettel’s actions, pointed out that Webber had defied team orders on several previous occasions, as recently as two races ago. Horner acknowledged that the already fragile relationship between the two drivers had further broken down as a result of the incident. Vettel apologised for his actions, claiming that he had not deliberately ignored the order despite the team’s insistence that he had been made perfectly aware of the instruction to maintain his position. Vettel later recanted his apology, claiming that he was not sorry for winning and that if the situation presented itself again, he would have passed Webber in spite of the order, adding that he felt Webber did not deserve to win the race.
In the Chinese Grand Prix, Vettel qualified 9th, after not setting a time in Q3, before finishing 4th, setting fastest lap and crossing the line two-tenths behind 3rd placed Lewis Hamilton. Vettel won from second on the grid in Bahrain, passing Nico Rosberg in the opening laps. Vettel maintained the championship lead with 4th in Spain, and 2nd at the Monaco Grand Prix. He won in dominant fashion at Montreal, winning from pole position by 15 seconds and lapping everyone up to 5th, extending his lead to 36 points.
His lead was cut at the British Grand Prix as he was denied a likely win due to gearbox failure, but he bounced back to win his home race in Germany for the first time, despite pressure from Kimi Rikknen and Romain Grosjean. In Hungary, Vettel had to settle for 3rd behind Hamilton and Rikknen, but wins in Belgium (from 2nd on the grid), Italy, Singapore and Korea (all 3 from pole) put him 77 points clear with only 5 races to go. With grand slams at Singapore and Korea, he became only the third man after Alberto Ascari and Jim Clark to take consecutive grand slams. Vettel sealed his fourth world title at India on 27 October. By winning the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Vettel set the record for Most consecutive race wins in Formula 1, with 9.
On several occasions during the season, spectators booed Vettel. Although the booing was widely condemned by fellow drivers, the media and others in the paddock, Vettel revealed that it had a negative impact on him.
Prior to the 2011 Japanese Grand Prix, Red Bull’s advisor Helmut Marko expressed his wish to extend Vettel’s contract for another two years to 2016. However, on 11 June 2013, Vettel agreed to a one-year contract extension with Red Bull until the end of the 2015 season.
2014: A struggling season and departure from Red Bull
For the 2014 season and beyond, drivers picked a unique car number to use for the remainder of their Formula One career, Vettel chose the number five. However, as reigning World Drivers’ Champion he carried number one throughout 2014. After having Mark Webber (who retired from Formula One to race in the new World Endurance Championship) as a teammate for five years, Vettel’s new teammate in 2014 was Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was promoted from the Toro Rosso team.
After struggling with reliability issues throughout winter testing, the season did not start much better for Vettel. At the Australian Grand Prix, software issues meant Vettel qualified in twelfth position and forced him to retire from the race after just three laps. Reliability problems also forced Vettel to retire at the Monaco and Austrian Grands Prix. Vettel qualified on the front-row for the races in Malaysia, Great Britain, and Hungary, and finished on the podium in Malaysia, Canada, Singapore and Japan. On 4 October 2014, Red Bull Racing announced that Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the 2014 season, one year before his contract was due to expire. After the Russian Grand Prix, he had been outqualified by a teammate over a season for the first time in his Formula One career. In addition to suffering reliability problems, throughout 2014 Vettel struggled to get to grips with the Red Bull RB10, and Pirelli’s 2014 tyres. Vettel signed off the 2014 season, by becoming the first defending champion to fail to win a race in the following season since Jacques Villeneuve in 1998.
On the day Vettel and Red Bull announced parting ways, team principal Christian Horner announced that Vettel was going to sign with Ferrari. From there it took from early October to 20 November for Ferrari to announce a three-year contract with Vettel. At the same time, Ferrari announced that Vettel’s long-time championship rival Fernando Alonso would be departing the team at the end of the season; meaning Vettel would partner Kimi Rikknen at the team. Alonso’s departure two years before his contract expiry opened the Ferrari door for Vettel.
Vettel was denied an early release from his Red Bull contract to test the 2014 Ferrari car in Abu Dhabi post-race. In spite of this Vettel technically breached his contract being at the test with Ferrari – although not driving the car but Red Bull did not enforce any sanctions. Vettel instead made his first appearance at the Ferrari factory over the weekend of 29-30 November, completing nearly 100 laps around the test track of Fiorano in the 2012 car as well as performing simulator work and completing his first official interview as a Ferrari driver. According to Ferrari’s official website, Vettel did however try the simulated 2014 car in the team’s simulator program.
2015: Returning to the top step, a threat to Mercedes
Vettel made his Ferrari dbut by finishing third in the Australian Grand Prix after overtaking Felipe Massa for the position during the pit stop window. The previous day he had narrowly outqualified teammate Kimi Rikknen for fourth on the grid. Vettel followed that up with winning the Malaysian Grand Prix, his first race win for over a year and the first win for Ferrari for almost two years. It was also his 40th Grand Prix win, putting him one win behind Ayrton Senna, the 3rd-placed driver on the all-time list. After the win, an emotional Vettel paid tribute to Michael Schumacher, saying that his hero’s achievements with Ferrari made the first win all the more special. Vettel also stated his goal was to try to win the championship. Mercedes’s executive director Toto Wolff admitted at the same time that Vettel was a title contender, saying that Ferrari’s recovery over the winter was ‘incredible’. Vettel ran both Mercedes cars close for the first half of the race in China, but eventually had to settle for third – his third successive podium – which was a result that both Vettel and the team admitted was always the most likely on that particular occasion.
Vettel was involved in a minor tangle with Sergio Prez during practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, damaging his front wing coming out of the pits. Vettel claimed the impact happened because of a brake issue that failed to slow the car down saying ‘something broke on the front right’ on the team radio. In spite of his claims, the incident was investigated by the race stewards. Both Vettel and Prez were cleared of any wrongdoing later that evening, and so escaped any penalties. The rest of the weekend was mixed for Vettel, who qualified on the front row, but had several issues and off-track escapades during the race before being stuck behind Valtteri Bottas‘ Williams and having to settle for fifth. Given that he had qualified on the front row and that teammate Rikknen was second, the result was somewhat underwhelming, and he dropped to third place in the championship as a result. Vettel commented that he lost his rhythm during the race and did not have enough confidence in the rear end of the car, but nevertheless remained positive about the performance potential of the car. Before his front wing damage, Vettel had twice overtaken Nico Rosberg for second place during pit stops, only to immediately be pegged back. Vettel was in second for a long spell during the Spanish Grand Prix but due to a change of pit stop strategy, Lewis Hamilton got past and pulled away, leaving Vettel in third at the end of the race. He finished second in Monaco, having run very close to eventual winner Rosberg for most parts of the race. Mercedes made a strategic error in bringing dominant leader Hamilton in for new tyres at the late safety car, placing him right behind Vettel. The duel that followed made Vettel fall back from Rosberg, but he managed to hold off Hamilton to finish an unlikely second. In Canada, Vettel got his lowest qualifying position of the season, qualifying in 18th, and then received a five place grid penalty for overtaking under red flags in practice 3 that morning. The race, however, was a success, as he finished 5th behind teammate Rikknen.
