Youngest champion Vettel rewriting the record books in Formula One

 By Bill Center

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 8:27 p.m.

Things could have turned out a lot different for Sebastian Vettel if he could carry a note or shoot a basketball.
Growing up in Germany, Vettel said his three childhood heroes were the “three Michaels” — Jackson, Jordan and Schumacher.
Vettel says it was because he couldn’t sing nor shoot a basketball that he decided to pursue the footsteps of Michael No. 3 and start racing cars. He climbed aboard his first kart in 1995 just before his eighth birthday.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, Vettel is rewriting the record book in the most technically-advanced form of racing — Formula One.
Last season, at the age of 23, Vettel became the youngest champion in the 61-year history of the World Championship tour. It was the sixth time that the German driver broke the “youngest” barrier in F-1.
In 2006, at the age of 19 years and 53 days, he became the youngest driver ever to drive a Formula One car during a practice session on a race weekend. The following year in the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis, he became the youngest driver to earn points in a Grand Prix.
In 2008, he became the youngest drive to lead a race. And in Italy toward the end of the season, he became the youngest driver to win the pole and win a race. In 2009, he became the youngest driver to finish second in the standings. Last year, the youngest champion.
This year, he could become the youngest two-time champion. Vettel last week celebrated the delayed start to the 2011 season by winning the Australian Grand Prix for the Red Bull team that he and teammate Mark Webber led to the World Constructors title in 2011.
Vettel already has a dozen wins and 16 poles to his credit at the age of 23.
He has such fabled teams as Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes playing catch-up.
There have been several major incidents in the F-1 season already.
Robert Kubica suffered major fractures to his arms, legs and hands in the Andora rally just before F-1 testing, forcing Lotus-Renault to sign Nick Heidfeld as his replacement for possibly the entire 2011 season.
And unrest in Bahrain forced Formula One to cancel the season opener.
While the Vettel-led Red Bull tandem appears the team to beat in 2011, there are other formidable combinations.
McLaren-Mercedes has the driver combination of former World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Ferrari has its own former World Champion in Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Both Hamilton and Alonso are former youngest-ever champions.
Other teams include Mercedes GP (seven-time champion Schumacher and Nico Rosberg), Lotus Renault (Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov), Cosworth-powered AT&T Williams (Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado) and Team Lotus Renault (Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen).
F-1 has a full grid of 24 cars this season, although half the field is uncompetitive.
Pirelli replaces Bridgestone as the sole supplier of tires this season and F-1 has raised fines for gross rules violations from $100,000 to $250,000. F-1 continues to tweak its rules, which is why it is the most technically-advanced and confusing series on the globe.

Copyright 2011 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC


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