Only three other drivers have racked up as many championships as Sebastian Vettel: Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher. In the coveted list, only Fangio and Schumacher won four in a row. Here’s how they all did it.
Juan Manuel Fangio – 1956
Fangio had won the 1954 and ’55 titles with Mercedes, whose W196 dominated. The manufacturer left the sport at the end of 1955, however, and the Maestro needed a new drive. He chose Ferrari, which had inherited the D50 chassis from the Lancia team and shut its doors following financial troubles and the death of Alberto Ascari in 1955.
Fangio won the sixth and seventh rounds at Silverstone and the Nürburgring, but Ferrari teammate Peter Collins and Maserati’s Stirling Moss had also won two races each. The final round would decide the title. Fangio was the overwhelming favorite, however. He carried an eight-point lead over Collins with just eight points available for a win. To lose, Fangio would have to not finish and Collins would need to win and land the extra point available for recording the race’s fastest lap.
That possibility opened up for Collins when Fangio was forced to retire with a broken steering arm. But in one of the great acts of racing sportsmanship, Collins handed his car to Fangio during a pit stop so that the Argentine could finish the race and take his fourth F1 crown.
Alain Prost – 1993
After falling out with Ferrari in 1991, Prost took a year off before Frank Williams tempted the Frenchman back for the 1993 season.
Armed with a car boasting all the electronic toys Williams could throw at it – active suspension, traction control, et. al. – and a Renault engine that was considerably more powerful than its rivals, Prost, after initially giving ground to Ayrton Senna, was soon racking up wins.
From round four at Imola to round 10 at Hockenheim, Prost failed to win just once, with Senna taking victory in Monaco. Hill, however, prevented Senna from closing the gap with a maiden win in Hungary and victories at Spa and Monza.
That was enough to give Prost the cushion he needed. At the third to last round in Portugal, Prost announced that he would retire from the sport at the end of the season. He then calmly went out, finished second in the race and took his fourth world title.
Michael Schumacher – 2001
After breaking the curse of Ferrari’s 21-year Drivers’ Championship drought in 2000, Michael Schumacher went into the 2001 season with high hopes. When the dream team of technical director Ross Brawn, designer Rory Byrne and engine guru Paolo Martinelli presented the three-time champion with the F2001, the German’s wishes came true.
Schumacher utterly dominated the season, recording nine wins (Australia, Malaysia, Spain, Monaco, Europe, France, Hungary, Belgium and Japan) and five second places to win the title by a then record 58 points from McLaren’s David Coulthard. So complete was Schumacher’s control of the championship that he secured the crown in Hungary, the 13th of the 17 rounds that year.