Following a 4th in Austria and 3rd at Silverstone that appeared to edge Vettel further away from a title challenge, he rebounded with a commanding win in the Hungarian Grand Prix, after a superb start from 3rd on the grid, which saw him slice past both Mercedes cars and retain the lead throughout. The win was Vettel’s first ever at the Hungaroring and equalled Ayrton Senna‘s total of 41 Formula One victories. It was dedicated to Jules Bianchi who died the week prior from injuries sustained in 2014. At the halfway point of the season, Vettel was 42 points behind championship leader Hamilton, and said the team aimed to make what was seen as ‘impossible’ possible during the second half of the season. He however accepted a lot of work was needed to be done to catch up. Vettel looked set for third in Belgium after a long stint on the supposedly conservative medium tyre when his right rear blew at high speed on the penultimate lap, likely ending any title chances given Hamilton won. After the race he went on a furious rant about control tyre manufacturer Pirelli and the ‘unacceptable’ and ‘unsafe’ tyres that could have caused him serious injury had the explosion occurred in the Eau Rouge corner just before where it actually occurred and since it was the second such blowout at high speed during the weekend (the first befell Nico Rosberg during practice). Vettel was also unhappy with Pirelli’s suggestion that the failures were due to the drivers going wide picking up debris, saying he never did.
Vettel came home second in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the first race for him with Ferrari at the team’s home soil. Amid a contract dispute regarding the venue’s future Vettel once again went on the rampage and said that the race could not be lost and would ‘rip the heart out of Formula One’ if it did. He also stated that he regarded his first podium for Ferrari at Monza as ‘the best second place of his life’. Vettel then took his first Ferrari pole at the Singapore Grand Prix. It was the team’s first pole for three years, and first dry pole since at the same venue five years earlier. Vettel was 0.543 seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in second. He went on to win the race from Ricciardo, thus surpassing Ayrton Senna‘s victory count for his 42nd career win, moving him into third on the all-time list. With championship leader Hamilton retiring, Vettel closed to within 49 points with seven races remaining. The title challenge once again diminished in the next race in Japan. Vettel did however score his tenth podium finish of the year, finishing third behind Hamilton and Rosberg at a track with significantly different attributes to Singapore. Vettel scored another second place and with fastest lap of race at Sochi moving him to second place in Drivers’ Championship following Nico Rosberg’s retirement in the early parts of the race. In the United States Vettel started from 13th due to an engine change penalty, but still charged his way to a podium, even challenging Rosberg for second on the final lap.
The third last race of the season in Mexico was a major disappointment, with Vettel being punted softly in the rear tyre by Daniel Ricciardo on the first corner entry, suffering a puncture. Having had strong pace all weekend, Vettel’s chances were all but gone and in a recovery attempt he first spun and then crashed out, losing second in the championship to Rosberg. The penultimate race in Brazil was a strong weekend for Vettel, who finished far ahead of teammate Rikknen on track with both having clean races. He was not far off the Mercedes cars but had to settle for third. The final race in Abu Dhabi saw Vettel finish fourth following an error in qualifying that set him far down on the grid. His recovery pace was impressive, albeit remaining one pit stop behind Rikknen in third due to lost time early on. He ended the season in third place, and with three wins and 13 podiums, he declared the season as a ‘miracle.’ This was in the light of how far behind the team had been the year before, yet being a race winner on merit during the course of the season.
2016: A second winless campaign in three years
Vettel started his season by finishing third in the Australian Grand Prix, which saw the race being red-flagged after an accident involving Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutirrez. Vettel’s participation in the Bahrain Grand Prix came to an end without even being started as his car broke down on formation lap. At the Chinese Grand Prix, Vettel collided with teammate Rikknen on the first lap, but both were able to continue. Despite falling down the order as a result of the first-lap incident, Vettel recovered to finish the race second. He had initially blamed Daniil Kvyat for his first-lap collision with Rikknen, arguing that he had to take action to avoid a collision with Kvyat after Kvyat overtook him in the first corners of the race for third place, even accusing him of being a “madman” and describing Kvyat’s overtaking manoeuvre as “suicidal”, but later going on to describe the events of the first lap as a “racing incident”. At the Russian Grand Prix, Vettel retired on the first lap after two consecutive collisions with Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat was handed a ten-second stop-go penalty and three penalty points on his licence. Vettel came third in the Spanish Grand Prix following Max Verstappen‘s maiden win in Formula One. He came fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix and second in the Canadian Grand Prix, following Lewis Hamilton‘s first two wins of the season. At the Mexican Grand Prix, Vettel attempted to overtake Verstappen, but after Verstappen ran off track and rejoined ahead of him, Vettel verbally attacked Verstappen and race director Charlie Whiting, for which he later apologised. Vettel then blocked Ricciardo by moving in the braking zone. Vettel was given a ten-second penalty and two points on his licence under a dangerous driving rule clarified only a week before the race. Vettel did not manage to win in 2016, but finished the season with seven podiums and 212 points, in fourth place.
2017: Championship challenge ending in disappointment
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Vettel began his third season at Ferrari with victory in Australia, his first win in 18 months, finishing nearly ten seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton. Having started second, Vettel kept pace with pole-sitter Hamilton, who pitted after 17 laps, before re-joining behind Max Verstappen. With Hamilton being told by his engineer that it was “critical” to pass Verstappen, Vettel stayed out six laps longer. Vettel built up just enough of a gap to pit and re-join ahead of Verstappen, but more crucially, Hamilton. By the time Verstappen pitted a few laps later, Vettel had already pulled around five seconds clear of Hamilton and from there on, comfortably controlled the race and cruised to his 43rd career victory.
The second round came in China. Like in Australia a fortnight earlier, Vettel qualified in second, alongside Hamilton, getting on the front row by just one thousandth of a second from Valtteri Bottas. The race started in damp, but drying conditions. Vettel quickly opted to put on the dry tyres during a Virtual Safety Car period. This dropped him to sixth, but with the five cars in front still on intermediates on a now drying circuit, Vettel was in position to take the lead. However, a crash for Antonio Giovinazzi on the pit straight brought out the Safety Car, meaning Vettel could not take advantage. Having been stuck behind Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Kimi Rikknen for a number of laps, Vettel eventually pulled off two excellent overtakes, especially on the former, getting him back into the podium positions. Hamilton though was out of reach, leaving Vettel having to settle for second; the pair were now joint leaders of the championship.
Vettel took his second victory of the year in Bahrain. Having started third, Vettel moved ahead of Hamilton at the start and kept with pole-sitter Bottas until the first round of pit stops. Just like in China, a Safety Car came out shortly after Vettel’s first stop, but this time, worked in Vettel’s favour, allowing him to take the lead. His second and final pit-stop for softs saw him in second, but with Hamilton in front needing to stop again & with a five-second penalty, Vettel would have track position. Despite Hamilton charging on newer tyres (having stopped 11 laps later) in his final stint, he could not get close enough to challenge, allowing Vettel to take his 44th career victory and his third in Bahrain.
