Number 10 – Seb Dominates A Firetruck? (Korea 2013)
“They told me I could be anything…So I decided to be a fire-truck and beat Sebastian Vettel!” Sadly, because of Seb’s nature and driving style, ie.- Dominating from the front a lot of the time, not all of these are going to be classics, but for sheer nature of dominance, Korea 2013 makes the list, for a race Seb completely controlled from start to finish, even after the safety car for Mark Webber giving up on the season and staging a mid-race barbeque. Insert joke here about what meat in Korea was served on the barbie.
Also, I had to include this, because let’s be honest, the only thing that beat Sebastian in the second half was that goddamn fire truck.
Number 9 – The Title Swinger (Japan 2012)
If you ever needed a moment that swing the 2012 season on its head, this was the one. Raikkonen slashes Alonso’s tyres, Grosjean T-Bone’s Webber into oblivion, and all of a sudden, Alonso’s championship lead evaporates as Sebastian Vettel dominated the Japanese Grand Prix, his favourite track to reduce the deficit to just four points.
It was a very rare thing in F1, a Grand Slam victory, where a driver wins the race from pole position, sets the fastest lap, and leads every single racing lap in the process, a feat that Seb has achieved on four occasions, Japan 2012 being one of them. The magnitude of how it swung the title race, and the four-race winning streak that Seb would go on down the road, give this one the nine slot.
Number 8 – Breaking In The New Boy (India 2011)
So where did that first Grand Slam come from? That’s right, the very first GP in India and the Buddh International Circuit. And it was the perfect weekend for the reigning Champion, where Vettel topped every practise session, qualified on pole, and won while leading every lap, at a time where Jenson Button was driving as well as I’ve ever seen, punching well above his weight in that McLaren. He was the only other guy in the same postcode.
Seb’s record in India has been exceptional, having qualified on pole and won on all three Indian Grand Prixs there since it’s arrival in 2011. Hope it comes back soon, I miss the place. Seriously, why would you rather go to Korea?
Number 7 – The Home Win (Germany 2013)
Would you believe for a guy with 39 career wins, only one has come at home? It took Seb seven years, but in 2013, he finally took a race win at home at the Nurburgring. And BOY did he have to earn it.
This was a weekend that, despite Red Bull’s early dominance, Lotus came to play, and Vettel had to fend off a game Romain Grosjean, who had done an excellent job looking after his tyres and staying in Seb’s wing mirror’s from start to finish, and the late arriving and 3-stopping Kimi Raikkonen, who was setting some scintillating times at the end of the race in a desperate attempt to steal the win.
Vettel, with a broken KERS unit, did an incredible job to hold off the charging Lotus drivers and take his first win in Germany, under intense pressure, with a compromised car.
Number 6 – The Point Of No Return (Monaco 2011)
Speaking of intense pressure. A lot of people call out Seb for saying he cracks under pressure, pointing out Canada 2011 as an example, but very conveniently ignore the race before hand where Seb had the mother of all defending jobs on his hands.
Sebastian was on a 1-stopper with just a few laps to go until the end, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button right on his tail, on much fresher rubber, and given the nature of Monaco, couldn’t find a way through. In spite of this, and on tyres nearly 40 laps old, Seb didn’t even flinch or make a single mistake, under the extreme pressure of two World Champions behind in cars equally fast, and with a Monaco wall just a hair width’s away.
A shame we never got the true ending to the race, as the Pastor Maldonado Red Flag, and the tyre changing rules that followed, effectively turned the final 5 laps into a procession, but Vettel earned that win in emphatic fashion.
Number 5 – A Bit Of Everything (Spain 2011)
Because who knew the 4-stop strategy would be so effective? Seb had to recovery from a less than ideal start, as Alonso pulled off an incredible launch to nab 1st through Turn 1, so Seb had to resort to a 4-stop strategy and a pair of risky undercuts in order to find a way around a fast opening pack of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.
What made the situation even worse, was after the 1st stop, Vettel was released into traffic, and had to clear Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov at the risk of losing time, and did so in supreme fashion.
