Some people are born to do a job, and I think it is safe to say that Sebastian Vettel was born to race cars. The young German, born in Heppenheim to Norpert and Heike Vettel, starting amateur karting at the age of three and a half. I don’t know about you, but I think I was still pooping my pants at age three, never mind getting ready to drive a go-kart. It came with little surprise that Vettel formally joined an amateur karting series in 1995, at the tender age of eight. He was an immense talent from the start and immediately began winning races including the Junior Monaco Kart Cup. By 1998, the Red Bull Junior Team had taken notice of Vettel and welcomed him into their young driver program. By 2003, Seb was promoted to open-wheel racing and answered the challenge with the German Formula BMW championship. Needless to say, Vettel was dominating the junior circuits and Formula One teams were beginning to take notice.
The first team to come knocking was Williams Racing. As a reward for his Formula BMW success, Williams let Vettel test their FW27 Formula One car on September 27, 2005. Williams was impressed but unwilling to sign the up-and-coming driver. Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Vettel. He was climbing the ranks in the Formula 3 Euro Series, debuted in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and raced in the Ultimate Masters of F3 despite nearly slicing off his finger in an accident. He continued to carve out a spot in professional racing and it was in 2007 that BMW Sauber took the plunge. They had called the 19-year-old German up to the big leagues.
Vettel wasn’t immediately granted a full-time ride, however, he needed to prove himself as a test driver. His first challenge was the Turkish Grand Prix. In his testing debut, Vettel set the fastest time in the second Friday Free Practice. Notttt a big deal. Oh by the way, Vettel also collected his first fine less than ten seconds into his career for exceeding pit lane speeds. The kid wanted to go fast. Vettel finally got his big chance when Robert Kubica suffered a serious injury in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. Vettel took Kubica’s seat for the United States Grand Prix. He started in seventh position on the grid and finished in eighth position to take his first World Championship point. Not a bad start for the youngster.
On July 31, 2007, Red Bull’s junior team, Toro Rosso, came knocking for their young driver. I suppose BMW Sauber felt they had a terrific driver lineup already, but this driver transfer stings in hindsight. Toro Rosso was given the permission to sign Vettel for the remainder of the 2007 season. And after performing well in 2007, Red Bull Toro Rosso signed him for a long term contract. Vettel continue to race for Toro Rosso until 2009 when he was called upon to replace the retiring David Coulthard at Red Bull. Four World Championships later, Vettel is now considered one of the greatest Formula One drivers in the history of the sport. Born to race indeed.