Sebastian Vettel has been an integral part of Formula 1 and its history ever since he joined the grid in 2007, and it was clear that the German was a star with superb performances on-track, and, more recently, off the track as well, as he proved to be an activist and ally for causes way more important than just sport and racing.
In this article, our editors at MotorLAT take a closer look at some of Vettel’s finest moments during his time in the sport – so far.
Fernanda Álvarez – 2008 Italian GP – The first race win
It was a win of pure pace in the most difficult conditions. He was clearly the dominant driver from Saturday. He needed no mistakes from his competitors to hold on and then, burst onto the scene with a deserved, but lucky, result. No. It was a driver that throughout his rookie season took a car that was by no means a winner and drove it brilliantly to take the chequered flag in first place with a 12-second lead over second place Heikki Kovalainen. On pure pace.
Building a 5-second lead in just 5 laps as soon as the Safety Car allowed the race to start. Giving up the lead only when he made his pit-stop and for only three laps. Being a guy who had not even 50 races under his belt in the pinnacle of motorsport. In none other than "The Temple of Speed".
The legend of Sebastian Vettel was born and it was destined to develop throughout his entire career. Winning as the youngest. And winning everything. Vettel then became both the youngest polesitter (a record he still holds) and the youngest race winner. The rest, as they say, is history.
David Coath - 2019 Singapore GP – Last win for Ferrari
Formula One returns to Singapore in 2022 for the first time since Sebastian Vettel claimed victory there in 2019. That weekend is a memorable one in the Sebastian Vettel F1 life story as it saw him claim what would be his last victory for Scuderia Ferrari. On this day, having started P3, Vettel would produce an undercut on his teammate Charles Leclerc (much to the Monegasque racer’s frustration) and also complete a memorable late lunge into the turn seven on Pierre Gasly - which showed the drive and determination of a man on top of his game. All of this contributed to Sebastian Vettel finding his way to P1 when the chequered flag fell and staying there - compared to the farcical scene witnessed three months earlier for the German racer in Montreal.
However, this victory, the 53rd for the 4-time F1 Drivers’ Champion, still did not make as many headlines as his previous day’s remarks (post-qualifying) when MotorLAT asked the top 3 qualifiers for their thoughts on mooted reverse grids. Sebastian Vettel in his beautiful honest outspoken self, called such suggestions ‘complete bull****’ which is another reminder of the irreplaceable passionate character which F1 will be losing at season’s end.
Patricia Gomez Tarquini – 2015 Malaysian GP – First win for Ferrari
In 2014, Sebastian Vettel announced his departure from Red Bull. The German left the team after dominating the sport from 2010 to 2013 with four consecutive World Championships and 38 victories. His future was in Maranello to replace Spanish Ace Fernando Alonso and with the mission of bringing back the glory to the Italian outfit.
Having admired Michael Schumacher since his early childhood and then becoming a close friend, Vettel was fulfilling a childhood dream, driving the red car his idol successfully drove. The first victory came pretty soon, in the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix. His second GP for the Scuderia.
Lewis Hamilton dominated the start while his team-mate Rosberg fought Vettel for second place unsuccessfully. Strategy was going to be crucial for the victory and Vettel went for a longer first stint than the Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Rosberg who stopped under Safety car and opted for hard tyres.
The race resumed with Vettel leading while the Mercedes were in traffic on the 6th and 7th place. After his first pitstop, Vettel, on fresher tires, pushed to close the gap with Rosberg and took the second place.
Vettel's two-stop strategy paid off and the German took the lead on lap 24 when Lewis went in for his second stop. On lap 37, Sebastian went for his second stop to fit the hard tires. Vettel came back to the race ahead of Rosberg by a small margin. One lap later, Lewis would go for the third stop to fit a set of hard tires and was unable to fight Vettel for the victory.
Sebastian drove it to the chequered flag to the delight of all the Ferrari fans around the world who hadn´t celebrated a victory since the 2013 Spanish GP. Mercedes´ drivers Hamilton and Rosberg ended 2nd and 3rd, respectively. After the race Vettel was running 2nd in the championship 7 points ahead of Nico Rosberg and 3 behind Lewis Hamilton.
Delighted and in tears, Sebastian spoke after the race about the meaning of this special victory:
“Grande gara, bella macchina! Today is such a special day for me. I don't really know what to say, I am speechless. It's not only one childhood dream that becomes true, it seems to be many dreams together. It was amazing to look down from the podium and see the mechanics, the engineers, the whole team and listen to the German and Italian anthems.”
