Michael Schumacher, a name that is widely renowned in the world, in spite of being involved in many controversies, as one of the faces of Formula 1 and motor racing in whole. This story is not about him I’m afraid. It’s about a fellow young German who followed Schumacher’s footsteps and bent the world of Formula 1 to his whim. At the dusk of his career, let this be a tribute to one of the best Formula 1 drivers to come across the sport, Sebastian Vettel.
Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 career, or Seb as everyone calls him, started with a rare opportunity, yet calling it so wouldn’t be morally correct. Robert Kubica, who was racing for BMW Sauber at the time faced a scary accident at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix that left him rattled and injured. Although he claimed that he was fit, the officials deemed that he should sit a race out to regain composure. This was the golden moment for Seb, who was a reserve driver for BMW Sauber, yet it almost didn’t go ahead. Even though Seb was an up and coming driver, he didn’t have any Formula 1 experience and the other reserve driver, Timo Glock was, which obviously WAS a big deal. Yet the team took faith in Seb and gave him the seat for the 2007 United States Grand Prix as a one-off appearance. The talent he showed throughout the weekend, placing an impressive 7th in the grid IN qualifying and finishing within the points in 8th in the race, despite an early mistake, resonated what was yet to be witnessed in the coming years through this emerging youngster.
His exploits at Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s sister team are stuff of legend. While the Red bull drivers struggled to place their cars at higher positions, Seb drove his underperforming Toro Rosso to unforeseen places, even winning a race for them. All in all it was enough to turn Dr. Helmut Marko’s, the chief advisor of Red Bull (He still is), head towards the young German, earning him a seat at Red Bull replacing the retiring David Coulthard for 2009. At the cusp of the technical regulation changes in 2009, with Brawn GP coming forward with their controversial double diffuser technology, the year was not glorious as it was expected for Red Bull and Seb, despite a late charge at the end of the season. Come 2010, with the double diffuser fiasco out of the way, it was time for Red Bull and Seb to shine.
To give you context, Red Bull Formula 1 team was found in 2005, through the rumbles of Jaguar racing and was considered as a “party” team with their festive approach to the race track. Yet behind the scenes they were on a full on trajectory of winning world titles and that’s exactly what they did. Along with the master designs of Adrian Newey, the greatest car designer in the history of F1, Seb unleashed his full might and went forward to win the world title four years in a row from 2010 to 2013. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing either, with his teammate Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso who was overperforming his Ferrari to a great extent and the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button breathing down his neck. Even then he showed his talent and composure under pressure. A very good example would be the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix which took part in the rain, where Seb went into an early spin after a contact with Bruno Senna but he kept his head down and charged through the field. Even though a fleet of cars ended up spinning and hitting the barriers under the dire conditions, it was not Seb who bulged. He went down in history, tying with Alain Prost for the driver with the third most world titles, only Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio (later Lewis Hamilton) in front of him.
His time in Ferrari was bit of a roller coaster. Even though he had some wins under his belt with them, with the emerge of Mercedes in the Turbo hybrid era and Ferrari’s trademark strategy errors it was not the golden age one would’ve thought it would be. Same for his time in Aston Martin. Even then he marked some great moments.
Leaving the racing aside, the world knows the Sebastian Vettel for another reason, for being a humanitarian. Being an advocate for environment protection, Seb has been involved in numerous initiatives for a better tomorrow. He was found constantly using his racing ties to display the importance of protecting the Earth, be it speaking out or painting his helmet in such a way. One such highlight was his attempt raise awareness against Alberta Oil sands, with the company itself responding to defend themselves due to the backlash caused. That’s how much of an impact he has on the community. He also went ahead to place himself on the headlines with his beekeeping project with Austrian school children. Recently he drove his very own Williams FW14B (Nigel Mansell’s championship winning car) around Silverstone using sustainable fuel, in a motion to prove that even old cars can move towards sustainability. Also he is a big voice for equality as well. Regularly going against the authorities in providing equal space for everyone, be it the drivers, the LGBTQ community, preventing racism. Mind you this is just a brief glimpse into Sebastian Vettel, the humanitarian. There’s so much more to his work which is worth taking a thorough look at.
Seb is known as a private person leaving his personal life out of the track and just with his first ever social media post, through Instagram, he stated that he’ll be parting ways with F1. Everyone who loved Seb was devastated by that announcement but with everything he has done in his career, it would be a fruitful farewell. Several electric series will be eyeing for Seb to join them and I personally think that it’s a great idea for him to join Formula E or Extreme E, considering what they represent aligns with his ideologies but in reality it’s entirely up to him. He has had a racing career for more than 15 years, with 53 race wins, 122 podium and 57 pole positions to date (2022 season is yet to conclude) along with several records to his name, including being the youngest ever pole sitter and world champion and I’m pretty sure he’ll continue to be an advocate towards sustainability and equality, overall a human fighting for a better world.
We will miss him sorely in the F1 community, yet the legacy he has left with us will remain as long as F1 stands. Farewell Sebastian Vettel.