Add on top of that, a late charging Hamilton, and some key pressure driving at the end, and you have a classic Sebastian Vettel performance, in a race where Seb and Lewis were in a different planet to everyone else, with only four drivers finishing on the same racing lap. How many times can you say that Fernando Alonso got lapped on pure pace alone?
Number 4 – A Star Was Born (Abu Dhabi 2010)
Okay, Abu Dhabi 2010 wasn’t an exciting race. At all. I’ll be the first guy to admit it. Vettel led from start to finish and the McLaren’s were only minor threats in 2nd and 3rd. But, the nature of the race made it so important.
2010 was a back and forth season with no real dominant car. McLaren had their moments, so did Alonso’s Ferrari, and obviously Vettel and Webber too, who came off a double donut in the penultimate round in Korea, Webber spinning into the wall, and Vettel’s engine failing with just two laps to go.
But Seb controlled his destiny, took pole position and won excellently controlling his destiny on the final round, where anyone of four drivers could have left the desert as Champion. A WDC made even sweeter when you realize that Sebastian had NEVER lead the Championship at all, until right when it mattered most. The emotion and tears afterwards says it all, this was a special moment, and Formula 1 had been gifted its 5th different champion in five consecutive years.
And who could forget Fernando Alonso giving Vitaly Petrov the finger? Truly a special moment.
Number 3 – Total Annihilation (Singapore 2013)
Simply put, the most devastating drive of Sebastian Vettel’s career. This performance was simply OUTRAGEOUS. After Daniel Ricciardo hit the wall in Sector 3, a safety car came out, ruining a comfortable 11 second lead that Seb had. After words, knowing he had to stop again, Seb put the hammer down and went TWO SECONDS a lap faster than his opposition, stopped again for a new pair of Super Softs, and simply decimated the rest of the field who was 2-stopping, by 34 seconds, amassing a pit-stop advantage in the process, very similar to how Lewis Hamilton beat him a year later.
And this was another significant race for another reason. This performance was so spectacular, many F1 journalists and personalities reckoned the car was illegal, and the booing that Vettel had suffered throughout the season stopped as the teams rallied behind Seb. A truly amazing performance under the lights.
Number 2 – The Recovery, Part 1 (Abu Dhabi 2012)
Sometimes, it isn’t a win that marks an incredible performance. Sometimes, it takes true grit and determination, when your back’s against the wall. And that’s what happened in Abu Dhabi in 2012.
After a fuel pump problem, Vettel had to start from the back of the grid after being disqualified in qualifying, and as a result, chose the pit-lane. What would happen next was a crazy sequence of him flying through the underside of the field, until a Safety Car came out after Nico Rosberg ended up humping Narain’s HRT like a jungle porno movie.
And after Daniel Ricciardo’s swerving caused Vettel to change his front wing in the pits due to damage, he did it again, fighting through Grosjean, Senna, Schumacher and others, taking advantage of the others misfortune and eventually sealing the podium with a pass of the year contender on Jenson Button around the outside of the Triple Chicane, a pass JB himself said “was one of the bravest he’d ever seen”.
It was a Championship saving performance from Seb, who only gave up 3 points to Fernando Alonso who finished just a handful of seconds up the road in 2nd. But believe it or not, there was one better than this…
Number 1 – The Recovery, Part 2 (Brazil 2012)
I had to seriously debate which of the Top 2 I wanted to put here, but I chose this one. A truly career-defining drive from Sebastian, when he absolutely had to pull something out of the fire.
After a poor start, Vettel hit Bruno Senna at Turn 4 of the opening lap and had a damaged left diffuser, but was able to continue. Despite the damage, Vettel fought his way through the field in the changeable Brazilian conditions, with some of the best opening 20 laps you could ever see, carving his way into 5th place before a Safety Car and the rain came into play.
Despite the delay in the pits when the rain came down again, a pass on Michael Schumacher cemented six place, and Seb’s 3rd World Championship in spectacular fashion.
Nearly everything came out of the woodwork to stop Seb on the day, but it just wasn’t meant to be, and if you ever need a drive to sum up the man’s career, I would take this one right at the top. Because what he managed to do, with his back to wall, in the rain, with a damaged car, was out of this world, and that’s what it HAD to be to stop Fernando Alonso. The trifecta was complete, and man, did he earn it.
Any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments!