In this current era of record-breaking performances, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the man who sits next in line, behind current champion Lewis Hamilton and the legendary Michael Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel is the third most successful driver in the history of Formula 1 in terms of race wins. He has 53 Grand Prix victories, over 120 podiums and four FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championships.
However, it’s fair to say the last few seasons have been rather lean in terms of results for the man who has just turned 34. Until he joined Aston Martin for the beginning of 2021, Vettel had spent five years at Ferrari, but a combination of uncompetitive machinery and unforced driving errors culminated in missed opportunities to win the championship.
Vettel went to Ferrari as a four-time winner of the world title. During the period between 2011-13, he started 58 races and won 29 of them – exactly half.
The German was an early star of the Red Bull Young Driver Programme. After finding success in the junior racing categories, the fizzy drinks firm’s long-established scheme to identify and nurture junior drivers discovered Vettel and their support led him to race for Red Bull’s junior team (Toro Rosso) in Formula 1. When he memorably took victory in the pouring rain at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, he was immediately promoted to the senior squad for the following season.
Within a year he had clinched his first world championship and was unstoppable, claiming another three in a row, up to 2013.
As with all great drivers, their competitive edge can also reveal a ruthless side. During his time at Red Bull, Vettel occasionally came into conflict with his no-nonsense team-mate Mark Webber – and there were blows both on and off the racetrack.
But the wonderful thing about Vettel is that he’s more than just a winning machine who has experience of over 250 race starts. He’s well-read, bright, a private family man who is articulate, funny and isn’t afraid to offer a counter argument. And he has a passion for the history of the sport.
When he joined Ferrari, he wanted to emulate his great hero – and friend – Michael Schumacher’s achievements with the Italian outfit. While he couldn’t achieve the same level of success at the Scuderia, he still remains close to the family and has become something of a mentor to Mick Schumacher – the rookie who has made his debut in Formula 1 this year.
Aston Martin is lucky to have a driver of Vettel’s calibre racing for them and he will be among the stars of the show when F1 visits Jeddah for the first time in December.