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Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement from F1 this season

Sebastian Vettel’s F1 resume review: A career filled with passion, success, and heartbreak

Sebastian Vettel will not be part of the 2023 F1 grid. Did I see it coming? Yes, I did, so much so that one week before he announced his retirement, I'd done a feature on why it was highly likely that he would do so.

Here we are then, with the German's career in the rearview mirror. Will we see him again? I'm not too confident that will happen, but that's not what we're here for. I'm here to share the story of Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion, someone who will be dearly missed, and someone who left a mark on the sport by being more than just a standout talent.


So, how was Sebastian Vettel? Well, to do that, let's take you through one of the most successful careers in the history of the sport.


Career Recap

Debut (BMW) and rise to fame in Toro Rosso (2007-2008)


Sebastian Vettel made a surprise F1 debut at the 2007 US GP as a super-sub for Robert Kubica. Just 19 years old at the time, he would finish the race P8, scoring his first-ever F1 point.

The point on debut did two things: it made Vettel the youngest driver ever to score a point, and it brought him the opportunity to drive for Toro Rosso in the very next race. At Toro Rosso, Vettel impressed straight away as he finished P4 at the 2007 F1 Chinese GP in mixed conditions. To put things into perspective, Toro Rosso had not scored a single point in the entire season until that race!

15 years ago today, 19 year old Sebastian Vettel made his Formula 1 debut subbing in for Robert Kubica at BMW Sauber at the US Grand Prix. We all know what happened next 🤍

In 2008, Sebastian Vettel proved that he was one of the next superstars in F1. The German dominated Toro Rosso's home race in Monza on a wet track to secure his first career pole position and win. In doing so, he became the youngest F1 driver to score pole position and win a race. He did it on a wet track in a Toro Rosso by beating the likes of Fernando Alonso in a Renault, Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren, Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari, and Robert Kubica in a BMW.


The German scored 35 points that season, which was more than what the senior Red Bull team scored (29 points). In 2009, Vettel earned a promotion to the senior team where he would partner with Mark Webber.

The glorious Red Bull partnership (2009-2014)

The 2009 F1 season saw technical regulations turn the pecking order upside down. Ferrari and McLaren were not the frontrunners anymore, with Brawn GP dominating the sport. It was also the first year that Red Bull made its move to the front of the grid.

After Sebastian #Vettel won his first world title in Abu Dhabi 2010, Eddie Jordan asked his father Nobert Vettel if it was the proudest moment of his life. To which he replied: "The best moment is to born my children. This is the second best."

While Brawn GP and Jenson Button secured both championships, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel finished second and showed that the team and driver were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Heading into the 2010 F1 season, no one considered Red Bull a serious contender. In an interesting pre-season preview by the BBC, F1 pundits were asked who would win the championship. Martin Brundle picked Fernando Alonso while Eddie Jordan picked Lewis Hamilton. When David Coulthard, a former Red Bull driver himself, picked Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull to win the title, he was laughed off by everyone else on the panel.


The 2010 F1 season was initially filled with heartbreak for Sebastian Vettel. Reliability issues took away his wins in Bahrain and Australia, and later in Korea during the dying stages.

Heading into the season finale, he was an outsider in the title battle. He was 15 points behind Fernando Alonso while his teammate Mark Webber was eight points behind.

As fate would have it, Vettel won the race, and consequently the title, while Alonso spent the race stuck behind Vitaly Petrov. The title win made him the youngest driver in F1 history to become a world champion.

2011 saw complete domination by Vettel as he cruised to the title with 11 wins and 15 pole positions. He became this formidable force who would step into a race weekend and be the outright favorite for the win.

In 2012, things changed. The new regulations and the temperamental Pirellis surprised everyone. The first seven races saw seven different winners. This was also when Alonso put together logic-defying performances in every race. At one point, Alonso had a lead of more than 40 points over Vettel in the championship.


From that point onward, Vettel made a comeback in the championship. He won four of the last seven races and was on the podium for another two. With an impressive comeback drive in Brazil, he secured the title from Alonso by three points to become a three-time world champion.

On this day 9 years ago, Vettel became the sole owner of the consecutive wins record in a single season at 8 races with a win in Texas. He'd extend to 9 at the finale.

He broke free of Ascari's 1952 season who skipped R1, DNFed R2 at The Indy500, but won the rest of the races.

Speaking of the 2013 F1 season, not many remember that the first half of the season was complete mayhem as the Pirelli tires were exploding left, right, and center. Despite this, Sebastian Vettel put together what was his best season in F1.

That season is remembered for Vettel's dominant nine-race win streak. Even before that, however, Vettel had won four of the first 10 races of the season and was on the podium for another three. It could be said that this was the moment when Vettel peaked in his career. From the team to the driver to the surroundings, everything was perfect.

The 2014 F1 season featured a change in regulations as the Turbo-Hybrid era took over. Red Bull got caught out as the Renault power unit was just uncompetitive.

Vettel had a poor season by his standards at the time. He was beaten by Daniel Ricciardo, a driver in his first season with Red Bull. While Ricciardo picked up three wins that season, Vettel could not even pick one.


With Red Bull seemingly handicapped by an underperforming power unit, Vettel decided to follow his childhood dream of emulating his hero Michael Schumacher. He triggered the exit clause in his contract and moved to Ferrari to bring the team back to glory just like his idol.

The pursuit of a dream at Ferrari... and heartbreak (2015-2020)

Sebastian Vettel's career at Ferrari began with an emotional win in the 2015 F1 Malaysian GP, his second race for the team. It was, however, clear at the time that Ferrari still could not fight Mercedes. That season featured three wins for Vettel, which was more than what even the team expected at the time.

In the 2016 F1 season, Ferrari could not build on the progress it made in 2015. This was also the season when Red Bull had a car capable of challenging Ferrari. The season ended with zero wins as Red Bull beat the team in the championship standings.


The 2017 F1 season was the first time Sebastian Vettel had the car to challenge Lewis Hamilton. While Ferrari evidently lacked the final few tenths, especially when it came to the power unit, Vettel could still stay in contention with some impressive wins in Bahrain, Australia, Hungary, and Monaco.

Mercedes finally got away in the second half of the season. It all started with a massive crash at the start of the race in Singapore. During this time, Mercedes pulled ahead in terms of development and Vettel could no longer compete. Ultimately, Hamilton sealed another title while Vettel finished second.

The 2018 F1 season featured a better Ferrari challenger but a worse season in terms of performance. The team struggled with internal political turmoil as technical director Mattia Binotto took over from Maurizio Arrivabene by the end of the season. Vettel, on the other hand, started to make too many uncharacteristic mistakes in wheel-to-wheel battles, especially in the second half of the season when the Ferrari faded against Mercedes. Vettel's challenge once again ended midway as Mercedes surged ahead.


The 2019 F1 season was the start of the decline for Vettel as he was now a big liability when it came to wheel-to-wheel combat. He ended up being outscored by his new teammate Charles Leclerc and it seemed that the writing was on the wall for the German at Ferrari.

The 2020 F1 season saw Ferrari part ways with Vettel as he tried to make up his mind if he wanted to continue racing in the sport. The season was a write-off with nothing much to talk about except a podium in the F1 Turkish GP. By this time, Vettel had decided to join Aston Martin, a midfield team that was showing a lot of improvement.

The end of an era at Aston Martin (2021-2022)

Sebastian Vettel took some time to get used to life at Aston Martin. After an early stutter, the German was able to find his feet in the team and picked up two podium positions in Baku and Hungary. The driver was back to racing and doing what he does best. There were still doubts, however, that remained from the German himself.


Vettel wanted to fight for wins and podiums but Aston Martin had proven to be a disappointment on that front. So when the 2022 F1 challenger from Aston Martin turned out to be a backmarker, Vettel, who had already branched out of the sport into the social aspect of the world, decided to call time on his career. Even in his last season, the German was at the top of his game and almost dragged Aston Martin to P6 in the championship.

The under-appreciated brilliance of Sebastian Vettel

Many F1 pundits do not regard Sebastian Vettel with the same level of appreciation as Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso. It was evident when a renowned F1 journalist remarked on Vettel's retirement that the German was a "good driver but not an elite".

There is, however, clear evidence to suggest the contrary. Vettel's titles at Red Bull were not won by "just the fastest car". They were won by a driver who could bounce back from one setback after another.


In the 2010 F1 season, Vettel lost multiple race wins due to reliability. No other driver on the grid, not even his teammate, suffered from that.