The fine early season form for Vettel and Ferrari continued in Russia as Vettel took his first pole position in 18 months (the 47th of his career) and with teammate Rikknen alongside him, the Scuderia had their first front row lock out since the 2008 French Grand Prix. However, Bottas got a fast start to move ahead of both Vettel and Rikknen. Bottas pitted for the one and only time on lap 27, Vettel staying out seven laps longer. Re-entering around five seconds back, Vettel chased down Bottas in a tense finale to a rather processional race, but could not stop the Finn from claiming his first victory. Despite missing out on his third win of the year, Vettel extended his lead at the top of the standings to 13 points, with nearest challenger Hamilton only finishing 4th. By maintaining his 100% podium success rate in 2017, Vettel became just the fifth man in history to claim 90 F1 podiums.
Vettel’s weekend in Spain looked as if it was going to be compromised, with an engine change required between final practice and qualifying. During the first part of qualifying, his engineer told him to park his Ferrari, but Vettel’s response of “Are you sure?” and a change of setting allowed him to continue. Instead of starting at the back of the grid, Vettel would go on to qualify 2nd, missing out on a first pole in Barcelona by half a tenth from Hamilton. A thrilling duel between the multiple champions ensued, with Vettel taking the lead at the start. Midway through the race, a collision between Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne, leaving the latter in the gravel, brought out the Virtual Safety Car. Hamilton pitted for the faster softs, with Vettel pitting for the slower, but more durable mediums a lap later. Vettel re-emerged side by side with Hamilton heading into turn one, and just held onto the lead. However, Hamilton would pass Vettel a few laps later, and managed his soft tyres to the end, leaving Vettel having to settle for 2nd for the 2nd consecutive race. Hamilton’s victory saw Vettel’s lead at the top of the championship standings cut by the Brit to six points.
After narrowly missing out on victories in Russia & Spain, Vettel returned to winning ways in Monaco, beating teammate Rikknen & Red Bull’s Ricciardo. Vettel was beaten to pole by Rikknen by less than a tenth, but took the lead during the one and only pit stop window halfway through the race; Vettel staying out a five laps longer to “overcut” the Finn. With closest title rival Hamilton only finishing 7th, Vettel’s lead at the top of the standings increased to 25 points, the equivalent of a race win. This was Ferrari’s first victory on the streets of Monte Carlo since Michael Schumacher in 2001.
Canada saw Vettel’s record of finishing first or second in every race in 2017 come to an end. Having qualified second, Vettel slipped to fourth at the start and contact with Verstappen caused his front wing to be damaged. Pitting to fix the problem, Vettel re-entered in 18th and last. He also had damage to his floor, but the championship leader worked his way through the pack and after stopping again with 20 laps to go, Vettel was up to 7th. Brake issues for teammate Rikknen and bold overtakes on both Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Prez allowed Vettel to recover and he eventually finished fourth, less than a second behind Ricciardo and claiming the final podium spot. Title rival Hamilton cruised to his sixth Montreal victory and with it reduced Vettel’s championship advantage to 12 points.
Vettel also finished 4th in Azerbaijan. After Bottas and Rikknen collided at the start, Vettel moved up to 2nd. The race was full of incident, featuring three Safety Cars and a red flag. Just before the second Safety Car period was coming to an end, Vettel collided into the rear of race leader Hamilton, accusing his title rival of brake testing him. FIA telemetry data showed that Hamilton had not used his brakes. Moments later, Vettel pulled alongside and collided with Hamilton’s Mercedes as they prepared for a restart, for which he received a ten-second stop-go penalty. However, with Hamilton being forced to pit for a loose headrest a couple of laps earlier, Vettel emerged in front and held off Hamilton to move 14 points clear in the standings. The FIA would investigate the Vettel-Hamilton incident further, but Vettel received no further punishment, although took full responsibility, issuing a public apology and committing to devote personal time over the next 12 months to educational activities across a variety of FIA championships and events.
Austria saw Vettel return to the podium, his first in Spielberg. Similar to Russia, Vettel chased down Bottas in an exciting finish to a rather processional race, but the Finn held him off to take his second career victory and put himself into contention in the championship battle. With a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, Hamilton started 8th, but did recover to finish 4th. However, this allowed Vettel to extend his lead to 20 points.
Vettel’s championship lead was cut to just a single point as he finished 7th in Britain, whilst Hamilton won his 4th consecutive race at Silverstone (5th overall). Starting 3rd, Vettel lost a place to Verstappen at the start and remained behind the Red Bull until undercutting him during the pit-stop window. With Hamilton winning and teammate Rikknen in 2nd, Vettel was on track for a podium, before Bottas, on much fresher supersoft tyres, breezed past. A late puncture for Rikknen appeared to have put Vettel back on the podium again, but he too suffered the same fate on the penultimate lap and dropped four places, costing him nine points.
In Hungary, Vettel took his 2nd pole position of the season; his 3rd in Budapest and the 48th of his career. A hydraulic issue appeared on the morning of the race, but the problem was fixed before the start. Starting the race from the front, Vettel maintained the lead at turn one from teammate Rikknen. However, another issue, this time steering, would affect Vettel throughout the race, allowing Rikknen and the two Mercedes of Bottas and Hamilton to put him under huge pressure. The world champions swapped their drivers, giving Hamilton the chance to challenge the Ferraris and would swap them back if the triple world champion could not get past. He did not and allowed Bottas back through at the final corner of the last lap. Despite the steering problem, Vettel held on for victory, his 2nd in Hungary & 46th overall, giving him a 14-point lead over Hamilton heading into the sport’s month long summer break.
It was announced in Belgium that Vettel had signed a new three-year deal with Ferrari, keeping him at the Scuderia until 2020. Rikknen also extended his contract, but only for a year. On track, Vettel qualified 2nd & would convert that starting position in the race, finishing behind Hamilton, who halved the gap at the top of the standings with his 5th victory of the season.Vettel then arrived in Italy for Ferrari’s home race. In a wet qualifying session, which contained a 2 and a half-hour delay, he could only qualify in 8th, but would start 6th due to penalties for the two Red Bulls. After maintaining position at the start, Vettel quickly passed teammate Rikknen, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon to move into the podium positions. However, Mercedes would dominate, nearly a second a lap quicker on average throughout, leaving Vettel having to settle for third in front of the Tifosi and over half a minute behind. Hamilton’s 4th victory at Monza meant for the first time in 2017, Vettel would not be leading the championship and was now trailing the Brit by three points after the final European race of the season.
