July 3, 1987
Infiniti Red Bull Racing
|Career statistics to end 2013|
The scene: the press conference room in the Abu Dhabi Media Centre, November 2013.
Sebastian Vettel has just won for the seventh time in a row. A journalist asks how it feels to be in the company of Michael Schumacher, who did the same for Ferrari in 2004. The 26-year-old German, for once, is lost for words.
He gathers himself and says, quietly: “You have to stop asking me these questions because when you do I remember what it all means…”
Two races later it meant even more. With victories in Texas and Brazil Vettelequalled the nine successive wins achieved by Alberto Ascari, also for Ferrari. But the Italian had needed to bridge two seasons, 1952-53, to do it.
Not only that, but Vettel had also matched another seemingly untouchable achievement of Schumacher’s: 13 wins in a single season, which Michael also did in 2004.
So the Australian Grand Prix of 2014 gives Vettel the opportunity to do something no man has ever done before: win 10 World Championship Grands Prix in succession.
That’s the upside of Seb.
The downside? To Aussie fans, and to many Mark Webber fans around the world, it was encapsulated by the very first of those 13 victories. It came in Malaysia, and it came at the cost of much of the respect Vettel had earned by his on-track exploits.
Some people say it was as much the infamous ‘Multi-21, Seb,’ incident at Sepangand the proof it gave of Vettel’s selfishness that triggered the booing of him later in the season. Others think it was simple boredom that the same bloke was winning every race.
Love him or hate him, Vettel is now a four-time World Champion. To put that in context, only four men have ever achieved it: the other three are called Fangio, Prost and Schumacher. Will 2014 give us more of the same – or will the radical new regulations level the playing-field?