Sebastian Vettel: lightning-fast rise, slow and painful decline of a giant

There is no doubt that an entire section of Formula 1 history will fall at the end of the season with the retirement of Sebastian Vettel. “Sebastian is a great driver – fast, smart and strategic – and obviously we will miss his qualities.”Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s team principal, reacted.

By formalizing the end of his career on Thursday at just 35, the German will deprive the sport of one of its best records. With four world titles, the current Aston Martin driver comes soon after Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher (7) and Juan Manuel Fangio (5) in the Formula 1 gold book. only by Lewis Hamilton (103) and Michael Schumacher (91). And with 57 pole positions to his credit, he is at the foot of the podium on which Lewis Hamilton (103), Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65) stand out.

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Aided by an era that offered him less physically demanding circuits and longer double seasons, he managed to carve out a statistical spot ahead of giants Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda, ​​Jack Brabham and Jim Clark. But beyond these figures, we will especially remember that the German, on the occasion of his 300th and last Grand Prix, on November 20 in Abu Dhabi, will have been one of the first champions who symbolized a 21st century marked by the will of the teams. to craft their own talents to become re-pilots.

Unwavering support from Red Bull

Having entered the Red Bull galaxy at the age of 16 after crushing the BMW championship – a sort of German Formula 4 -, “Baby Schumi” has risen in rank without curiously conquering other titles in the learning formulas. For one simple reason: he was chosen by Helmut Marko, former Formula 1 driver and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Having become one of the best talent scouts in the paddock, the “Doctor” passed on his failure in Formula 3 – runner-up – and shortened his career in Formula Renault 3.5 (a GP2 bis) to launch him in the big bathroom of F1.

And it is precisely this virtual certainty of one day driving for Red Bull Racing, with unlimited means to train in exchange for regular results, that has perhaps forged the character of Michael Schumacher’s designated successor. The native of Heppenheim, of modest family, in the course of his career has in fact behaved like a perfect egoist, an essential quality to become a champion.

At Red Bull, he sailed the unspoken – a number 1 driver status and the unfailing support of Helmut Marko – to fire his teammate Mark Webber, through sometimes bloody actions. This was especially true when he refused to obey the team’s order at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2013 – the famous “Multi 21” he demanded at No. 2 to win before his No. 1 -, on the pretext that his Australian teammate did not help him at the start of the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, a race that had nevertheless crowned him after an unbearable suspense. Confident of his weight in the navy blue garage and behind the scenes, he too crashed on the track in 2010, Turkey.

Record in ruins for young people first of all

His team has never publicly reproached him for anything because he was the new prodigy, the one who opened the Toro Rosso palmares (pole position and victory at Monza in 2008), and likewise at Red Bull in 2009, as a starter. to four consecutive coronations for him and Milton Keynes, in the midst of a whole series of precocity records.

Youngest Poleman (21 years and 72 days), winner (21 years and 73 days) and world champion (23 years and 135 days), lousy winner of the last nine Grand Prix of 2013 to the point of being greeted with whistles on podiums, Sebastian Vettel has been an example of professionalism above all for fifteen years. Eyes on telemetry, often the last driver to leave the paddock on Friday and Saturday Grand Prix evenings, he made an impression, particularly at Red Bull, for his approach to racing. “He made the most of all the technical possibilitiessummed up Helmut Marko last month in the Red Bulletin. It’s also the reason why he finally got the better of a talented Mark Webber. “

Winner for all these years with a less powerful Renault engine than the competition, Sebastian Vettel, however, saw his star fade in 2014 at the wheel of a Red Bull with less downforce, to the point of being clearly dominated by the hopeful Daniel Ricciardo. He then felt that it was time to look elsewhere in 2015, and precisely to Ferrari, where his goal was to replicate the saga of his idol, Michael Schumacher. A dream cherished in 2017 and 2018, but ultimately rejected by Lewis Hamilton.

Amaro Ferrari and end of exhausting the flavor

At the Reds, the story began as it did at Red Bull, with a teammate with space-saving number 2 status named Kimi Räikkönen, until he clashed with rising star Charles Leclerc. Recruited at a high price by the Scuderia, Sebastian Vettel thought he had the unconditional support of his boss, Mattia Binotto. He made a serious mistake by causing a double retirement at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2019, which undoubtedly sealed his fate at Maranello. His contract expired in 2020 and he took his non-renewal very badly.

Without being able to hide his frustration behind the scenes, like what sometimes happened to him behind the wheel (the “Fuck Charlie!” in Mexico City in 2016 or his clash with Lewis Hamilton in Baku in 2017), Sebastian Vettel took his revenge by announcing his transfer to Aston Martin over the weekend of the 1000th Ferrari Grand Prix, at Mugello. His personal Ferraris were sold a few months later, he lost his final bet to bring out a third team, due to lack of time.

With the new factory and wind tunnel operational at best in mid-2023 at Silverstone, he had to plan for 2024 to hopefully reach his ultimate ambitions. His family life – he is a father of three – and his environmental commitments were more important causes in his eyes. The best nobles of him, of course.

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