Sebastian Vettel : ascension fulgurante, lent et douloureux déclin d'un géant

Sebastian Vettel : ascension fulgurante, lent et douloureux déclin d’un géant

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There is no doubt that a whole section of Formula 1 history will fall at the end of the season with the retirement of Sebastian Vettel. “Sebastian is a magnificent driver – fast, smart and strategic – and of course we will miss his qualities”reacted Mike Krack, the team principal of Aston Martin.

By formalizing his end of career on Thursday at only 35 years old, the German will deprive the sport of one of his finest records. With four world titles, the current Aston Martin driver comes immediately after Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher (7) and Juan Manuel Fangio (5) in the golden book of Formula 1. Winner 53 times in Grand Prix, he n ‘was beaten only by Lewis Hamilton (103) and Michael Schumacher (91). And with 57 pole positions to his credit, he is at the foot of the podium on which stand Lewis Hamilton (103), Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65).

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Helped by an era that offered him circuits that were less physically demanding and seasons twice as long, he was able to carve out a statistical place ahead of the giants Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda, ​​Jack Brabham and Jim Clark. But beyond these figures, we will especially remember that the German, at the time of his 300th and last Grand Prix, on November 20 in Abu Dhabi, will have been one of the first symbolic champions of a 21st century. marked by the will of the teams to manufacture their own talents to make them pilot-kings.

Unwavering support from Red Bull

Entering the Red Bull galaxy at the age of 16 after having crushed the BMW championship – a sort of German Formula 4 -, “Baby Schumi” rose through the ranks without curiously winning other titles in the learning formulas. For a simple reason: he was chosen by Helmut Marko, former Formula 1 driver and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Having become one of the best talent scouts in the paddock, the “Doctor” passed on his relative failure in Formula 3 – runner-up – and shortened his career in Formula Renault 3.5 (a GP2 bis) to launch him into the big bath of the F1.

And it is this virtual certainty of one day driving for Red Bull Racing, with unlimited means to train in exchange for regular results, which has perhaps forged the character of Michael Schumacher’s designated successor. Throughout his career, the native of Heppenheim, from a modest family, has indeed behaved as a perfect selfish person, an essential quality to become a champion.

At Red Bull, he surfed on the unspoken – a No. 1 driver status and the unfailing support of Helmut Marko – to dismiss his teammate Mark Webber, through sometimes bloody actions. This was especially true when he refused to obey the team order at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2013 – the famous “Multi 21” requiring the No. 2 to win ahead of its No. 1 -, on the pretext that his Australian teammate had not helped him at the start of the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, a race which had nevertheless crowned him after an unbearable suspense. Sure of his weight in the navy blue garage and behind the scenes, he also went as far as crashing on the track in 2010, in Turkey.

Records in shambles for young first

His team never reproached him for anything publicly because he was the new prodigy, the one who opened the Toro Rosso prize list (pole position and victory at Monza in 2008), and just as much at Red Bull in 2009, as a starter. work to four consecutive coronations for him and Milton Keynes, in the midst of a whole host of precocious records.

Youngest poleman (21 years and 72 days), winner (21 years and 73 days) and world champion (23 years and 135 days), disgusting winner of the last nine Grands Prix in 2013 to the point of being greeted with whistles on the podiums, Sebastian Vettel was above all an example of professionalism for fifteen years. Eyes riveted on telemetry, often the last driver to leave the paddock on Friday and Saturday Grand Prix evenings, he made an impression, particularly at Red Bull with his approach to racing. “He made ultimate use of all the technical possibilitiessummed up Helmut Marko last month in the Red Bulletin. It’s also why he finally got the better of a talented Mark Webber.”

Winner during all these years with a less powerful Renault engine than the competition, invariably starting from the first three places on the grid, Sebastian Vettel however saw his star fade in 2014 at the wheel of a Red Bull with less downforce, to the point to be clearly dominated by hopeful Daniel Ricciardo. He then felt that the time had come to look elsewhere in 2015, and precisely to Ferrari, where his objective was to replicate the saga of his idol, Michael Schumacher. A dream cherished in 2017 and 2018, but refused by Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari bitterness and end of run out of flavor

At the Reds, the story started like at Red Bull, with a team-mate with a space-saving No.2 status named Kimi Räikkönen, until he came up against rising star Charles Leclerc. Recruited at great expense by the Scuderia, Sebastian Vettel thought he had the unconditional support of his boss, Mattia Binotto. He made a big mistake by causing a double retirement at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2019, which undoubtedly sealed his fate at Maranello. His contract expired in 2020, and he took his non-renewal very badly.

Without being able to hide his frustration behind the scenes, like what sometimes happened to him behind the wheel (the “Fuck you Charlie!” in Mexico City in 2016 or the clash with Lewis Hamilton in Baku in 2017), Sebastian Vettel took his revenge by announcing his transfer to Aston Martin on the weekend of the 1000th Ferrari Grand Prix, at Mugello. His personal Ferraris sold a few months later, he lost his ultimate bet to bring out a third team, for lack of time.

With the new factory and wind tunnel operational at best in mid-2023 at Silverstone, he had to plan for 2024 to hope to achieve his ultimate ambitions. His family life – he is the father of three children – and his environmental commitments were more important causes in his eyes. His most noble, certainly.

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