He suffered the same in 2012 when he lost a certain win in Valencia and then another in Monza. Additionally, his legendary comeback drive in Brazil occurred after he was punted off the track on the very first lap. In these races, Vettel displayed the mental fortitude of an F1 legend.

The "Multi-21" incident might go down in infamy, but that was Sebastian Vettel at his ruthless best. "We were racing, I was faster, I passed and I won", has to go down as one of the coldest lines by a driver, especially considering the backlash he faced at the time.

Moreover, his success at Toro Rosso before moving to Red Bull, or his late-career surge at Aston Martin, proved that he was a special talent.

The unwarranted hate and abuse


While Sebastian Vettel might be receiving a lot of love from fans and the media right now, there was a time when he didn't. At one point, Sebastian Vettel was booed for 10 straight races. Why? Because he was winning and because, in the eyes of many fans, he was not "The Guy".

When Michael Schumacher retired in 2006, he left a void. A void that both Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton tried to fill in 2007. By 2008, F1 fans had already decided that Hamilton and Alonso would fight it out in the next generation. When Sebastian Vettel, an even younger driver, burst onto the scene in a car owned by a drinks company, fans and pundits could not handle the disruption caused by the two.

The two supposed pretenders in Alonso and Hamilton lost for four consecutive years to a German in a Red Bull and that did not go down well. By 2013, fans were almost tired of Sebastian Vettel winning because of how dominant he was.


A comment that reflected the media attitude towards Vettel was when Martin Brundle spoke about the German hugging Adrian Newey after winning his 4th world title. He said:

"The most valuable man in F1 right now, and he does not have blond hair"

This was a comment that seemingly put down Sebastian Vettel's achievements to the car that Newey built for him. The contrast to that is quite visible in the way Lewis Hamilton was lauded as "The GOAT" for winning six titles in a dominant Mercedes.

A reminder that Sky Sports’ bias against certain drivers is nothing new

Take a look at how Vettel was treated back in 2013

Seb was just minutes after winning his 4th title, and yet here are Croft and Brundle saying this

The unprofessionalism is unacceptable and it needs to end

While Vettel might be getting the love right now, he has been the victim of unwarranted hate and disrespect for a long time in his career.

What led to his decline?

While Sebastian Vettel's childlike enthusiasm brought him to the sport and took him to the top, in many ways the same thing led to his decline as well. As claimed by experienced journalist Mark Hughes in one of his columns, by the end of the 2017 F1 season, Vettel knew that he was fighting a lost cause by trying to win with Ferrari.

During this time, Sebastian Vettel first discussed with Niki Lauda about moving to Mercedes and partnering with Lewis Hamilton (something he recently talked about on the Beyond the Grid podcast). Once again though, his emotions took over as he wanted to emulate his idol, Michael Schumacher. He loved Ferrari and wanted to win with them. The stress of driving for the Prancing Horse, however, took its toll and it started showing in his driving as well by 2018.


From that point till the end of his Ferrari stint, Vettel was just not himself as he clung on to a dream that was always going to fade. This saw him overdriving the car, with some very strange accidents along the way whenever he went wheel-to-wheel.

What memories did Sebastian Vettel leave you during the years together?

"He is a legend for the results he's obtained, but he is also a decent person. He helped me in difficult moments, it does not happen often between team mates." - Charles Leclerc 🥹

#Vettel #Leclerc #F1

One thing worth noting is that ever since joining Aston Martin, he didn't have many similar crashes despite fighting multiple wheel-to-wheel battles. The pressure was off and he was driving with freedom.

When we talk about Sebastian Vettel, it was his passion that took him to the top of the sport, but it was also his passion that forced him to go after a Ferrari triumph that was never going to happen. In a way, this tainted his legacy after a successful Red Bull stint.

What is his legacy?

As Sebastian Vettel packs his bags and says goodbye, what is his lasting legacy? Well, let's take a look at what he achieved:

  • The Youngest F1 World Champion
  • The Youngest Pole position winner
  • Fourth highest championship wins (4)
  • Third highest wins in F1
  • Fourth highest pole positions
  • Longest ever win streak in F1
  • Most Pole Positions in a season in F1

Most importantly, he was part of a generation that had Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, yet he held his own against them. If you look at these numbers and things in their entirety, Sebastian Vettel is an F1 legend and he will go down as one of the best talents to ever drive a Formula 1 car.

Edited by
Anurag C
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