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Vettel: Formula 1's undervalued whizz kid

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Vettel: Formula 1's undervalued whizz kid
Photo: DPA
12:42 CET+01:00
Sebastian Vettel won his seventh Grand Prix in a row on Sunday equalling Michael Schumacher's 2004 record. Just 26 years old and already a four-time F1 world champion, Vettel is our German of the week.

Born in Heppenheim in the former West Germany, Vettel held up "the three Michaels" as childhood heroes. The first was pop star Michael Jackson, who Vettel wanted to be as a boy.

“It was painful to realise that I didn’t have the voice,” he joked in an interview with Formula 1’s official website www.formula1.com.

Becoming a basketball pro like his second hero Michael Jordan was also not an option, so Vettel decided to trace the tracks of Michael Schumacher.

Apart from sharing a nationality, Vettel draws comparison with the seven-time F1 world champion for his driving style, meticulous concentration and hands-on cooperation with teammates and engineers.

Vettel started amateur karting when he was just three, entering his first Karts series aged eight, and later winning several titles including the German and European Junior Karting Championships.

A 274km/h crash on the notoriously dangerous Spa-Francorchamps race track in Belgium nearly ended his career when he was just 18.

He badly damaged his right index finger, which almost needed to be amputated.

'Don't call me Baby Schumi'

In 2008 Vettel made his big breakthrough with his first Grand Prix victory.

And despite having idolized Schumacher, he brushed off German media attempts to label him “Baby Schumi”, insisting instead he was the “New Vettel”.

He has even overtaken Schumacher as well as other huge names in F1 racing with his achievements.

In 2008 Vettel became the youngest ever F1 race winner with his Italian Grand Prix victory aged just 21. And just two years later he won his first World Championship, making him the youngest world champion in Formula 1 history – ahead of Britain’s Lewis Hamilton.

Although Schumacher still holds the record for the most World Championship victories, at Vettel’s age he had only won two. Vettel has already won four.

After winning all the last seven Grand Prix races, Vettel will equal Alberto Ascari’s record of nine wins in nine if he wins the last two races of the season - in Austria and Brazil. He would also match Schumacher's record of 13 wins in a single year, according to the Guardian.

Not the fans' favourite

But despite his relentless success, Vettel has been given a hard time by fans who attribute his victory to the car rather than driver.

Experts have said that in order to achieve legendary status, Vettel must switch from his current team, Red Bull, and prove himself with another constructor.

But on Wednesday, the 26-year-old responded by saying “I am not thinking about driving for another team. I am happy where I am.

“Even if I switched to another team, there would be people who couldn’t stand me and would criticise me,” he added. Vettel’s current contract with Red Bull runs until the end of 2015.

The young driver has also been booed by spectators in at least six races in 2013, including the Indian Grand Prix at the end of October when he clinched his fourth title.

"It's very difficult for me personally, to get boos, even though you haven't done anything wrong," he told BBC Sport. He suspected the abuse was coming from people who were fed up with seeing one team and one driver dominating the sport.

But Alain Prost, the retired French driver who also won four World Championships, was full of praise for the young German.

“He has understood what he needs to do to get the best results, how he needs to set up the car, and how he must work with his team. He deserves absolutely everything that he has achieved,” Prost said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel.

Zoom through some pictures of the Formula One ace here

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