A third pole of the season and a 49th of Vettel’s career came in Singapore. His former team Red Bull had dominated all weekend up to the final part of qualifying, with Verstappen looking on course to take Vettel’s record of the youngest pole sitter in F1 history. Both of Vettel’s flying laps in Q3 were good enough for pole; his 4th at the Marina Bay circuit. However, Vettel retired on the opening lap of the race (which began in damp conditions) after colliding with Rikknen and Verstappen and having tried to continue, he soon hit the wall. It was the first time in Formula One history that both Ferraris retired from the first lap of a Grand Prix. To compound Vettel’s misery, title rival Hamilton, who had started fifth, avoided the first lap chaos, took the lead and went on to take his 60th career victory. His 3rd win in Singapore meant Hamilton had a 28-point advantage over Vettel.
Vettel’s title hopes were dealt another blow in Malaysia, where Ferrari were the quickest car and Mercedes were struggling, after a turbo problem caused him to not set a time in qualifying. Having limped home at the end of final practice, Ferrari were forced to put Vettel’s fourth and final internal combustion engine of the season in the car, but the turbo remained the problem. Starting last, Vettel fought his way back through the field and eventually finished 4th, although Hamilton’s second-place finish extended his championship lead to 34 points. A bizarre crash with the Williams of Lance Stroll on the cool-down in-lap at the end of the race added more misery for Vettel; neither would be penalised. It was feared Vettel’s gearbox would have been damaged, causing him to have a five-place grid penalty at the following race, but Ferrari confirmed it was still available to use.
If Vettel were mathematically still in the championship, realistically, his now slim hopes of a fifth world title were ended in Japan. More reliability issues befell the Ferrari; a spark plug problem just minutes before the race, which saw Vettel’s engine cover needing to be taken off. Ferrari believed the issue was fixed, with Vettel starting the race in second in what was a must-win race. However, the spark plug issue remained, and Vettel soon retired from the race. Hamilton’s fourth victory in Japan & his fourth win from five after the summer break meant he had a 59-point lead with just 100 points remaining.
Vettel secured his first podium since Monza in the USA, by finishing where he started in second place. He took the lead from Hamilton at the start, but was no match for his rival once the pole sitter reclaimed the lead and cruised to yet another victory. However, Vettel’s podium stopped Hamilton from taking his 4th title in Austin.
In Mexico, Vettel became the fourth driver in Formula One history to claim 50 pole positions, joining Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. Verstappen took the lead from Vettel at the start, before he collided with Hamilton. Vettel needed a new front wing, whilst Hamilton suffered a puncture. Hamilton would finish in 9th, meaning Vettel had to win the race. Despite a good recovery, 4th was all Vettel could get, meaning Hamilton won his 4th title, joining Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Schumacher and Vettel himself as quadruple world champions. For the first time in his career, Vettel had failed to win the Drivers’ Championship having led it at some stage during a season.
A 5th win of the year for Vettel came in the penultimate race in Brazil. With Hamilton having crashed out in Q1 and poised to start at the back of the grid, it was the perfect opportunity to take his first back-to-back pole positions since 2013. However, he was pipped to pole by Bottas in qualifying in the dying seconds. Vettel jumped the Finn at the start, and despite coming under pressure from him after his one and only pit-stop, he ultimately controlled the race to take the 47th victory of his career, while Hamilton recovered to 4th, only 5 seconds behind Vettel.
Vettel wrapped up the runners-up spot in the championship at the final race in Abu Dhabi, taking his 13th podium of the season. Mercedes dominated the weekend, with Bottas taking pole and victory ahead of Hamilton, leaving Vettel having to settle for the final podium spot. This podium was Vettel’s 99th, in his 198th race, leaving him with a 50% podium success rate during his career at the end of 2017.
2018: The “Fight For Five” vs Hamilton
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For the first time in Formula One history, two quadruple world champions, in the form of Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, would line-up at the start of a season. Like 2017, it was expected that the two would be the main title protagonists, and their battle was dubbed the “Fight For Five” by media and fans alike, with both looking to join Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as just the third man in the sport’s history to reach five championships.
For the second consecutive year, Vettel began his season with victory in Australia, the 48th of his career. A Virtual Safety Car allowed him to finish ahead of Hamilton and teammate Kimi Rikknen. The result was his 100th podium (with only Schumacher, Hamilton and Prost having more), whilst he also became just the 3rd man in Formula One history (after Schumacher and Hamilton) to have led 3000 laps.
In Bahrain, Vettel took his first pole of the season and the 51st of his career. He maintained the lead through the first round of pit-stops and held off Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas despite being on 39 lap old soft tyres, to take a record fourth victory in Bahrain.
The following weekend in China, Vettel again took pole position. Having maintained the lead from the start, Vettel was undercut by Bottas during the first pit-stop before being hit by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, causing both to spin. Vettel limped home in 8th place, with his championship lead reduced to 9 points.
For the first time since 2013, Vettel took three consecutive poles, as he took his 53rd career pole in Azerbaijan. This was the 23rd different Grand Prix at which he had taken a pole, equalling Hamilton’s record. Vettel led from the start until his first stop, when he moved down to second position behind Bottas, who had not stopped yet. A Safety Car was deployed after the two Red Bulls collided, which allowed Bottas to finally pit and emerge ahead of Vettel, who then locked-up at turn one at the restart trying to retake the lead from the Finn, but ended up losing 2 places instead, plus another one to Prez because of his flat-spotted tyres. Hamilton went on to win the race, while Vettel finished in fourth and subsequently lost the championship lead to the Brit.
Vettel took his fourth pole of the season in Canada. He converted pole into his third victory of the season and the 50th of his career, becoming just the fourth man in F1 history to reach a half-century of wins (after Prost, Schumacher and Hamilton). It was also the 14th time in Vettel’s career he led a race from start to finish, with only Senna (19) having more. He left Montreal with a one-point lead in the championship, after Hamilton had a difficult weekend at one of his best tracks and only finished 5th.
F1 returned to France for the first time in a decade and was the first of an unprecedented three races in as many weekends. Vettel qualified in 3rd, behind the two Mercedes. Starting on the ultrasofts, Vettel got a good start and was challenging Bottas for 2nd. However, he locked up and collided with the Finn, suffering front wing damage. He received a five-second penalty and eventually recovered to finish 5th. Hamilton cruised to victory, to retake the championship lead, leaving Paul Ricard with an advantage of 14 points.
For the second consecutive race, Vettel qualified in 3rd behind both Mercedes, this time in Austria. However, Vettel received a three-place grid penalty for impeding the Renault of Carlos Sainz in Q2, meaning he started 6th. With Hamilton starting 2nd, it appeared it would be damage limitation. However, both Mercedes retired from the race with mechanical problems, with Vettel recovering to finish 3rd. As a result, Vettel left Spielberg with a one-point lead in the drivers’ championship.
The final part of F1’s first ever triple header came in Britain, where Hamilton and Mercedes had dominated in recent years, whereas Vettel and Ferrari had had difficulties. Vettel suffered neck problems after final practice, but did manage to take part in qualifying, where he was pipped to pole by Hamilton by less than half a tenth. Vettel took the lead at the start, while Hamilton was crashed by Rikknen, dropping him to the back of the field. However, two Safety Cars saw Vettel lose the lead (having pitted for a second time), leaving him behind Bottas who had very old tyres. Vettel passed the Finn with five laps to go and went on to take his 51st victory, moving him into joint-3rd on the all-time list with Alain Prost. Hamilton finished 2nd despite his first lap collision. Vettel left Silverstone with an eight-point advantage in the drivers’ championship.
