Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sebastien Vettel Grabs Pole Position in Shanghai

Sebastian Vettel (born July 3, 1987 in Heppenheim) is a German race car driver. He drives for Red Bull Racing having replaced former driver David Coulthard.
By taking part in Friday practice for the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, Vettel became the youngest Formula One driver to drive at a Grand Prix meeting, at 19 years and 53 days. On Sunday September 30, 2007, during the Japanese Grand Prix Vettel became the youngest driver to lead a Formula One race. (Mike Thackwell remains the youngest driver to compete in a championship Grand Prix race; Nico Rosberg the youngest to drive an F1 car in private testing) He also became the quickest driver to get a fine in F1, being fined $1,000 nine seconds into his career, after speeding in the pitlane. He went on to become the sixth youngest driver to start a Grand Prix and the youngest driver to score points in a Grand Prix. During qualifying for the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, Vettel became the youngest Formula One driver to win pole position. He went on to win the race, making him the youngest F1 race winner by nearly a year.

Junior Series

Vettel demonstrating his Formula Three Euroseries car in 2006
Vettel started racing karts in 1995, winning various titles such as the Junior Monaco Kart Cup (2001). In 2003, he upgraded to open-wheel cars, and won the 2004 German Formula BMW Championship with 18 victories from 20 races. In 2005 he drove for ASL Mucke Motorsport in the Formula Three Euroseries. He was placed fifth in the final standings with 64 points, winning the year's top rookie honours. He did not win any races, but this was largely due to the championship's domination by Lewis Hamilton. Despite, this, he tested the Williams FW27 Formula One car on September 27 as a reward for this Formula BMW success. He then went on to test for the BMW Sauber team.
Vettel finished as runner-up in the 2006 F3 Euroseries, behind series leader Paul di Resta. He also made his debut in the World Series by Renault at Misano, winning after Pastor Maldonado was disqualified. However, at the next round at Spa-Francorchamps, his finger was almost sliced off by flying débris in an accident, and he was expected to be out of racing for several weeks.

However, he managed to compete in the Ultimate Masters of F3 at Zandvoort the following weekend, finishing in sixth place. He also set third fastest lap time, and it surprised his ASM team boss Frédéric Vasseur. Vasseur said: "I was impressed for sure, because at the beginning of the week I was sure he wouldn't race! But he showed good pace from the first practice session. I can't imagine he's 100 per cent but at least we know we can be competitive in the next F3 Euroseries round at the Nürburgring next weekend - that's important."

Vettel became BMW Sauber's third driver at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, when former incumbent Robert Kubica was called up to replace Jacques Villeneuve for the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Vettel impressed on his testing debut by setting fastest time in second Friday Free Practice before the race.The young German also impressed on his second testing session in the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, setting the fastest time in both Friday practice sessions, a race weekend in which all the BMW cars were quick, with his predecessor Robert Kubica finishing on the podium in the race.
He was confirmed as BMW's test driver for 2007, and also competed in the World Series by Renault Championship, where he had his first win at the Nürburgring. He was leading the championship when he was called up to F1 permanently, and his seat was taken by Michael Ammermüller.

Formula One

Vettel made his Formula One debut at the 2007 United States Grand Prix, driving for BMW Sauber.

2007: BMW Sauber
Following the serious crash of regular BMW driver Robert Kubica at the Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel substituted for him at the US Grand Prix and started in seventh position on the grid, finishing in eighth position, thanks to Nico Rosberg's late retirement, to take his first F1 World Championship point and became the youngest driver ever to score a point in Formula One (at the age of 19 years and 349 days), a record previously held by Jenson Button – who was 20 years and 67 days old when he finished sixth at the 2000 Brazilian Grand Prix.
2007-2008: Toro Rosso

On July 31, 2007, BMW released Vettel to join Red Bull's Scuderia Toro Rosso team, replacing Scott Speed as race driver as of the Hungarian Grand Prix. He earned approximately $165,000 for finishing the season with Toro Rosso. Before the race, it was also announced that Vettel would drive for STR in 2008. His team-mate would be Sébastien Bourdais.

Vettel struggled to keep up with Liuzzi's pace at Budapest, Istanbul, Monza and Spa, and never managed to progress amongst the lower-midfield pack (Toyota, Honda, Toro Rosso, Super Aguri). In the rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, Vettel worked his way up to third behind Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber, and seemed to be on course for not only his but also Toro Rosso's maiden podium finish. However, Vettel crashed into Webber under safety car conditions taking them both out of the race and prompting Webber to say to ITV reporter Louise Goodman “It’s kids isn’t it... kids with not enough experience – they do a good job and then they fuck it all up.” Vettel was caught on camera crying after the incident. He was initially punished with a ten-place grid penalty for the following race, but this was lifted after a spectator video on YouTube showed the incident may have been caused by Hamilton's behaviour behind the safety car, which Hamilton was also cleared of.

However, Vettel bounced back to finish a career-best fourth a week later at the Chinese GP having started 17th in mixed conditions. He collected five championship points, making it both his and Toro Rosso's best race result.

