Formula One: Sebastian Vettel hits new high as youngest world champion
Sebastian Vettel burst on to the F1 scene in 2007, when he stood in for the injured Robert Kubica at BMW Sauber in the US GP.
At 22 he was the youngest man ever to take part in a Grand Prix weekend. He immediately broke another record — nine seconds into his F1 career he was fined $1000 for speeding in the pitlane.
Clearly he was impatient. Not a bad sign, since that is usually allied to speed.
“I'm not very patient,” he admits. “When I started karting I was kind of addicted to it. I wanted to do it again and again. I wanted to be quicker than everyone else. I was attracted by the speed itself, but also by the challenge of being faster than everybody else.”
He says he's still impatient. “Whenever I have to do something, I try to minimise the time it takes me to do it. I just cannot wait.”
That rush was evident when he became the youngest driver to score points in a Grand Prix, with eighth place that day at Indianapolis; later the youngest driver to lead a race, the youngest to take a pole and, at Monza in 2008, when he steered his Toro Rosso brilliantly, the youngest to win a grand prix.
Besides a penchant for breaking records, to which he added yesterday by becoming the youngest-ever world champion, he has a sense of humour (Monty Python and Little Britain figure highly) and an impetuous streak that humanizes him.
Not surprisingly, he became Red Bull's poster boy.
Television viewers have seen him schoolboyishly happy but also angry, as he was after crashing in Turkey. “Generally I have my feelings under control,” he says. “I would say that I am naturally happy, not angry. I enjoy what I'm doing. I love Formula One, but there are some things that make me angry — things not going according to my wishes or plans.”
He thinks for a moment.
“I can't stand traffic! I don't like queuing very much. I can't wait for things to happen. If I want to do something, then I want to do it now. If I want to go somewhere, I want to go there, now!”
He's a well-mannered young man from a strong family background, rather like Lewis Hamilton, and still has his feet firmly on the ground and his head out of the clouds. “I don't consider myself to be famous,” he says. “Politicians are famous. Presidents. Kings. Queens. They are famous. I think that with the way I grew up and the way I live I have no reason to start to fly high.”
Conceding that he is pretty well known, however, and likely to be even more so now, he adds: “There are some advantages with being famous, but on the other hand, the private life is the most important thing and it is not always easy. A lot of people are interested in what you do in your spare time; they try to see a background in whatever shoes or clothes you wear. Sometimes there is not an answer. It is not always easy any more to go out and have a drink.”
That problem just got a lot worse.
Inevitably, he has been tagged the new Schumacher by some, though German racing insiders insist that he is a very different, much more likable fellow.
“It was a different time,” he suggests. “Michael is a legend, and he well deserves to be in that position. I have a very long way to go.”
A world championship was an inevitable part of Sebastian Vettel's future, but it came a little sooner than most expected. You wouldn't bet against several more, and if that record-breaking streak continues, perhaps even Schumacher's achievements will be overshadowed.
Formula One's youngest champions
Sebastien Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 23 yrs, 133 days 2010
Lewis Hamilton (GB) 23 yrs, 301 days 2008
Fernando Alonso (Sp) 24 yrs, 58 days 2005
Emerson Fittipaldi (Br) 25 yrs, 273 days 1972
Michael Schumacher (Ger) 25 yrs, 314 days 1994
Niki Lauda (Aut) 26 yrs, 197 days 1975
Jacques Villeneuve (Can) 26 yrs, 200 days 1997
Jim Clark (GB) 27 yrs, 188 days 1963
Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) 28 yrs, 4 days 2007
Jochen Rindt (Aut) 28 yrs, 140 days 1970*
*Awarded title posthumously, 29 days after his death in qualifying
(Ayrton Senna (Br) 28 yrs, 223 days 1988)