It was 2013, a hot and dusty October afternoon. More than 60,000 fans cheered as a screaming V8-engined race car flanked by Red Bull turned the final corner of 60 laps and crossed the finish line to win the Indian GP for the third time in a row. Went down.
As his team cheered and his rivals clapped, the driver brought car #1 to a screeching halt, then did 3 ‘doughnuts’ – 360-degree spins – as the crowd’s frenzy reached its peak. went.
Amid the tire smoke that was already adding to the general Delhi haze, a small German jumped out. He sank to his knees, bowed to his animal, ran to the crowd, scaled the fence, and threw his gloves to his fans.
History has been made. Sebastian Vettel became world champion for the fourth time.
No one in their right mind at the time would have thought it would be so good for the rascals from Heppenheim, Germany. Which is apparently destined to take down the record of his own idol and arguably F1’s GOAT – Michael Schumacher. Yet F1 can be a brutally fickle sport and the changing regulations that came the following year heralded the rise of a new king of the tracks in the name of Lewis Hamilton.
In the years of Mercedes dominance that followed, it is often easy to forget and undermine the impact of prime Sebastian Vettel on the sport. But after 9 years on the Indian GP podium, Vettel is still the biggest draw in F1, as evidenced by how his surprise retirement announcement took the internet by storm for a second time on Thursday. broke (the first, when she joined Instagram earlier that day, after years of vowing to stay off social media and keep her private life safe).
Vettel’s career can be divided into two perfectly parallel periods. It was his first two years at Torro Rosso, where we first saw Vettel’s explosive talent. His first victory, dragging a backmarker car to a thrilling victory at rain-soaked Monza in 2008, is possibly the best of all time. What followed were 6 dream years for the Red Bull team, where their feats are unmatched to this day – youngest world champion, most wins in a season (13), most consecutive wins (9), most poles in a season (15), and most 4 world championships.
But then came the leap years. Having achieved all that at Red Bull, Vettel dreamed of emulating his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher and bringing the Scuderia back to glory. He came very close in 2017 and 2018 – the only driver to truly challenge Hamilton in that era – but mistakes and ill-conceived team strategies left the dream a dream.
Eclipsing the emerging talent of Charles Leclerc over the next two years, Vettel chose to see out his career at Aston Martin – the team once known as Force India. There were undeniable flashes of brilliance, but a struggling team and a poor car sent home the message that Apple were unlikely to recapture those remarkable heights.
And so he has resigned. But Sebastian leaves the sport far more statistically than any of the top 4 drivers of all time. While the podium champagne has dwindled in recent years, the accolades continue to pour in as Sebastien becomes a true ambassador for the sport as well as realizing the need for change in this world.
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Together with his bitter rival-turned-friend Hamilton, Vettel campaigned for greater inclusion in the sport, bravely wearing Pride gear and helmets in countries with record human rights such as the Middle East.
In the last two years, Vettel championed the cause of the environment like no other driver has ever seen – whether it was staying behind after a race to clean up the mess in the stands, or more about F1 reducing its carbon footprint. To force the adoption of sustainable fuels.
As director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Vettel has been instrumental in advancing driver safety to the point where his fans are now clamoring for his return to the sport in a managerial role following his retirement.
But whether he stays in the paddock, or fades into obscurity, Sebastian Vettel has undoubtedly sealed his place in the pantheon of F1’s greatest, both on and off the track.
As one of the 60,000 screaming fans lined up for the 2013 Indian Grand Prix celebration, all I can say is – Danke Seeb, for the memories and all the best for your next race in life.
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