Vettel qualified on pole at his home race in Germany, and led for much of the race, but he then made a mistake, slid off the track and hit the wall on Lap 51 as rain started to fall, causing his first retirement of the season. Hamilton took victory despite having started from 14th on the grid, giving him a 17-point lead over Vettel.
In Hungary, Ferrari appeared to be the team to beat, but Vettel only qualified 4th in a wet qualifying, with Hamilton on pole. Vettel eventually finished in 2nd despite a late collision with Bottas, but Hamilton’s comfortable win gave him a 24-point lead going into the summer break.
The sport made its return from the summer break in Belgium. For the second consecutive race weekend, rain hampered hopes for Vettel claiming pole, with Hamilton once again shining in the wet. However, Vettel passed Hamilton on the Kemmel Straight on the opening lap and controlled proceedings from there on, cutting Hamilton’s title advantage to 17 points. His 3rd win at Spa moved Vettel into 3rd on his own for wins (52) and podiums (107), ahead of Prost, with only Schumacher and Hamilton now ahead of him.
The following weekend was Ferrari’s home race in Italy, with the long straights of Monza expected to give the Scuderia and Vettel the advantage over the Mercedes and Hamilton. For the first time in eight years, the Prancing Horse took pole in front of the Tifosi, but it was teammate Rikknen who pipped the championship contenders to top spot, with the fastest lap in Formula One history at an average speed of 263.588 kilometres per hour (163.786 mph). Vettel joined him on the front row, giving Ferrari their 60th front row lock out in F1 (the first time Ferrari had done this in Italy for 24 years). However, contact on the opening lap with Hamilton saw Vettel damage his front wing and drop to the back of the field. He recovered to cross the finishing line in 5th, but moved up to 4th with a penalty for Verstappen. Hamilton went on to win for the 5th time at Monza, meaning Vettel was now 30 points behind Hamilton.
After Ferrari’s disappointing home race, Vettel and his team headed to Singapore knowing victory was essential in closing the gap to Hamilton and Mercedes, who, despite having won three of the last four races at the Marina Bay circuit, had historically struggled for outright pace there. With the Scuderia heading into qualifying as favourites, Vettel appeared to be the man to beat as he chased a record 5th pole around the Singapore streets. However, he would only qualify 3rd, some six-tenths off the quickest time, with Hamilton compounding his misery by producing a stunning lap for pole and Verstappen sandwiched between the championship contenders. Despite passing Verstappen on the opening lap, the Dutchman would move back ahead of Vettel after their one and only pit-stop. Hamilton cruised to victory, with Vettel 3rd, leaving him 40 points behind the Brit with just six races to go.
Russia also proved to be difficult for Vettel and Ferrari, qualifying half a second off pole, with Mercedes locking out the front row. Bottas led Hamilton and Vettel away from the front, and despite jumping Hamilton during the pit stop, the Brit would overtake Vettel a lap later. Vettel would finish where he started, whilst team orders at Mercedes saw Bottas let Hamilton through, who would go on to win in Sochi for the third time, extending his championship lead to 50 points, the equivalent of two race victories with five races to go.
Vettel’s championship hopes were dealt a further blow in Japan as he only qualified in 9th, with title rival Hamilton taking his 80th career pole. At the start of Q3, the two Ferraris were sent out on intermediates, on a track which was too dry, calling into question another poor strategy choice by the Scuderia. However, the rain would start to fall again and as Vettel had run wide at the Spoon curve on his one and only fast lap, he would not be able to improve; he would start 8th thanks to a penalty for Esteban Ocon. Vettel made a fast start, moving up to fourth after the opening lap. Verstappen in 3rd received a five-second penalty for colliding with Rikknen, meaning Vettel was already in a net podium place. However, with his title hopes slipping away, he needed to take a risk to challenge Hamilton and the Mercedes. He would collide with the Dutchman, and fell to the back of the field as a result. He would only finish 6th, whilst Hamilton took his 50th win for Mercedes, meaning his championship challenge was all but over, 67 points behind with just 100 points remaining.
In the USA, Vettel was given a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow down sufficiently during a red flag period in first practice. Having narrowly missed out on setting the fastest time in qualifying to Hamilton, it meant he would start in 5th. Vettel maintained his position at the start, with teammate Rikknen taking the lead from Hamilton. However, for the second consecutive race, Vettel spun trying to overtake a Red Bull, this time Ricciardo, which saw him drop down the field. He would eventually finish 4th, but his slim title hopes were still just about alive, as Hamilton only finished 3rd, leaving him 70 points behind the Brit with 75 points available.
Vettel claimed his first ever podium in Mexico, but with Verstappen winning, 2nd place was not enough to keep his championship hopes alive, with Hamilton’s 4th-place finish giving the Brit his 5th world title. This result meant Vettel would finish as runner-up in the standings for the third time, after 2009 and 2017. Just like the previous season, Vettel lost the title with 2 races to go, however this time with no reliability issues at all.
In Brazil, Vettel was pipped to pole by Hamilton, but was investigated after being adjudged to have failed to follow stewards’ instructions at the weighbridge. At the start of Q2, following an exploratory lap, Vettel pitted to change tyres and get a time in before rain fell, but was called for his car to be weighed. He initially refused to stop his engine, and did not wait for the officials to push the car off the scales, instead driving off and causing his real wheels to spin and subsequently destroy the scales. After seeing the stewards, Vettel received a reprimand and a 25k fine, but not a grid penalty and kept his front row start. He finished the race down in 6th behind both Mercedes, both Red Bulls, and his teammate, struggling for pace throughout.
At the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Vettel qualified third, but an overtake on Bottas, who was struggling for pace and made a lock-up, saw Vettel finishing the race in second, his 12th podium of the campaign. Hamilton took his 11th victory of the year to take Vettel’s record of most points in a year; his tally of 408 overtaking Vettel’s 397 in 2013.
The “Fight For Five” ended with Vettel losing the title by 88 points against Hamilton, the biggest margin in his F1 career that he has lost the championship as a runner-up.
2019: A solitary victory in a difficult campaign
After showing impressive pace throughout pre-season testing in Barcelona, Vettel and Ferrari headed to Australia with many pundits believing they were the car to beat. However, the opening weekend of the season would prove to be difficult, as Vettel qualified 3rd, but some seven tenths off Lewis Hamilton and pole position. He would finish the race 4th, after pitting earliest of the front runners and being overtaken by Max Verstappen on fresher tyres.
