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Four In a Row : Sebastian Vettel

“RED BULL RACING’S SEBASTIAN VETTEL RACED INTO FORMULA ONE’S HISTORY BOOKS BY BEING ONE OF THE ONLY FOUR RACERS TO HAVE CLINCHED FOUR F1 CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES IN THE SPORTS ILLUSTRIOUS HISTORY. BEING THE YOUNGEST AT IT, HE IS DEFINITELY F1’S GREATEST IN THE MAKING.”

 

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Crossing the finish line almost 30 seconds clear of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg at the 2013 Indian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel etched his name indelibly alongside racing deities Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher as the only four-time winners of motor racing’s greatest prize. He celebrated the record win in exuberant fashion with some crowd-pleasing doughnuts on the start-finish straight before emerging triumphantly from the billowing clouds of smoke with his arms raised aloft and bowing in front of his RB9 “Hungry Heidi” race car. There is no question now that Vettel deserves to be spoken of as one of Formula One’s greatest ever exponents.

Born on 3 July, 1987 in Heppenheim, West Germany, Sebastian Vettel made astonishingly rapid and successful progress through the lower ranks of motorsport. Vettel spent eight years in karts, winning the German Junior Karting Championship, Monaco Kart Cup and European Junior Karting Championship in 2001. He finished second in the 2003 Formula BMW Germany championship and was top rookie. By 2001, he emerged as the winner of various German and European Karting titles. At the age of 17, he debuted in the 2004 German Formula BMW Championship, and ended up with a stunning 18 victories from 20 races. Then in 2005, he drove for the ASL Mucke Motorsport in the Formula Three Euroseries and earned a 5th position along with the best rookie driver of the year award. The same year he had his first encounter with F1 when he got to test a F1 car for the BMW Williams team. The following year, he ended up as a runner-up in the F3 Euroseries. He also won two World Series events by Renault during the same year. Due to his BMW connections, he was then promoted to BMW Sauber’s Friday test and reserve driver. Still aged only 18, he actually had to ask his school teacher for time off to do the test!

 

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Finally in 2007 he made his F1 debut and became the youngest driver to score a point when he replaced BMW’s Robert Kubica in the US Grand Prix. During the same year, he earned a full place in the Torro Rosso team. The following year he won the wet Italian Grand Prix and made another record becoming the youngest Formula One driver to win a pole position. In 2009 he switched to Red Bull, and finished the season on a high becoming the runner-up in the drivers’ championship. The year 2010 then brought Vettel on a close showdown with other drivers in the championship. This tension-filled season though marred with technical difficulties and driver errors, his dramatic third-place comeback at the Abu Dhabi grand prix got him his first ever F1 world title. This gave him the title of the youngest world champion in the history of F1, at the age of 23 years and 133 days.

Realizing his potential, Red Bull Racing then made no delay in extending his contract till 2014. He dominated the 2011 season too with 11 grand prix wins and a record 15 poles. He won the world championship for a second time with four races to spare and earned another feather in his helmet, becoming the youngest double world champion in F1 history. Vettel carried his form into the 2012 season. But initially, it took him time to adjust in the new RB8 race car and the season was much of a mixed bag with seven different winners in the first seven different races of the season. The final stages of the 2012 season then helped Vettel to retake the championship lead ahead of Fernando Alonso, with an astonishing come-back at Abu Dhabi. He finished the dramatic season in 6th position and wrapped up the championship with a 3 points lead over Alonso, earning him his third consecutive world championship.

 

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Vettel extended his run of championships in 2013 with his fourth victory in a row. The opening rounds of the championship promised a closely-fought campaign, Vettel sharing wins with Alonso and Raikkonen. But regular podium finishes kept Vettel ahead in the points. Vettel reeled off sixth consecutive race wins which decided the outcome of the title with three races to go. Vettel went on to even equal Alberto Ascari’s all-time mark of nine consecutive wins and Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 victories in a year.

Vettel was untouchable in 2013 and his dominant performances led to record-setting numbers with his rivals chasing shadows. In a sport that relies so heavily on the technology of the car, many critics actually see him as lucky to be sitting in the cockpit of the circuit’s superior machine. But as F1 regulations changes from the current 2.4-litre V8 engines to a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged unit and with introduction of more powerful energy recovery systems, the next 2014 season of Formula 1 championship is bound to become more competitive and makes predictions nearly impossible. Nevertheless, we look forward to the continuation of the German’s ruthless control at the starting grid and hope his days of dominance at the podium are not numbered.

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