Sebastian Vettel has been retired from F1 for only one year after leaving the sport at the end of the 2022 season, but he had already done more than enough to earn a place on any list of the sport's greatest competitors.
Vettel is one of only five drivers to have won four or more world championships and only seven-time winners Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton have also won in four successive seasons, as Vettel did in his golden run from 2010 to 2013.
The German ace burst onto the scene with his first F1 victory for the midfield Toro Rosso team in the rain at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix and he remains the sport's youngest world champion.
|3rd July 1987
|2007 United States Grand Prix
|Last F1 race
|2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Vettel began karting at the age of three and won the German and European junior championships in 2001 at the age of 14.
He moved to single-seater car racing in 2003 and won the European Formula BMW title the following season, winning 18 of the 20 races.
Vettel was runner-up in the Formula 3 Euro series in 2006 and became the test driver for the Sauber F1 team. He was the youngest driver at the time to take part in an F1 weekend when he drove in a practice session aged 19.
The following season, he was leading the Formula Renault 3.5 series when he was called up to drive for Sauber in the United States Grand Prix after Robert Kubica's major accident in Canada. He qualified seventh and finished eighth to become the sport's youngest points scorer at the time.
Vettel moved over to the Toro Rosso team as he was contracted to the Red Bull organisation and finished fourth in the Chinese Grand Prix after starting 17th on the grid.
He shot to the world's attention in 2008 when he again starred in wet conditions to win the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, setting a new record for the youngest F1 race winner aged 21.
His performances earned him a move to the main Red Bull team and he finished second in the championship in his first season, winning four races.
Vettel dominated F1 from 2010 to 2013, winning 34 races and becoming champion each season.
He won a tight race against Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to secure his first championship by four points after winning three of the final four races. He overcame a 15-point deficit in the last race and was champion despite not leading the standings until the final day of the season.
After becoming the sport's youngest champion, a record he still holds, Vettel won his second title by a vastly larger margin of 122 points over Jenson Button the following year. The 2012 season brought another close battle with Alonso, which Vettel won by just three points. In 2013 he made it four straight championship wins by a comprehensive 155-point margin, winning the final nine races of the season and 13 in all.
The Vettel era of F1 ended in 2014 as Mercedes established themselves as the new top team and he finished fifth in his final year with Red Bull before emulating his hero Michael Schumacher and moving to Ferrari.
Vettel could not repeat Schumacher's title success with the Italian team, however, although he finished in the top five in each of his first five seasons at Maranello and was runner-up in 2017 and 2018, winning five races each year.
Ferrari announced they would not be extending Vettel's contract beyond his winless 2020 season, when he finished 13th and he moved to Aston Martin for his final two years. Vettel finished 12th in each of those seasons in a struggling car and revealed in July 2022 that he would be retiring at the end of the year.
Vettel has not been involved in F1 since his retirement but has been an advocate for a number issues including climate change.
It remains to be seen whether he will be tempted out of retirement as other champions such as Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell and Kimi Raikkonen have been and there have recently been reports linking him to Mercedes, the Audi team due to take over Sauber in 2026 and sportscar drives.
Vettel's net worth is reported to be around $140million.