To look at Sebastian Vettel you wouldn’t suspect he was Formula One’s most promising talent. His slight frame, wide smile and sense of humour are not the traditional first impressions of a racing driver. But beneath that apparently relaxed youthful exterior lies steely determination, great race craft and incredible car control. It all seems to come easy to the man who became F1’s youngest-ever pole-sitter then race winner in Monza in 2008.
Sebastian Vettel wrote himself into the F1 history books at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix where, as a ‘Friday Only’ driver for BMW Sauberm, he became the youngest driver to take part in a grand prix weekend. And, on that first day in the spotlight, he set the quickest time on what experts reckon to be one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar.
Vettel has been part of the Red Bull family for several years now and the talent spotters seem to have got it right with the cool kid from Heppenheim in Germany. His outwardly relaxed manner hides a sharp mind and a keen will to win, something he did a lot of on the nursery slopes of Formula BMW. How does 18 wins from 20 race starts sound? Or 15 pole positions, 16 fastest race laps and 387 points scored out of a possible maximum of 400?
His full F1 race debut came at the USA GP in 2007, where he deputised for the injured Robert Kubica. He came home eighth. His full-time career began later that year, when he first donned the Toro Rosso race suit in Hungary. His highlight of that first season was a fourth place in China, which made up for the disappointment and controversy of his collision with future team-mate Mark Webber a week earlier in Fuji, when both men seemed to be heading for the podium.
2008 did not start well, with Sebastian only completing a total of 39 laps in the first four grands prix, but then came that historic Monza victory and promotion to the senior Red Bull team. He got off to an excellent start with his new team, giving them their maiden victory leading a one-two at the Chinese Grand Prix before repeating the result with an imperious drive at the British Grand Prix.