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Sebastian Vettel - Standing at the top

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature 03 Dec 2012, 20:44 IST
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He is not the fastest of all time. He is not the most perfect of all times. He is just the opportunist who takes advantages whenever possible. And yes, today he is up there with the greatest legends of all times, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. It was a journey of dreams from kart races to Grand Prix and then to hold the World Championship for three consecutive times as his childhood idol, Schumacher. With 2012’s epic season finale, the world of Formula One got a new and youngest triple World Champion, Sebastian Vettel.

Initially, he joined BMW as a test driver, but later in 2007 he substituted regular BMW driver Kubica and became the youngest driver to win a point in a Grand Prix at the 2007 United States Grand Prix, finishing seventh. Later in 2007, after joining Toro Rosso, Vettel managed to get fourth position in Chinese Grand Prix and gave his team a  respectable 5 points at the season end. 2008 was the year when Vettel sent warning signs to the previous champions of F1. Despite giving not-so promising performances in his previous races, Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, his first ever and became the youngest driver to win an F1 Grand Prix.

The year of 2009 provided a perfect start for him. He clinched a podium place at the Chinese Grand Prix and gave his newly joined team Red Bull a promising start; he continued to win races for Red Bull with his new teammate Mark Webber. At the Japanese Grand Prix 2009, he won the title but was denied the Grand Slam by his mate Webber by just 0.002 seconds. Unable to finish within the first two at Brazilian Grand Prix, he was knocked out of the Championship Title in 2009, but at the end he managed to finish second behind Jenson Button. However, Vettel was awarded the DHL fastest lap award, claiming the fastest laps in season 2009.

It was not his best start in 2010 season after finishing second last year. Even though he had his championship hopes alive after first six races, his teammate Webber was a leader based on the total wins till then. After winning Malaysian Grand Prix, he won his second race at the European Grand Prix 2010. Despite a good start at the German Grand Prix, he had to finish third behind the Ferrari‘s of Alonso and Massa. Just four races to finish the season, Vettel stood at third position ahead of Button. After winning the next two races in Japan and Brazil, Vettel was behind Alonso by 15 points and Webber by 7 points. At the season ending race at Abu Dhabi, he managed to win the podium and became the youngest driver to win the Championship Title. It was the first time since 1976 season that the leading driver in championship points could not win the title.

It became as simple as finishing first in qualifying and then making it to the podium at almost every race in 2011 F1 season. By the time Japanese Grand Prix arrived, Vettel just needed one single point to secure his second championship title. After retaining the world championship, he became the youngest and only other driver after Schumacher to win a championship with at-least 10 wins in the season. He won the Grand Slam at the inaugural Airtel Indian Grand Prix,  winning the pole position, podium finish and the fastest lap, leading every lap of the race. At the end of year 2011, from a total of 19 races, Vettel completed 15 poles, 11 victories and 17 podiums finish, earning a record 392 points in the championship stats.

The 2012 season was not as easy for him as the 2011 season. He was unable to win a race till the Bahrain Grand Prix. By the time Singapore Grand Prix came, Vettel was behind Alonso in the championship standings by 39 points. But after this, he won 4 consecutive races, completing the Grand Slam in Japanese and Indian Grand Prix. Although starting from the pit lane in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel finished third keeping his title hopes alive by 13 points. After finishing second in the US Grand Prix, all eyes were on the Brazilian Grand Prix for the title decider. Vettel had a 13 point lead over Alonso before the race; but it was the most dramatic race of the season at Brazil. Vettel lost his fourth position at the start of his race and struggled almost at every lap. But inspite of all the problems, Vettel became the youngest and third driver to win Triple Championship Title.

“It is difficult to repeat his achievements in normal conditions” Vettel had once said for Schumacher, but Vettel’s consistency and ability to win the race in difficult situations is taking him towards his idol Schumcher, who was once the undisputed king of tracks.

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