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz believes Vettel will be one of Formula One's big stars in the future. "Vettel is one of the young guys with extraordinary potential ! He is fast, intelligent, and he is very interested in the technical side."

According to some sources, at the end of the 2007 season Vettel was contacted by McLaren in order to replace Spanish two-time world champion Fernando Alonso who left the British team for Renault in the same period. The talks between McLaren chief Ron Dennis and Dietrich Mateschitz failed however, the Red Bull boss refusing a multi million Euro deal for the young German driver.

After four races of the 2008 Formula One season Vettel was the only driver to have failed to finish a single race, having retired on the first lap in three of them. In each of these three instances, he was involved in accidents caused by other drivers. However, at the fifth round at the Turkish Grand Prix, he finally saw the chequered flag, finishing 17th after qualifying 14th. In the next race at the Monaco Grand Prix, Vettel scored his first points of the 2008 Season with a fifth place finish, mainly due to the changing conditions. Vettel also benefitted from the downfall of other drivers, such as Adrian Sutil and Heikki Kovalainen. Vettel scored again at the Canadian Grand Prix after starting from the pit lane and having to fight off Heikki Kovalainen in the last few laps for the final championship point. Vettel finished 12th in the French Grand Prix after passing Hamilton at the start. Vettel retired on the first lap of the British Grand Prix after being clipped by David Coulthard and aquaplaning into the gravel trap along with the Red Bull driver. He then bounced back from this by finishing eighth at the German Grand Prix by fending off Fernando Alonso and securing the last championship point after Jarno Trulli went off the track. Vettel then became the first retirement of the Hungarian Grand Prix after his engine overheated during his first pit stop. Vettel impressed many at the European Grand Prix by setting the fastest time in the first practice session and fastest time in the second qualifying session, which was also the fastest overall time in qualifying. He qualified 6th on the grid, and finished 6th, 2 seconds behind Jarno Trulli.
At the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, Vettel became the youngest driver in history to win a Formula One Grand Prix. Aged 21 years and 74 days, Vettel broke the record set by Alonso at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix by 317 days as he won in wet conditions at Monza. Vettel led for the majority of the Grand Prix and crossed the finish line 12.5 seconds ahead of McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen.

Earlier in the weekend, he had already become the youngest polesitter, after setting the fastest times in both Q2 and Q3 qualifying stages, and his win also gave him the record of youngest podium-finisher. Toro Rosso team boss Gerhard Berger said, "As he proved today, he can win races, but he's going to win world championships. He's a cool guy". Hamilton praised the German, stating that this victory showed "how good he is".

Alonso, whom Vettel displaced as the youngest Grand Prix winner, said the victory was "deserved" by the whole of the Toro Rosso team. The nature of the victory and the story of the 21 year old's fledgling career led the German media to dub him "baby Schumi", although Vettel was quick to downplay the expectation the result has brought, particularly the comparison with the seven-time World Champion: "To compare me with Michael Schumacher is just a bit ridiculous...It will be difficult in normal conditions for us to repeat this achievement". He then went on to finish fourth at the Singapore Grand Prix and fifth at the Japanese Grand Prix.
In the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, after running second for much of the race, Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton in the rain for fifth place on the penultimate lap to contribute to a thrilling climax to the season. He nearly deprived the McLaren driver of the championship before Timo Glock slowed dramatically on the last lap (he was struggling with dry tyres in the ever increasing rain) enabling both Vettel and Hamilton to pass him, earning the Briton the title.

2009 onwards: Red Bull Racing

At the start of the 2009 season, Vettel replaced David Coulthard at Red Bull Racing.
Vettel began strongly at the Australian Grand Prix, qualifying third and running in second for the majority of the race. However, a clash with Robert Kubica over second place on the third last lap of the race forced both to retire. He thought that he would be asble to do this because the yellow flag resulting from his incident forbids overtaking. Vettel attempted to finish the race on three wheels behind the safety car to salvage some points, but eventually pulled off to the side. He was given a ten-place grid penalty for the next race, the Malaysian Grand Prix, and his team was fined for instructing him to stay on track after the damage occurred. In Malaysia he qualified in third position, but was demoted down to 13th due to his ten-place grid drop. He spun out of the race while eighth, just before the race was stopped due to adverse weather conditions. However in China he went on to take pole position, the first pole for the Red Bull Racing team.

Race of Champions
Vettel competed in the 2007 Race of Champions, representing the German team alongside Michael Schumacher. Vettel and Schumacher won the Nation's Cup Title, after exciting finals. Vettel had to beat two RoC champions, Kovalainen and Marcus Grönholm, after Schumacher stalled his car. Vettel lost the individual competition however, in first heat, in his second battle against Kovalainen.

Helmet design

The Bergstraße Coat of Arms that appears on the chin area of Vettel's helmet
Vettel's helmet, like most of Red Bull's drivers, is heavily influenced by the energy drink company logo. Apart from minor changes and sponsorship differences, it has rarely changed over the years since he has been backed by Red Bull.

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