With his relative age advantage, Vettel (24) could -- with luck, and a winning car -- be overhauling Michael Schumacher's totals sooner than he thinks
Sebastian Vettel became Formula One's youngest back-to-back champion on Sunday -- and proved he has the potential to emulate, or even outdo, record-breaking compatriot Michael Schumacher. If statistics are to be trusted, the 24-year-old Red Bull driver is on course to deliver very similar results, at the same stunning speed, as his 42-year-old fellow German and boyhood idol.
Two to tango: Schumacher (left) congratulates Vettel in the
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, 2010. PIC/Getty images
When Schumacher made his debut at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, he was 22 years and seven months old. Schumacher then moved from Jordan to Benetton, after one race, and in only his second contest, at the Italian Grand Prix, he placed fifth to finish in the points for the first time.
It took the 'wunderkind' of the 1990s just a year from his debut to record his first win, in his 18th race, aged 23 years and 240 days, at the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix. Aged just five, Vettel was still at kindergarten at the time, but the young German's impact since his first F1 start at the 2007 United States Grand Prix has been ominously similar, and achieved at a younger age.
On that outing, Vettel was just 19 years and 350 days old, just short of his 20th birthday. And he gave a sign of what lay ahead as, by finishing eighth, he became the youngest driver to score points, and did so in his maiden race.
He secured his first pole, podium and victory the following year at Monza -- in his 22nd race -- at the tender age of just 21 years and 72 days (pole) and 73 days (victory). Schumacher had scored his first podium, in Mexico, in 1992, in his eighth race, Benetton having given him a front-running car. While Schumacher may have been faster to hit the top spot by four races, Vettel was younger.
And just as Schumacher went on to deliver two titles in a row for his new team Benetton in 1994 and 1995, so Vettel has done the same after arriving at the dominant Red Bull outfit. His success on Sunday, bringing him the 2011 title to add to the 2010 championship, was done in a style that was also Schumacher-esque.
When Schumacher claimed the 1994 crown, in controversial fashion at the season-ending Australian Grand Prix, it came after 54 Grands Prix. Vettel's triumph as 2010 champion came after 62 races.