The name of Sebastian Vettel has become one that is revered in Formula 1 racing. This is not just in the current era of the sport, but also in a historical sense. One can see his already dazzling resume by looking through his biography on one page devoted to his accomplishments. Vettel has won four Drivers’ Titles, is the youngest to ever win one, the youngest to win three consecutively, and boasts a strong track record driving for multiple different sponsors and manufacturers. Having been in the sport for only a decade, he is firmly solidified as one of the five best to have ever done it, if not better.
But as regular followers of the sport will know, Vettel has not lived up to his own lofty standards lately, and 2016 in particular was full of disappointments. It was his second year racing with Ferrari, and some assumed that meant he would have ironed out the kinks and settled into a state in which he could regain the throne from Lewis Hamilton and dominate Formula 1 once more.
As it happened, he could do nothing of the sort. Despite reaching the podium in three of the first five grand prix events of the year, Vettel failed to win a single race, no matter how often it seemed he might. Consecutive second place finishes in the Canada and Europe grand prix made him appear on the cusp of breaking through, but he followed those finishes with a zero-point performance in Austria. Later in the season, a site devoted to posting odds and analysis for various sporting events suggested Vettel might feel at home in Singapore and still gain a spot at the top of a podium. But even there, where he has a particularly strong history, he fell short. Vettel would finish the season without a win to his name.
However, this year, is telling a different story. Ferrari has made some adjustments in the interest of helping Vettel catch up to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, and the former champion appears poised to get back on top. Three races into the 2017 slate, Vettel already has two first place finishes (and came in second in China), putting him atop the standings by several points. It’s been suggested that the year is already shaping up to be a two-horse race between Hamilton and Vettel. In the end, that’s what most Formula 1 fans have been wanting to see since Vettel signed with Ferrari.
Put in historical perspective, it’s shaping up to be a very significant season. Should Vettel keep up his winning ways and make a legitimate run at the Drivers’ Title, he may be able to solidify himself as the greatest racer of all time not named Michael Schumacher. But watching him on the podiums, one gets the sense he’s not in it for the history this time around. Vettel wants to redeem himself and prove he can take the title with Ferrari, just as he took so many with Red Bull.