Formula One’s youngest world champion was always a man in a hurry
From the very first moment he arrived in Formula One as a curly-haired teenager, new world champion Sebastian Vettel was a young man in a hurry.
The 23-year-old Red Bull Driver, who became the youngest winner of the drivers’ championship with victory in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, has set records from day one.
Within seconds of his debut in Friday practice at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, he had been fined for speeding in the pit lane. The youngest driver to take part in a practice session, in quick succession he became the youngest to score a point, youngest to secure pole position and youngest to win a grand prix.
Born in the same year that Red Bull sold their first can of energy drink, the race ace with the look of a tousled schoolboy and cheeky grin has always seemed a marketing match made in heaven for the newly crowned Formula One constructors’ champions.
Irreverent, with a penchant for British humour and the Beatles, there has never been any doubt that Vettel is Austrian-owned Red Bull’s blue-eyed boy.
Helmut Marko, the former grand prix racer who is a close advisor to Red Bull’s billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz, has championed his cause from an early age and was on the podium, showered in champagne, as Vettel celebrated the biggest win of his life on Sunday.
Vettel, only the second man to win the title for Germany after Michael Schumacher, has also saved the best for last, for the moment when it truly mattered.
This season he has taken 10 pole positions and won five races and yet remains the only one of the four title contenders who had not led the championship before Sunday, when he clinched victory in Abu Dhabi for the second year in a row.
In taking the biggest prize of all, he dashed the dreams of team mate Mark Webber but that will not have troubled him any more than the Australian was able to trouble the leaders as his season fizzled out in disappointment.
The two Red Bull men have spent the season skirmishing, and collided embarrassingly in Turkey in May.
Dubbed ‘Baby Schumi’, a tag he has long disliked and rejected, by the German media early in his precocious rise through the sport’s feeder series, Vettel is far from the stereotypical German.
An avid fan of British television comedy from Monty Python to Little Britain, the carpenter’s son from Heppenheim masks his deadly serious intent with a playful spirit.
He has given all his cars female names, this season progressing from ‘Luscious Liz’ to ‘Randy Mandy’ after previously racing ‘Julie’, ‘Kate’ and taking ‘Kate’s Dirty Sister’ to overall second place last year.
In Abu Dhabi last year, he teased world champion Jenson Button after winning the season-ending race by questioning the startled Briton about his marriage plans, despite repeated denials.
Replacing David Coulthard at Red Bull in 2009 after taking his first win with sister team Toro Rosso, he was asked how many interviews the Scot had sat through during his 15-year Formula One career.
“My guess is that it is probably three times the amount of women he had, something around 30,000?,” he hazarded mischievously.
Vettel’s boyhood heroes, he told the official formula1.com website earlier this year, were always the ‘Three Michaels’ — Michael Schumacher, Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson.
“I wanted to become Michael Jackson when I was young,” added the blond racing driver. “It was painful to realise that I didn’t have the voice.”
PHOTO: Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates his championship win at the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Crisp