How good was Sebastian Vettel? And how should he be remembered?
As the saying goes “statistics don’t measure greatness” , but with 53 victories, 57 pole positions, and 4 world championships to his name Sebastian Vettel definitely qualifies for that status. But one question comes to mind whenever Seb is mentioned that is how great was he?
Son to Norbert Vettel, Seb’s dad was his biggest fan a frequent visitor to the paddock during Seb’s 16-year career in F1- From his debut with BMW Sauber to his final race at Aston Martin-his dad, NORBERT VETTEL was always there. The early years for SEBASTIAN VETTEL were PHENAMENOL, yes he was fast but there were faster drivers than him what made Sebastian Vettel stand out was his attention to detail, his dedication, and his determination to leave no stone unturned. He technically followed Schumacher’s lead who was a prototypical modern, all rounded-driver to the letter.
Sebastian Vettel is one of Formulae 1’s all-time greats, the German winning 4 successive world titles with Redbull. He became F1’s then-youngest points scorer by finishing eighth for BMW SAUBER as a stand-in for the injured Robert Kubica at the 2007 USA GP at Indianapolis. COURTESY OF F1 THEY WERE ABLE TO SPEAK TO A FEW PEOPLE WHO WERE PRESENT ON THE WEEKEND THAT PROVIDED A PLATFORM FOR VETTEL;
“It’s Sunday June 10 2007, race day for the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton is leading the way and heading for what will be his first victory in F1. Further back, BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica is chasing Toyota’s Jarno Trulli when on lap 26, he tries an overtake on the approach to the hairpin at around 180mph. He clips the Toyota, lifting his car into the air before viciously hitting a wall and then barrel-rolling across the track. Remarkably, he escaped with only a slight concussion and sprained ankle.
The Pole spent the night in Sacre Coeur Hospital in Montreal where he underwent CT scans and further tests. The team’s founder Peter Sauber and Team Principal Mario Theissen visited his bedside on Sunday night. The next day, he was given the all-clear and drove back to the hotel himself. He then headed on to Indiana, as the United States Grand Prix was taking place the following weekend at Indianapolis, fully intending to compete. But the decision was not his. He would be put through a series of checks by the FIA Medical Delegate on Thursday, a day before the first free practice. Without the all-clear, he would have to stand down and BMW would require a reserve.”
Andreas Seidl, Head of Trackside Operations (now McLaren Team Principal): “It was obviously a very intense period for the entire team and an emotional rollercoaster as well, because we experienced as a team the big crash in Montreal on Sunday where for quite some time, we didn’t know if Robert was still alive. Then the big relief in the evening, having the positive news that he was pretty much unhurt. We visited him in the hospital that night. With that, we left for Indy. It was a double header so there was not a lot of time. We knew we had to be prepared with our reserve driver Sebastian as we were aware there was a chance Robert couldn’t drive.”
Ossi Oikarinen, Head of Test Team but standing in as Race Engineer: “I was heading the test team in those days at BMW Sauber and there was an issue with Kubica’s regular race engineer. He could not get a visa to the US so the plan was for me to go to Canada to learn the ropes and see how Kubica is as a driver and learn to race to engineer him. Then he had his massive shunt in Canada.”
The team supported Kubica’s wish to race, but they had to plan for a scenario where he would be denied. Fortunately, they had two options. One was Timo Glock, a German with four Grands Prix under his belt for Jordan in 2004. The other was Sebastian Vettel, a 19-year-old German rising star who had completed seven Friday practice sessions for the team, as well as hundreds of private test miles. He’d grown up with the marque, too, having competed in and utterly dominated the Formula BMW ADAC championship in 2004, taking 18 wins in 20 races. He was the reserve – but he had also never raced in F1. Theissen had to decide – but he had time.at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2007-8.
“Many drivers have the skills, the talent,” says Franz Tost, Vettel’s team boss “But they were either stupid or something else. They couldn’t get it together because they didn’t understand the ingredients you must bring together to become a successful driver.”
Harsh words from Tost but sadly true, many drivers take years to embrace this trait and others never did but Vettel had mastered the art so early that was so unique of him and it made him stand out from the rest also Vettel had a voracious appetite for self -improvement a trait that was very likable.
At that time he was the finished product in F1, and that was something that was reflected in his approach. He developed a deep understanding of his driving during his time with Toro Rosso, breaking everything down and figuring out what he required to be quick. Vettel was unstoppable thanks to his powerful front end, steady back end, and confident rotation of the rear on corner entry. He kept doing that during his time with Red Bull. Like all great drivers, he man’s great machines are even better. There even whispers of AYRTON SENNA’s legendary throttle-pumping skills in what Vettel did imagine he was that good.
However, there were times throughout this era that alluded to future frailties. Mistakes were made, especially in 2010, and Mark Webber-related(his teammate) controversies hinted at what was to come in his Ferrari years.
After Vettel’s 2014 season, which was below average despite better than most people recall performance and more than his fair share of car issues, was outperformed by new teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Vettel moved to Ferrari.
With Ferrari’s maiden triumph in Malaysia and three victories in a year of recovery, it got off to a fantastic start. However, Luca di Montezemolo, who played a key role in the German’s recruitment, quit before Vettel even arrived, exposing the underlying instability of Ferrari.
2017 and 2018 were the two best years for Vettel with Ferrari. In the first races of those seasons, he and Lewis Hamilton were neck and neck going into the season’s last seven races. However, he caused an accident at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix that forced both Ferraris and Max Verstappen to retire. Ferrari’s reliability issues most likely would have made it challenging to finish that title defense, but Vettel’s momentum was destroyed by the Singapore result. The more telling event was when he lost his composure and purposefully sideswiped Hamilton beneath the Safety Car at Baku. It was a particularly aggressive outburst that was out of character for Vettel’s amiable, laid-back demeanor and could not be justified by his irritation at what he perceived as Hamilton’s antics leading up to the restart. Even Vettel seems to have trouble accepting his own reprehensible acts.
The Ferrari had a superior overall performance in 2018, but Vettel made too many errors. The mistake rate in races was too high after Vettel slid off while in the lead at Hockenheim. It is thought that this was the turning point in Vettel’s season, and it was a major setback. Vettel definitely struggled with Ferrari. He was at odds with the team’s leadership and didn’t take Charles Leclerc’s challenge well, especially in later years.
That ultimately resulted in Ferrari choosing not to extend his contract for 2021. While still uneven, the Vettel at Aston Martin appeared to be a happier, more laid-back individual who consistently delivered performances that had disappeared in his final Ferrari year.
With all the good and the bad combined who is the real SEBASTIAN VETTEL, then? The fact that it is an obvious question is a sign of his one flaw, which was that he needed a specific environment and set of driving characteristics in order to perform brilliantly. He then reached the pinnacle of human performance.
Outside of that window, Vettel was a more unpredictable performance, a quality that was accentuated by his being drawn in by Ferrari’s understandable attraction and thrust into a setting that was quite dissimilar from the one in which he flourished at Red Bull.
One of the most human of the great F1 champions, Vettel was a flawed talent. Even if his mental instability did occasionally flare up, that is what made him so well-liked. Even though he wasn’t a man for all seasons, he deserved to be remembered for his remarkable feats with Red Bull equipment that seemed to defy all logic.
With all that said I hope we get to have a glimpseof the great SEBASTIAN VETTEL.