Giulia Noto – Vettel’s “not an ordinary driver”
Sebastian Vettel has never been an ordinary driver. Making his debut in 2007, he won his first F1 World Championship in 2010 becoming the youngest driver to ever achieve this goal. Over the years there have been records, podiums, victories and the German driver collected four World Championships.
But in the F1 circus he was able to stand out not only for his talent as a driver, but also and above all for the courage to go beyond what is considered the role itself of a F1 driver: just drive, politics or other issues does not concern you.
He organized a karting event for women in Saudi Arabia, ahead of his first race in Jeddah, wore the LGBTQ+ pride colours ahead of the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix, arrived at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the 2022 race wearing a T-shirt as a protest of the Canadian Oil and Gas industry. During pre-season testing in Bahrain 2022, he demonstrated his closeness to the Ukrainian people with a dedicated helmet and was one of the first drivers to kneel next to Lewis Hamilton in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the 2020 season.
From human rights, to the support of the LGTBQ+ community, to climate change, Vettel has never been afraid to make his voice heard. Throughout his career he has gifted us with incredible emotions on-track, but he has also given us many important life lessons.
Sebastian Vettel is not an ordinary driver. It is a model to be inspired by, a point of reference of the old and new generations. F1 not only loses a great driver, but above all an exceptional man.
Nicolas Lopes – 2009 Chinese GP – Qualifying heroics
Despite suffering from driveshaft issues in qualifying which meant the car could break down at aby moment, Sebastian Vettel still secured pole position – completing, incredibly, only one flying lap in both Q2 and Q3 – with a margin of 0.2s over nearest rival Fernando Alonso and nearly a 0.3s over team-mate Mark Webber.
After dry running all weekend, Sunday brought heavy rain to the Shanghai circuit, requiring a safety car start – much like in his previous win at Monza. Vettel comfortably led the early stages of the races, until a safety car for an incident between Jarno Trulli and Robert Kubica.
Vettel’s race was nearly undone during this safety car period, as Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso failed to see the Vettel’s car due to the spray, and went into the back of the Red Bull – luckily, no damage for the German but the same couldn’t be said about Buemi.
With scintillating pace in the wet conditions after his final pit stop, Vettel overtook Jenson Button before the Brawn had even pitted for the last time, opening a whole pit stop advantage for the final stages. He led team-mate Webber home to secure Red Bull’s first ever race win and 1-2, in what was, in my opinion, a better performance overall than that of his previous win in Monza.
Marika Codispoti – “A great man”
When we talk about Sebastian Vettel, we refer to a champion, not only for his extraordinary career on the track - with his 4 world titles won with Red Bull - but because he is, above all, a great man, a beautiful person, with a crystalline morality, an activist who supports various causes that involve the world we live in.
Vettel is a man who believes in a better future and who is committed - sometimes bringing these matters also on track, using symbols - to shape it, supporting equality, safeguard of the environment and pursuing peaceful ideals against all forms of discrimination.
The German’s support for the LGBTQ + community is now well known. Several times Vettel has taken it it on track with helmets dedicated to the cause, but it is the people who live with him every day who confirm Vettel's commitment as an ally, as Matt Bishop - Aston Martin's chief of communication - wrote in a Twitter post : “LGBTQ + super-ally Seb will always be special”.
Another cause that Vettel has very much at heart is that of the environment, from the protection of bees - after the Bee Hotel, he became ambassador of the BEESandAPPLE project - to the mission of BWT of which he is ambassador, of guaranteeing safe and clear water to drink, and to prevent and eliminate pollution in Oceans, Seas and Waters.
There are a multitude of projects that Vettel is a part of, which make him an idol for many young people, who one step at a time could really change the world.
Edward Spencer – “Humble” Vettel is a “delight” to talk to
For a man who has won everything in Formula 1, Sebastian Vettel could have been arrogant and aloof when approached by random fans for a picture or by a journalist making their debut in the paddock.
But that's just not him, and during my three-race spell in the paddock, I found Vettel (a man I deeply admired growing up) to be extremely humble and gracious, and who would give you a long answer to even the simplest of questions. Moreover, he truly is a delight to talk to on any sort of topic; whether that's sustainability or the history of the sport, you'll always get a good answer from him.
Watching him in his Williams FW14B at Silverstone powered by sustainable fuel was a pleasure and summed up Vettel in the final few years of his career, a traditionalist bringing the past into the future; no wonder the sell-out crowd and Nigel Mansell loved the demonstration laps so much.
No one quite knows what he will get up to next year, but one thing is for sure the paddock will feel like a much poorer place without him and his voice.