“Meet Sebastian Vettel” review


Posted on

| Written by

Meet Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel is one of six world champions on the grid this year. Sadly, neither he nor his fellow champions are well-served by English-language biographies.

You can forget about reading up on Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen for starters. There are a few, mostly fawning, books on Michael Schumacher, though James Allen’s Michael Schumacher: The Edge of Greatness is an exception.

Inevitably it’s the British drivers who have the most English-language books written on them but even here the pickings are slim.

Take Lewis Hamilton, for example: when he burst onto the F1 scene in 2007, biographers were quick to take advantage of the popular but little-known new star.

As that championship drew to a close a succession of around half-a-dozen Hamilton biographies appeared and while a couple may have been worthy of your time the majority were flimsy, uninteresting cash-ins – not least of which the dreary authorised Hamilton biography.

Vettel made his F1 debut the same year as Hamilton. But while there have been a handful of books on him for the German market this is the first English-language biography of Vettel I’ve come across.

Even so the glossy, 142-page book has the unmistakeable feel of a cash-in. Much of the space in the book is given over to images and the large typeface used leaves you with very little reading to do.

The text is translated from the work of Italian journalists Andrea Cremonesi and Marco Degl’Innocenti, who published Sebastian Vettel: La storia e la carriera del piu giovane vincitore di un Gran Premio del Formula Uno last year. In places the leaden prose makes it very clear you are reading a book that’s been translated.

But this is far from the worst thing about this book.

The organisation of the opening chapters is a baffling affair, making the book rather difficult to get into in the first place. It begins with a much-vaunted “exclusive” interview with Vettel, in which we get to learn all about what music he likes and what he thinks of the layout change made at Silverstone two years ago – less than riveting stuff.

The book then jumps around between ordinary prose and Q&As with other people. The disorientating feel is not helped by the vast swathes of images which break up the text for 20 pages at a time in places.

We learn little about Vettel that could not have been gleaned from headlines. In the chapter titled “from karts to F1” his junior racing career is covered in less than four paragraphs, and by the end of the first page he’s reached Formula 1 with BMW.

You might expect matters to improve when we reach the more familiar territory of Vettel’s F1 career. But no, it continues to regurgitate stories we’ve heard plenty of times before, and offers no new analysis, no insight, no revelations, not even any interesting new quotes.

What few details there are manage to get repeated: twice we are told who was the last driver to win a race in an Italian car other than a Ferrari, prior to Vettel’s breakthrough victory at Monza in 2008.

There seems little need to belabour the point: I was not at all impressed with Meet Sebastian Vettel. It reads more like a poorly-written forum post than a book with a 15 retail price.

Aged just 24, Sebastian Vettel has the motor racing world at his feet, has won the world championship twice and is in the process of demolishing every record in the book.

This book somehow manages to make his story boring, and completely fails to do justice to one of the foremost talents of our generation. Avoid it.

Meet Sebastian Vettel: rating

Buy Meet Sebastian Vettel (UK)

Buy Meet Sebastian Vettel (USA)

Meet Sebastian Vettel: The Story of Formula One’s Youngest Champion
Andrea Cremonesi and Marco Degl’Innocenti
Published by Souvenir Press
ISBN: 9780285640856

F1 Fanatic earns a commission on products sold via the links to our affiliate partners above, however you are not charged any extra. See here for more information.


Browse all Reviews

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

50 comments on ““Meet Sebastian Vettel” review”

  1. A Bio of only 142 pages? Shheeesshhh, Seb must have done more then 142 pages worth of things in his life (2 WDCs??) to fill in a bit more. Ive read my fair share of Driver [Auto]Biographies and all of them have been +300 pages, even those of guys that only drove in F1 for a few years. And even then, its cramed in with histories, race reviews and the always entertaining anicdotes.

  2. A-Safieldin (@)
    26th February 2012, 11:08

    Well this raises a bigger issue, despite this being a poor book, perhaps F1 drivers today are boring, they are basically guided into F1 from birth, no more Mansells who sell everything to buy a race car, no more Hunts who buy an old mini and try to make it as racers. I’m not being negative but F1 drivers today are just boring, maybe that’s what makes them such good drivers.

    1. No, it’s just authors trying to cash in on the success of the drivers. The authors of this book clearly haven’t gone into any great lengths to actually learn who Sebastian Vettel really is, but just tell everybody what he has achieved in his career (facts which we already know). Watching Vettel’s interviews, I certainly don’t get any impression that he is boring, but rather a fun and lively character. If the authors of this book created a biography on James Hunt, with their mentality it wouldn’t be any better.

