F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer looks at how Sebastian Vettel got into F1 and what he’s done since then in the first of a two-part video guide to the young driver’s career.
Michael Schumacher has decided to abort his comeback bid, but many feel that the next Schumi is already on the grid. Sebastian Vettel has had a remarkable start to his F1 career, and looks set to get even better. But even in the junior formulae, he already showed a lot of promise.
1997 – As with all other F1 drivers, Vettel’s dream began in karts. For someone who was barely 10, he made a kart go pretty quick. And even then, people were already sitting up and taking notice. Here’s the first part of a two-part documentary shot that year covering his karting exploits – spot Michael Schumacher handing out the trophies!
2005 – For most other people, he was first noticed when he did very well at Macau. He didn’t quite win it – that was done by Lucas di Grassi. Second place was taken by current BMW driver Robert Kubica. But finishing third and getting on the podium didn’t do Vettel any harm at all.
2006 – You might remember Keith’s article from earlier in the year discussing Vettel’s debut in World Series by Renault. Here’s the video again to refresh your memory. In essence, Vettel was drafted to Carlin Motorsports and first saw the car the Thursday before his debut race. He then ended up winning both races on Saturday and Sunday. His exploits were getting more and more impressive.
When you watch the video, you might notice the team Epsilon Euskadi in the results list. They had a WSR team at the time and are now angling to win the F1 franchise set to be released by BMW.
Jacques Villeneuve may have also helped Vettel’s career indirectly. When he got fired in mid-2006, BMW third driver Robert Kubica stepped up to take his seat. BMW, in turn, loaned Vettel from Red Bull to drive their third car. He then made his F1 debut for BMW at Turkey in practice that same year. Here is an onboard ride with him navigating a wet Suzuka in free practice.
2007 – It was another unexpected vacancy that allowed Vettel to move up. After Kubica’s massive shunt at Montreal that year, BMW drafted Vettel in to substitute for one race. Vettel finally made his F1 race debut at Indianapolis. Here, he and Mario Theissen are being interviewed by German media. I personally love the body language from both men – and wait until you see the gifts he gets!
He went on to finish eighth in the race, making him the youngest-ever Grand Prix driver to score a point.
After Kubica returned, Vettel was back as third driver – until Red Bull asked for him back. A vacancy at Toro Rosso (after Franz Tost fired Scott Speed) meant they needed to get a replacement. Enter Vettel, who Red Bull had loaned to BMW, and now wanted him back.
And Vettel’s pace in the Toro Rosso was remarkable. In fact, at one point, he was running 3rd at Fuji, behind RBR driver Mark Webber. Then, disaster struck…
After the horror of Fuji (and the subsequent YouTube investigation which led to him being cleared), Vettel bounced back in the best way possible – by finishing fourth in Shanghai. Only Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, and Felipe Massa finished ahead of him.
To end, here’s a special feature released on the 2008 F1 Season DVD featuring Vettel with his then-boss Gerhard Berger. Vettel may be “very expensive”, but he was doing “well”, and I’d agree.
By now, many thought of Vettel as a star of the future. No one realized just how quickly he’d become a star of the present. That’s in part two tomorrow.
Read more: Sebastian Vettel biography