A precocious talent in the evening of his career: the German Sebastian Vettel, who announced Thursday that the current season will be his last in F1, will remain, despite his four world titles, always in the shadow of his illustrious compatriot Michael Schumacher.
Born on July 3, 1987, exactly 17 and a half years after Schumacher, Vettel was titled four times consecutively (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013), against seven times for Schumacher.
He won all his titles driving a Red Bull-Renault while Schumacher won two with Benetton (1994 and 1995) and five with Ferrari (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004).
If he is today the third driver in the history of F1 to count the most victories (53), there again, he is preceded by a certain “Schumi” (91), second behind the Briton Lewis Hamilton ( 103).
But for good measure, Vettel will have done better than his elder, signing a series of precocity records, some of which still stand…
The native of Heppenheim, near Frankfurt, made his racing debut at the United States Grand Prix in 2007, scoring his first points there (8th place) to become, at the time, the youngest driver in history to do it.
– Relative failure at Ferrari –
Moved from Sauber to Toro Rosso (later renamed AlphaTauri) in mid-2007, he broke a new record for early start in Japan, being the youngest to lead a race at the time.
At the Italian GP at Monza in 2008, he established himself as one of F1’s surest hopes by becoming in the space of a weekend, and still for the time, the youngest author of pole position on Saturday, and the youngest winner – at 21 years and 73 days – on Sunday in the rain.
This precocity record will only be taken away from him in 2016 by Max Verstappen, victorious in the Spanish GP at 18 years and 228 days.
But since his four consecutive titles won between 2010 and 2013 at Red Bull (which he joined in 2009), the winds have gradually turned for the German.
It is his relative failure with Ferrari that remains the black point of his career. Arrived in 2015 to replace Fernando Alonso, he will not have more success than the Spaniard to bring back to the Italian team at the top of the world hierarchy, the last title of the Scuderia dating from 2007 with Kimi Raïkkönen.
– Driver engaged –
He could not do better than runner-up to Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes twice in 2017 and 2018, obtaining a total of 14 victories at the wheel of the red cars of Maranello.
The adventure will end in 2020 in virtual anonymity with a humiliating 13th place in the championship in the shadow of his young teammate, the Monegasque Charles Leclerc.
It is on a somewhat melancholic little song sung at the wheel of his car after the arrival of his last Grand Prix in a Ferrari that he will conclude his failure to equal Michael Schumacher, both in the prize list and in the hearts of the Tifosi.
After the first rumors of retirement, he decided to continue his career at Aston-Martin at the age of 33 but did not do much better, finishing 12th in the world championship in 2021. The current season does not look any better, since he points currently in a poor 14th place.
Off the tracks, this father of three children has especially marked the paddock by his fights in recent years.
Committed to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, defender of the environment, Vettel has made his Grand Prix weekends the banner of the causes and actions he defends beyond the circuits.
Able to wear a helmet bearing slogans hostile to the exploitation of Canadian oil sands during the last Grand Prix of Canada, or another decorated with bees, he also promotes synthetic fuels, presented as one of the solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of F1.
“With my passion comes certain aspects that I’ve learned to dislike,” he admitted Thursday in a video posted on YouTube. “The will to make these changes must be much much stronger and lead to action today. Talking is not enough and we cannot wait. There is no other choice, the race is on “, he asserted.