      1. A-Safieldin (@)
        26th February 2012, 12:13

        I get where you’re coming from, I realize that this is a particularly bad book. What I meant is that drivers themselves have no “Hollywood-esque” stories now days. I cant say Sebastian Vettel is a boring person I sadly don’t know him but his story is more or less the same as every other guy on the grid. Dad buys kart, son drives, son succeeds, son goes into various formula’s before making the top. He has no life before racing since he began racing when he was 4 or 5, on the other hand James Hunt’s story is interesting even if you merely wikipeaded him and paraphrased what you read.

    2. I think you are right, very few of the drivers show any kind of character outside of what their PR guys would let you see (Button, is who I see as the most open) and dont come across as be particually exciting people outside of the car. Or to put it this way, if I used a “Fantasy Dinner Party” scenario, none of the current grid (aside from Button) would be invited, Yet I have a list as long as my arm of former/deceased drivers who I would invite!

    3. I think it reflects the different priorities of publishers compared to even 10 years ago (when even mid-grid drivers could expect someone like Christopher Hilton to write a few words in book form about them). Nowadays only surefire “winners” get backed by the big publishing houses, which tends to mean heroes from the same country as the publishing house in question, plus translated versions of books that worked elsewhere. It’s no coincidence that only 3 of the 6 F1 champions have a book written about them in English (and that Michael had to get 2 titles and a supporter in a major English-speaking broadcasting team before getting a book about him in English).

      1. Apart from the Timothy Collings book about Michael, which I didn’t know about before seeing the link Keith posted. Thank you for directing me towards some quality F1 reading!

        1. You’re welcome!

      2. The loss of Christopher Hilton was definitely a big one, in my opinion (speaking as a bookseller and an F1 fan).

        1. @leucocrystal Mind if I ask which bookseller you work for?

          1. Not at all! I gained my best experience with a local indie (which sadly is no more), but now work with Barnes & Noble.

            Granted, being an American company, and living in California, any books on motorsport turning up are a rarity unless you look to special order (I was pleasantly shocked that we got in a copy of the latest Autocourse annual a couple weeks ago!). From what I’ve seen, the UK and even Australia have much more available than we do here.

            I had more luck in my indie days, as it involved being in direct contact with a lot of the smaller publishing houses), but I’ve read just about whatever I can get my hands on when it comes to drivers that interest me. Hilton’s body of work was enormous, and it saddened me that so little was written about him after he passed away.

          2. @leucocrystal Hilton was nothing if not prolific! I used to get two or three books a year by him.

            Interestingly, I did review an F1 book by an American quite recently:

            “The Limit: Life and death in Formula 1′s most dangerous era” – review

            Also, I’m currently trying to get my hands on a new book on F1 racing at Watkins Glen.

          3. @Keith Collantine I’ve been eyeing The Limit for some time now, so I’ll definitely check out your review!

            I had to do a double take at the title though, heh, I nearly misread it as Life at the Limit (i.e. the title of Sid Watkins’ book, which I just finished last week, and was quite excellent).

    4. And of course drivers from the 50’s and 60’s also become infinitely more interesting by constantly racing in a variety of series.

    5. it’s the same in most sports these days to be successful you have to be pretty single minded not as many characters unfortunatly

  3. Keith, are the images at least good? I mean, it still sounds pretty disappointing all in all, but if at least those pictures are good quality and interesting views of him/RBR car, that might go some way to explaining the price, and making it a nice coffee-table thing.

    It’s weird, Vettel usually is quite entertaining to listen to off-track, intelligent and witty, certainly earlier in his career (now it might be harder to get him as he has more attention and pressure), so there should be a lot of good quotes, and he seems approachable enough (and Red Bull would likely encourage interest, you’d think) that there must be a lot more to put in a book. Perhaps if I want that, I’d have to read it in German though?

    1. The only images of Vettel in existance, is with him showing the alternative one-fiinger salute. They had to manipulate the cover image to remove the finger. :D

    2. @bosyber They’re OK but not worth buying the book for. It’s not a “coffee table” book as such – it’s a small, square softback whereas those tend to be large, hardback affairs where the emphasis is on the pictures. This seemed to be a question of using as many images as possible to make the book a decent length even though there’s not actually much to read.

      As it happens I have had a few books of F1 photography in recently and they will most likely be reviewed next week.

      1. A-Safieldin (@)
        26th February 2012, 12:15

        Wasn’t there one being peddled on Formula1.com several years ago, those pictures were pretty stunning.

        1. A-Safieldin (@)
          26th February 2012, 13:30

          Yea its called The Official Formula 1 Opus here are some figures:
          3000 pounds

          1. 3000 pounds

            I guess that is not what it put on the scales, right …


      2. Thanks @keithcollantine, sad to hear it is really that disappointing, but I’ll be looking forward to those reviews!

        Last weeks pictures from the test showed once again how much potential there is for amazing photography of F1.

  4. I read through it recently, being a big Vettel fan i wanted to buy it but having flicked through it there wasn’t really anything i didn’t already know about him and it seems to be an idiots guide about Seb Vettel, as if it assumes no-one in the UK has ever heard of him. It certainly wasn’t worth £15. James Allen’s book on Schumi was very good and hopefully a really good journalist or expert takes it upon themselves to write a good book about Seb, as you said he deserves so much more.
    Its a shame that for once there’s an English written book about him but it doesn’t do him justice

  5. The only thing that could have made the cover worse is a finger photoshopped on it. Or maybe they photoshopped it off…

    I wouldn’t turn down a good book about Vettel – it’s shame that his past is summed up in four paragraphs like you said, as that’s what I’d be looking for most.

  6. It’s quite obviously a cash-in, as you put it.

    A good biography needs to be written at a time when the story has been complete, and sufficient material to enable editing of boring or inconsequential bits out. At the moment, he’s at the top of his game, we don’t fully appreciate his achievements yet, and his legacy hasn’t been developed.

    If we were to write a biography about many other great drivers at the same point in their careers that this book was written, the results would be:
    Michael Schumacher (date of publication: 1995). It would be about his rise through F1, his two world championships and his rivalry with Damon Hill.
    Ayrton Senna (date of publication 1989) Depending on how far through the season it was written, it would be about his meteoric rise in F1, his 1988 Championship and his rivalry with Prost at McLaren.
    Jackie Stewart (date of publication 1972) Mostly about his rise through the ranks to Matra, winning a championship there, before moving to Tyrrell.

    All these books would be incredibly dull, and wouldn’t have done these drivers justice.

    1. @davids Actually I have got a biography of Michael Schumacher that was published in late 1994 and it’s a good read. It’s got a lot on his Mercedes sportscar years and early seasons at Benetton:

      “Schumacher: The Life of the New Formula 1 Champion” (Timothy Collings, 1994)

      1. Keith, I think the case of Michael is quite unique in that at such a young age he was able to compete with drivers who were in their own right legends, such as Senna and Prost and thus you would expect that there would be so much more to know and tell. It feels that with Sebastian, like Hamilton, it is too early to maybe write a biography about. Barrichello, now his biography i would love to read.

        1. While that is true to some extent, there already is an interesting story to tell now: him climbing through the ranks to arrive in F1 with an impressive CV, then having impressive drives in 2008 with STR, before joining RBR where they had a great car from the start in 2009, but had to give way to Button in the DDD Brawn, 2010 where he showed great qualifying and races but also had bad luck, and bad judgements but found himself in the last quarter of it and didn’t stop winning until he had the WDC in the last race, continuing that streak during 2011, with 2012 likely to see him be one of the challengers at least.

          Al through it, he has been impressing those who worked with him for his determination, hard work, talent, and his humanity too, as far as I can see. It seems really unlikely one can’t write a good book about that.

    2. Peter Whitworth
      28th February 2012, 13:01

      Hi David
      I think you need to check out ‘Faster!’. It’s Jackie Stewarts biography written in 1970 (with Peter Manso).
      He’d only just won the world championship once, but it details the end of the Matra deal, the start of a year stuck with March before starting with the Tyrell 001 by the end of the year. It also covers Jochen Rindt’s death. A truely fabulous read which shows what can be written about before the career has reached its culmination.

  7. As soon as I read the name of the book I knew this was getting a 1 star review.

  8. 1 star? Ouch. From reading the review it seems only useful for being turned into wood pulp. It’s a pity there’s such an absence of quality f1 biographies. I’d love to read up on Alonso or Raikkonen.
    I have The Edge of Greatness, which is a brilliant book. It shows Schumacher’s determination and dedication to being the best, but also shows the downsides to this unrelenting pursuit. It’s a very balanced book. I also have Michael Schumacher: ‘The Rise of a Genius’. It’s a lot like Meet Seb but it reads like it was put through google translate. Terribly worded and a huge amount of typos!

  9. I do think Vettel deserves a lot better, and I for one am glad I read German and can go into books in that language. Not that the general quality of Vettel books is impressive even there, sadly. But at least I can try.

  10. But if you were a big Vettel fan…

    1. just read what @91jb12, being a bit Vettel fan and actually having looked into it, writes about the book @georedaviesf1 Seems its just a waste of biodiversity

      1. honestly, i was delighted to hear at last an english book about him, but very underwhelmed by the book. Even more so than the German ‘Sebastian Vettel- von Kartfahrer zum Heppenheim bis Weltmeister’ (which in itself was a slight disappointment for the price)
        I’d like to get Sebastian Vettel- Shootingstar der Formel 1 to see if thats any better

  11. On the topic of F1 books I just want to mention that the F1 2011 season review is a beautiful book and has some great stuff in it. I won it in the predictions championship, so big thanks to Keith for that.

  12. I really have never got the appeal of biographies on people who are still very young, especially while they are still in their career of choice. It’s blatant cashing in and I don’t know why anyone would consider them an investment. Wait until the person finishes the career and writes their own book, perhaps collaborating with a professional.

    To know that his entire pre-F1 career is covered on one page is pretty dire!

  13. Drivers like this make me WANT to read five chapters about their karting history. Four paragraphs? Blech.

    1. i know. we all know what happened since he got into F1 but Very few know what it was like before F1, even fewer before he raced proper cars. Would be nice if you could get people like Mario Thiessen, Trevor Carlin etc to contribute.

  14. If you want a good read, pick up either of damon hills 3 books. also Grahams book that he was doing just before he died is awesome, picked it up on ebay, best 3 pound ive spent all year!

    when reading graham hills book u realise how little and how much F1 has changed. I cant recommend it enough!

  15. Forget the Vettel book, surely the biog everyone’s waiting to be reviewed – Alex Yoong: The Driver’s Line

    1. when did he ever beat alonso or webber?

      tho probably interesting to hear about life at the other end of the grid

      1. i thought id put a quote in there from the write up on amazon.

        ‘Battling his team mates, 2-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Streetfighter Mark Webber, how did he cope with the physical and mental trials needed to beat them? Find out in Alex s own words and those who have known his life and times.’

        1. to which the answer is…he didn’t.

  16. I don’t think boring books like this are the result of bland driver personalities only. Such driver biographies made sense some 15-20 years ago; the racing life of a champion, how he rose up the ranks would make a good if not a very interesting read back then. At least you had somebody who had gone through the trouble of digging and collecting difficult to find information for you. Now with the vast amount of information on the net totally unnecessary. Go and read their wiki page and you’ll learn 80% of what the book is about, actually it is better than the book because it will never go out of date.

  17. Surely there might be a good version in German. A good translation might be the ticket if someone was smart enough.

  18. You didn’t like then?

  19. Dave In NZL (now Aus).
    27th February 2012, 22:23

    I have met Sebastian Vettel – as I’m sure many of you have – and he was very enjoyable to talk with. In 2007 at the Melbourne GP he was doing publicity work for BMW at a mall during the race weekend and had plenty of time to talk with the fans, albeit in hilarious, short Germanglish sentences. No funny stories, but opinions of cars and racetracks etc.

    I have the odd day dream about telling him to watch out for Webber at Fuji and that we would win in the rain at Monza in the next year.

  20. I think that Vettel is very interesting as a driver and as a personality. His interviews are a funny by any standard, he seem to have a rich life on and out the racetrack (he is interesting enough to be Kimi´s friend).

    But the same as he is interesting he is also very private, never taking his girlfriend on tracks, his family almost never speak to the press, he is not a party-celebrity type of person… so I guess that beside what Vettel tell for himself, he has allowed his friends and family to speak about or Red Bull give us we are not gonna get any more new information…

  21. I’m glad I noticed your review of this book as I saw it reviewed on a Vettel Forum and they gave it a better review. I was considering buying it to learn more about Seb.

    If I buy a biography then I want to read about things I wouldn’t learn from Google etc. I read quite a lot of biographies but never of a motorsport nature. I’ve only really piqued my interest in F1 in the last couple of years so I’m still a newbie.

    I was always critical of Seb when I first started watching the odd bits of races but since seeing him win the 2WC’s and his apperance on Top Gear I have begun to see him a new light. He seems a funny guy and it would be interesting to know how someone so young managed to achieve such an amazing feet but in his own words from a first person perspective and not someone rehashing web stories.

    Maybe I should ask Red Bull if I could write his official biography when I go to Silverstone this year! I wouldn’t mind travelling around a few tracks for a while to get some exclusive access! If they say yes I will of course be asking my fellow F1 Fanatics if there is anything in particular they would like to know! I’ll keep you posted!

Comments are closed.