The debate over who is the most-hyped driver in Formula 1 is a short one. But who is the second most-hyped driver in F1 after Lewis Hamilton?
Sebastian Vettel may be a candidate. He arrived in the sport at a rude young age last year and is apparently already being considered for a promotion to Red Bull in 2009 from its Toro Rosso ‘junior’ team. What do you think of the young German driver?
On his way through the junior ranks Vettel achieved what must be one of the most dominant performances ever seen in a championship. In 2004 he claimed the German Formula BMW championship with 387 points from a maximum of 400, winning 18 of the 20 races.
He narrowly missed out on the 2006 Formula Three Euroseries title to Paul di Rests, but interrupted his campaign with a brief foray into the World Series by Renault, where he won on his debut.
Last year Vettel was on duty as a BMW test driver while leading the World Series, when Robert Kunica’s crash in the Canadian Grand Prix gave him the chance of a one-off start in the United States round.
In his maiden F1 race he qualified inside the top ten and, despite going off at turn one, brought the car home in the points on a day when few of the front runners retired. That made him F1’s youngest ever points scorer.
Vettel returned to F1 with Toro Rosso following the sacking of Scott Speed. Although Vettel had spent several years with BMW, it was Red Bull who had priority on his services for the future and he joined the team full-time for 2008.
The more experienced Vitantonio Liuzzi ran him close over the final races of 2007 but Vettel was in the right place at the right time to score a fine fourth place for the team in the Chinese Grand Prix with a masterful strategic call.
It wiped the slate clean a week after he had taken fellow Red Bull driver out of the Japanese Grand Prix while Webber was running second under the safety car and eyeing a tilt at race leader Lewis Hamilton.
An exasperating start to 2008 saw Vettel retire from the first four races, partly due to two first-lap collisions for which he was largely blameless. At Melbourne he qualified in the top ten.
Although he has comparatively few starts to his name he is already considered by many to be a star of the future. Even Michael Schumacher has spoken highly of him.
How do you rate Sebastian Vettel? Does he deserve a top-line drive in 2009?