In Bahrain, Ferrari returned to form as they locked out the front row, although Vettel qualified 2nd behind new teammate Charles Leclerc, after only having one lap in the third and final part of qualifying. Vettel took the lead at the start, only for Leclerc to retake the advantage of the race on lap 6. With Leclerc pulling away, Vettel came under pressure from Hamilton, who undercut him after the first round of pit stops. However, Vettel moved back into 2nd and maintained position after their second and final pit-stops. Yet Hamilton again moved past Vettel a couple of laps later at turn four, with Vettel’s woes compounded as he spun and then suffered a front wing failure. He eventually finished 5th, as Hamilton inherited victory after a spark plug failure for Leclerc.
Vettel claimed his first podium of the season in China, finishing 3rd, as the two Mercedes made it a third consecutive 1-2. Having qualified 3rd, Vettel was passed by Leclerc at the start, but moved back in front after team orders from Ferrari. After holding off Verstappen’s Red Bull following the first round of pit stops, he brought the car home in the final podium position, just missing out on an extra point for fastest lap after the other Red Bull of Pierre Gasly pitted late on for fresh tyres and took it from him.
In Monaco, Vettel suffered a crash in final practice & just managed to get out of Q1 (eliminating teammate Leclerc), before eventually qualifying in 4th. He would cross the line in 3rd in the race, but promoted to 2nd, his best result of the year, after Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty for an unsafe release during his pit stop.
Vettel took pole position in Canada for the 2nd straight year, qualifying two tenths clear of nearest challenger Hamilton. This was his 5th pole in Montreal, the 56th of his career and his first pole in 17 races. Vettel maintained his pole position and led throughout the race. On Lap 48, a snap of oversteer caused Vettel to run wide onto the grass at turn 4. As he came back onto the track, Hamilton was alongside, trying to overtake, but Vettel emerged still just in front. However, he would receive a controversial five second penalty from the stewards, who believed he had returned to the track “in an unsafe manner and forced car 44 (Hamilton) off track”. Vettel would finish first, but his penalty meant Hamilton won the race. His post-race team radio voiced his anger on the decision: “No, no, no. Not like that. You have to be an absolute BLIND MAN, TO THINK, that you go on the grass how are you supposed to control your car. This is a wrong world.” As he returned to the pits, Vettel stopped his car outside the FIA garage, before initially appearing to refuse to go on the podium. After persuasion, he did, not before swapping the number one board from in front of Hamilton’s car and the number two board from where Vettel should have parked his Ferrari.
Ferrari’s request to have Vettel’s Canada penalty reviewed was rejected by the FIA. On track in France, Vettel could only finish 5th after qualifying 7th, although he did take his first fastest lap of the season.
Vettel only qualified 10th in Austria (started 9th due to a gearbox penalty for Kevin Magnussen), after a reliability issue meant he couldn’t set a time during the final part of qualifying. He made a strong recovery drive to 4th during the race, finishing less than a second behind Bottas who was in the final podium position.
In Britain, Vettel only qualified 6th, but a long first stint plus a Safety Car allowed him to emerge from his one and only pit-stop in the third and final podium position. However, Verstappen soon passed him and in trying to move back in front of the Dutchman, Vettel collided into the back of the Red Bull. He received a ten-second penalty and crossed the line in 15th (finished 16th once his penalty was applied). This was the first time he failed to score points in a race he completed since the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.
At his home race in Germany, Vettel was unable to qualify after a turbo issue, meaning he would start in last place. A race of mixed conditions, with numerous crashes and Safety Cars, Vettel stayed out of trouble and worked his way through the field to finish in 2nd place behind Verstappen.
In Hungary, Vettel qualified in 5th, but would finish in the final podium position, albeit a minute off the winner Hamilton. A long first stint allowed him to stop for soft tyres, which would eventually help him to overtake teammate Leclerc with a few laps to go.
Formula One returned from its summer break in Belgium, but the weekend was marred by the tragic death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert. Vettel qualified 2nd and finished in 4th, taking his 38th career fastest lap.
Vettel qualified in 4th for Ferrari’s home race in Italy. However, on lap 6, he spun at the Ascari chicane. He re-entered in a dangerous manner, making contact with the Racing Point of Lance Stroll and received a 10-second stop/go penalty. He would finish 13th.
In Singapore, Ferrari surprisingly shone on a circuit they were expected to struggle at, thanks in part to new upgrades. Vettel was on provisional pole, but couldn’t improve on his final lap, which allowed teammate Leclerc to take a third consecutive pole and Hamilton to join him on the front row, leaving Vettel 3rd on the grid. Vettel pitted earliest of the front runners and with the slower pace that Leclerc and Hamilton had been showing at the front, this allowed to him to undercut and jump both of them to take the lead. Three Safety Cars would follow, but Vettel would hold on for his first victory in over a year. This was his 53rd career win and for the first time, Vettel had won five times at the same circuit.
For the second consecutive weekend, Vettel qualified in 3rd, this time in Russia, behind Leclerc and Hamilton. He made a blistering start to the race, passing Hamilton and then Leclerc on the long run down to turn two. However, radio transmissions suggested that Ferrari wanted to swap their drivers, but with Vettel being the quicker driver, he remained in front. Leclerc pitted first and the swap took place as Vettel emerged from his pit stop behind the Monegasque. Vettel retired moments later with a MGU-K problem, his first retirement of the season.
Vettel took his 5th pole position in Japan, the 57th of his career, in a qualifying session pushed back to Sunday morning due to Typhoon Hagibis. An abrupt start off the line caused Vettel to momentarily stop before getting away, but this allowed Bottas to take the lead; Vettel wouldn’t be penalized for his jump start. Bottas would take victory, with Vettel fending off Hamilton for 2nd. This result ended Vettel’s mathematical chances of winning the driver’s championship.
In Mexico, Vettel qualified 3rd, but moved up to 2nd after Verstappen, who had qualified on pole, was given a three place grid penalty after failing to slow under yellow flags following a crash from Bottas. He would finish where he started, sandwiched between the two Mercedes cars.
Vettel became just the third driver in Formula One history to make 100 front row starts (after Hamilton and Schumacher), after qualifying second in the USA. He would lose five positions on the opening couple of laps, before suffering rear suspension failure on lap 8.
For the third consecutive year, Vettel qualified second in Brazil, but was passed by Hamilton at the start. After running third for the majority of the race, a Safety Car allowed Alexander Albon and teammate Leclerc to overtake him. He tried to pass Leclerc almost immediately after being overtaken by him, but the two Ferraris collided, resulting in both suffering race ending damage, leaving Vettel not reaching the chequered flag for the third time in five races.
The final race of the season in Abu Dhabi saw Vettel qualify 4th and finish the race in 5th. Vettel finished 5th in the driver’s championship, with Leclerc becoming just the second teammate in his career to outscore him across a season.
Race of Champions
Vettel competed in the 2007 Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium, representing the German team alongside Michael Schumacher. Vettel and Schumacher won the Nations’ Cup Title, after exciting finals. Vettel had to beat two RoC champions, Heikki Kovalainen and Marcus Grnholm, after Schumacher stalled his car. Vettel lost the individual competition however, in first heat, in his second battle against Kovalainen.
Vettel also competed in the 2008 Race of Champions, alongside Michael Schumacher. Once again they won the Nations’ Cup Title after a close final against Scandinavia. In the Drivers’ Cup, Vettel beat Troy Bayliss in Round One, but lost to Sbastien Loeb in the quarter-finals. Again Vettel teamed up with Michael Schumacher for the 2009 Race of Champions, which they went on to win in a run-off against the Great Britain team of Jenson Button and Andy Priaulx. In the 2010 edition, on home ground in Dsseldorf, Vettel again teamed up with Schumacher to win the fourth consecutive Nations Cup. In the Drivers’ Cup, Vettel was eliminated in the semi-finals by Filipe Albuquerque, who went on to win the event.
In 2011, Vettel and Schumacher completed their fifth consecutive Nations Cup win, beating the Nordic team of Tom Kristensen and Juho Hnninen 2-0 in the final. In the semi-finals, Vettel had to beat both Andy Priaulx and Jenson Button, after Schumacher lost to Button. The year after, Vettel and Schumacher won their sixth Nations Cup title by defeating the French team of Romain Grosjean and Sbastien Ogier 2-0 in the final. Vettel returned to the ROC in 2015, teaming up with fellow F1 driver Nico Hlkenberg to represent Germany in the Nations’ Cup. In 2015, Vettel won his very first Race of Champions beating Kristensen in the final. En route to the final of the Nations Cup, Vettel was able to gain some form of revenge over his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo, defeating him at the quarter final stage as Germany knocked out Australia. In 2017, Vettel was knocked out in the first heat for the Race of Champions, but went on to win the Nations Cup for Germany by himself with an unprecedented 7 consecutive victories, after his teammate Pascal Wehrlein was injured earlier in a crash.
In the 2019 event in Mexico, Vettel teamed up with Mick Schumacher, where they reached the final of the Nations Cup, but finished runners-up to the Nordic team of Kristensen and Johan Kristoffersson. Vettel was eliminated in the group stages of the individual competition, meaning for the first time (in his 9th appearance), he finished the event without winning a title, although he managed to win the ROC Skills Challenge.
Vettel’s passion for different helmet designs started at a young age. From his early days in karting, he has worked with helmet designer Jens Munser. At age eight, Vettel wanted Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid on his helmet. Vettel’s original helmet, in Formula One, like most Red Bull-backed drivers, was heavily influenced by the energy drink company logo. New to Vettel’s helmet since the start of 2008 has been the incorporation of the red cross shape of the Kreis Bergstrae coat of arms on the front, just underneath the visor, in honour of the region of his birthplace, Heppenheim.
After switching to Red Bull in 2009, Vettel started regularly using a variety of new helmet designs. Some designs were small changes to his original Red Bull design, while others are completely original designs, such as the one he used at the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix: Vettel had a special white-red helmet design, with black kanji and hiragana for “gives you wings”. Several of his helmet designs also featured his team members. At the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, Vettel celebrated his 50th helmet design with a ‘rusty’ matte look and 50 tallies, indicating his 50 helmet designs in Formula One. By the end of the 2013 season, Vettel had used 76 different helmets throughout his career. “I have a quirk” he admits.
Helmet manufacturer Arai have stated Vettel ‘retires’ a helmet design after each win, although he does not need to win in order to sport a new design.
After moving to the Ferrari team, prior to the start of the 2015 season Vettel said that he will no longer change helmet designs so often and after choosing a new design, having had a Red Bull design since he was 12, will try to stick to one design for the year, which was also enforced by a FIA rule banning ‘significant’ helmet changes in-season. His new helmet design is white with the German national flag running from front to back from the middle to the viewer’s left hand side and his permanent Formula One start number 5 on the top.
Inspired by American bomber pilots in World War II, Vettel has made it a tradition to name his cars. Vettel invites his team members to dinner when they arrive for the first race of the season and shares what the new car will be named. He said: “It’s important to have a close relationship with a car. Like a ship, a car should be named after a girl as it’s sexy”. The car he drove for his first full season in 2008, the Toro Rosso STR3, was named Julie, followed by Kate and Kate’s Dirty Sister (2009), Luscious Liz and Randy Mandy (2010), Kinky Kylie (2011), Abbey (2012) and Hungry Heidi (2013). Vettel’s car for 2014, the Red Bull RB10, was baptised Suzie. Vettel continued this tradition with Ferrari and christened his 2015 Ferrari SF15-T Eva. For the 2016 season Vettel and his mechanics decided to name his Ferrari SF16-H Margherita. For 2017, Vettel decided to christen his Ferrari SF70H Gina. For the 2018 season, Vettel decided to name his Ferrari SF71H Loria. For 2019, Vettel decided to name his Ferrari SF90 Lina.
Comparison to Michael Schumacher
Vettel’s unexpected win at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix led the media to dub him the “Baby Schumi”, “New Schumacher”. He was not just dubbed this for his nationality, but also because of his driving style, his concentration and the hands-on role he plays behind the scenes with his team of engineers. Vettel played down the comparison stating he wanted to be the “New Vettel”.
Nevertheless, the similarities are marked. Like Schumacher, Vettel grew up in a small town with an everyday backgroundSchumacher’s father a bricklayer and Vettel’s a carpenter. Both had their first taste of racing at the Kerpen karting track near Cologne, not far from the Nrburgring. Vettel began driving in his garden lapping the garden many times, not even stopping to eat or shower, before he could legally take to the roads, and said his passion for cars was nurtured by watching Schumacher compete.
After winning his first championship in 2010, and being hailed as the ‘Next Schumacher’, Vettel has stated he did not want to aim for Schumacher’s record after learning how hard it was to get one championship under his belt, though he would like to win more. Each driver began to dominate the sport in the season after winning the championship. They both clinched their second successive titles before the seasons were finished (unlike their previous year), and in only their fourth full seasons. Both drivers became the youngest ever double world champions at the time, by doing this.
In 2011, Pirelli‘s Paul Hembery was impressed when Vettel was the only driver to take the time to visit the factory and talk to the tyre manufacturer to gain a better insight and improve their racing. The “only other driver that asks us a lot of questions” is Michael Schumacher. Hembery “found that interesting. It is like seeing the master and the protg at work.”
After Schumacher was severely injured in a skiing accident in late 2013, Vettel was on hand to collect a German Millennium-Bambi award for his life achievements, on his behalf, along with Schumacher’s long-term manager Sabine Kehm a year later. Vettel also made an emotional speech commemorating Schumacher’s achievements in the sport. The two of them had got to know each other well from racing together in Formula One and in the Race of Champions and are – along with Nico Rosberg – the only German Formula One title winners.
In 2014, Vettel cited Schumacher as one of his inspirations in becoming a Ferrari driver from 2015 saying; “When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it’s an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari.” In his second race with Ferrari, Vettel became a race winner for the team. This was at the age of 27, exactly the same age as Schumacher winning his first race with the team. Additionally, both Schumacher and Vettel finished 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship in their debut seasons with Ferrari, scoring 3 wins each.
Both Vettel and Schumacher also won their first ever World Championship in car number 5.
Vettel was named Rookie of the Year at the annual Autosport Awards in 2008. In 2009, Vettel was awarded the Lorenzo Bandini Trophy, for achievements in the 2008 season. In the year 2010, he was voted German Sportspersonality of the Year (Sportler des Jahres). In the same year, he won the International Racing Driver category at the Autosport Awards for the first time, and has since won this award for three successive years (2010-2013). In January 2012, Vettel was honoured with the illustrious Grands Prix de l’Academie des Sports 2011 for being the “Double consecutive F1 World Champion at the age of twenty four – winner of eleven Grands Prix out of nineteen”, and in the following month, he was further honoured with the highest sports award in Germany, the Silberne Lorbeerblatt – Silver Laurel Leaf – in recognition of his multiple world titles and his exemplary character. He was also voted F1 driver of the year in 2009, 2011 and 2013 by the F1 team principals for the annual secret poll, initiated by Autosport magazine, while being voted runner-up in 2010 and 2012. He additionally won the DHL Fastest Lap Award in 2009, 2012 and 2013. He became European Sportsperson of the Year by Pap in consecutive years (2012 and 2013) and also by UEPS in 2010, whilst also being named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year in 2013. In 2014, he was named Sportsman of the year at the Laureus World Sports Award held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Red Bull Racing sponsor Infiniti released a Sebastian Vettel edition of the Infiniti FX SUV for 2012. It features increased engine power, revised bodywork and lower suspension than the standard model.
SeasonSeriesTeamRacesWinsPolesF/LapsPodiumsPointsPosition2003Formula BMW ADACEifelland Racing19554122162nd2004Formula BMW ADACADAC Berlin-Brandenburg20181413203871st2005Formula 3 Euro SeriesASL Mcke Motorsport200016635thMasters of Formula 310000N/A11thSpanish Formula 3 ChampionshipRacing Engineering10001815thMacau Grand PrixASM F310001N/A3rdFormula OneBMW Williams F1 TeamTest driver2006Formula 3 Euro SeriesASM Formule 3204159752ndMasters of Formula 310000N/A6thFormula Renault 3.5 SeriesCarlin Motorsport311022815thMacau Grand Prix10000N/A23rdFormula OneBMW Sauber F1 TeamTest driver2007Formula Renault 3.5 SeriesCarlin Motorsport71114745thFormula OneBMW Sauber F1 Team10000614thScuderia Toro Rosso700002008Formula OneScuderia Toro Rosso181101358th2009Formula OneRed Bull Racing174438842nd2010Formula OneRed Bull Racing195103102561st2011Formula OneRed Bull Racing1911153173921st2012Formula OneRed Bull Racing20566102811st2013Formula OneInfiniti Red Bull Racing191397163971st2014Formula OneInfiniti Red Bull Racing1900241675th2015Formula OneScuderia Ferrari19311132783rd2016Formula OneScuderia Ferrari2100372124th2017Formula OneScuderia Ferrari20545133172nd2018Formula OneScuderia Ferrari21553123202nd2019Formula OneScuderia Ferrari2112292405th
Complete Formula 3 Euro Series results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position, races in italics indicate fastest lap)
YearEntrantChassisEngine1234567891011121314151617181920DCPoints2005ASL Mcke MotorsportDallara F305/011MercedesHOC
35th572006ASM Formule 3Dallara F305/059MercedesHOC
Complete Formula Renault 3.5 Series results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position, races in italics indicate fastest lap)
Complete Formula One results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
YearEntrantChassisEngine123456789101112131415161718192021WDCPoints2006BMW Sauber F1 TeamBMW Sauber F1.06BMW P86 2.4 V8BHRMALAUSSMREURESPMONGBRCANUSAFRAGERHUNTUR
TD – –2007BMW Sauber F1 TeamBMW Sauber F1.07BMW P86/7 2.4 V8AUS
8FRAGBREUR14th6Scuderia Toro RossoToro Rosso STR2Ferrari 056 2.4 V8HUN
Ret2008Scuderia Toro RossoToro Rosso STR2BFerrari 056 2.4 V8AUS
178th35Toro Rosso STR3Ferrari 056 2.4 V8MON
42009Red Bull RacingRed Bull RB5Renault RS27-2009 2.4 V8AUS
12nd842010Red Bull RacingRed Bull RB6Renault RS27-2010 2.4 V8BHR
11st2562011Red Bull RacingRed Bull RB7Renault RS27-2011 2.4 V8AUS
21st3922012Red Bull RacingRed Bull RB8Renault RS27-2012 2.4 V8AUS
61st2812013Infiniti Red Bull RacingRed Bull RB9Renault RS27-2013 2.4 V8AUS
11st3972014Infiniti Red Bull RacingRed Bull RB10Renault Energy F1‑2014 1.6 V6 tAUS
85th1672015Scuderia FerrariFerrari SF15-TFerrari 060 1.6 V6 tAUS
43rd2782016Scuderia FerrariFerrari SF16-HFerrari 061 1.6 V6 tAUS
34th2122017Scuderia FerrariFerrari SF70HFerrari 062 1.6 V6 tAUS
32nd3172018Scuderia FerrariFerrari SF71HFerrari 062 EVO 1.6 V6 tAUS
22nd3202019Scuderia FerrariFerrari SF90Ferrari 064 1.6 V6 tAUS
Did not finish, but was classified as he had completed more than 90% of the race distance.
Formula One records
Vettel holds the following Formula One records:
RecordAchievedRefMost podium finishes in a season172011[N 1]Most wins in a season132013[N 2]Most pole positions in a season152011Most laps led in a season7392011Most consecutive wins92013 Belgian Grand Prix – 2013 Brazilian Grand PrixMost consecutive grand slams22013 Singapore Grand Prix and 2013 Korean Grand Prix[N 3]Most wins from pole position in a season92011[N 4]Youngest Grand Prix pole position winner21 years, 72 days2008 Italian Grand Prix (13 September 2008)Youngest driver to score a double (pole position and race win)21 years, 73 days2008 Italian Grand Prix (14 September 2008)Youngest driver to score a hat-trick (pole position, race win, and fastest lap)21 years, 353 days2009 British Grand Prix (21 June 2009)Youngest driver to score a grand slam (pole position, win, fastest lap, and led every lap);_Records_349-2″ class=”reference”>Youngest Formula One World Drivers’ Champion23 years, 134 days2010 season (14 November 2010)Youngest World Drivers’ Championship runner-up22 years, 121 days2009 season (1 November 2009)Shortest time elapsed before gaining a penalty6 seconds2006 Turkish Grand Prix (25 August 2006) (6 seconds into his career, for speeding in the pit lane)
- ^ Record shared with Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher although Schumacher did so with fewer total races in the season (2002).
- ^ Record shared with Michael Schumacher although Schumacher did so with fewer total races in the season (2004).
- ^ Record shared with Alberto Ascari (1952) and Jim Clark (1963).
- ^ Record shared with Nigel Mansell although Mansell did so with fewer total races in the season (1992).