Updated: Jan 4, 2021
The world of formula one often regards Michael Schumacher as arguably the greatest driver in its history. Michael has 7 world championships to his name, which he won while competing with some of the fiercest names in formula one at the time. He went on to dominate the field of racing from the young age of only six, and continued this dominance at every level for the next twenty years or so. However controversial, his career and greatness set an example for fans all over the world. And this is the story of a man from West Germany, much like Schumacher, who dreamt of emulating his childhood hero in his pursuit to become, arguably, the greatest Formula One driver of all time.
Sebastian Vettel displayed an immense amount of passion and talent ever since he got his first kart at the age of three from his father, Nobert, who himself was a professional in karting. On witnessing his potential, his parents decided to turn his interests into his career. Little did they know that this young boy would one day change the face of racing as it was known to be back then. Growing up in Germany, it had been Vettel’s dream to ensure that the record for world championships stayed in their country. Michael Schumacher played a great role in Sebastian’s career, getting rather close and personal with him in his karting days and bestowing some invaluable advice to his fellow German. Sebastian also had the honour of racing against Michael on his return to formula one in 2010 and their relationship was so well knit, that Schumacher even helped him win the world title in 2012.
Vettel was only twenty when he was promoted to formula one in 2007 and began breaking records from his first race itself. From the get go, he displayed all the skills one looked for in a formula one driver. He shone in his debut season, surpassing all expectations, including his own, and ended his first season on a high. His first race win came in 2008, in wet conditions and with an inferior car which made him stand out as the driver to look out for on the track. His maiden and only win that year earned him a promotion to a stronger car manufacturer for 2009, the year that put Sebastian Vettel’s name up there amongst the greatest drivers in formula one history. Vettel defied all odds that year to place second with only eleven points separating him from that year’s champion, Jenson Button, in the World Driver’s Championship. All this coming from a driver in only his 3rd year in the sport, in a period where the competition was at its peak.
Finally, in 2010, Vettel won his first ever World Championship with the Red Bull team, making him the youngest person to achieve this feat. The young sensation found it almost impossible to hold back his tears that evening in Abu Dhabi. Lewis Hamilton, who would go on to become his arch rival in the years to come, was one of the first to congratulate him on his win. However, Sebastian didn't stop there, as the next challenge was defending his title the following year. He went on to dominate the sport for not only the following year, but for the next 3 years, winning his fourth and final championship in 2013, in India. This period of Vettel’s dominance is still regarded as arguably the greatest supremacy the sport has witnessed. These initial years of Vettel’s career were a sight for sore eyes- defying all odds to overcome the fiercest of competitors and creating heaps of rivals along the way. Vettel was a person who only made rivals and not enemies. He seldom let his emotions on track get in the way of his relationships off of it. He created an amazing rapport with the majority of the drivers racing alongside him and always gave them the respect they deserved.
Unfortunately, to his dismay, as well as mine, Vettel was unable to achieve his dream of winning the 7 world championship titles he had hoped to. However, owning such a personality and charisma brought a considerable amount of perks with them. Vettel believes that one should look any challenge in the eye with a smile on their face. Now racing for the great Ferrari, he has matured into a driver and a character who is respected by everyone, but has never stopped being that cheerful, twenty year old kid who always had a prank up his sleeve. Now not all of you might share the same passion for this sport of formula one as I do, but at least you know a little about it.
Sebastian currently lives in Switzerland and leads a very personal life, far away from all the tabloids and paparazzi. He married his childhood sweetheart, Hanna, in 2019, and is the father of 3 children. Growing up he idolized the “Three Michaels”- Michael Schumacher, Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan, and had dreamed of once becoming a singer like Jackson. Unfortunately, fortunately for us racing fans, he didn’t have the voice. He pays tribute to his idol, Michael Schumacher, by being to his son, Mick, what Michael had been to him- a mentor and a friend. Vettel is considered by many to be as loveable outside the track as he is competitive on it. His sense of humour and jokes on his fellow drivers, especially his teammates, always ensures a jovial environment to not add to the stress that comes from being a formula one driver.
I first saw Sebastian Vettel race in 2009, when my father was watching a riveting car race on the telly. He has been a source of inspiration to me ever since. It was his personality more than his impeccable records that set him apart from the rest of the pack. From that day, I made it a virtue to watch as many races as possible. In doing so, I learnt that not all problems call for an aggressive approach towards life. There are some that require you to be a little more practical. Patience is infact a virtue and without it, there is no success. Vettel taught me to never limit myself on the basis of what I know today. There is, and will always be, room for improvement. Look towards the horizon, and never stop; never give up, because that horizon is your path to freedom- freedom of choice, freedom to live your way of life, and most importantly, freedom to be able to accept yourself for who you are.
“You can’t change what happened, but you can still change what will happen”. - Sebastian Vettel
Written by Saahil Banatwalla