Sebastian Vettel: Four-time F1 world champion

By Lawrence BarrettoBBC Sport
Vettel enjoys Schumacher comparison

The 2007 United States Grand Prix proved Sebastian Vettel was something special.

Making his Formula 1 debut as a stand-in for the injured Robert Kubica at BMW Sauber, Vettel finished eighth to become the youngest driver to score a point.

But few could have predicted that the young man from Heppenheim, Germany, would go on to win four world championships in the following six seasons.

On Sunday, the 26-year-old became only the fourth driver to win four world titles - Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alain Prost were the others - when he won the Indian Grand Prix, and only the third to do it consecutively.

But what is most impressive is that he's done it at such a young age. Fangio was 45 when he took his fourth title, Prost was 38 and Schumacher was 32.

Vettel is just 26 - the age when Prost won his first grand prix - and he is well on his way to positioning himself as one of the sport's greats.

The beginning

A carpenter's son, born in 1987, Vettel began racing go-karts when he was just three years old, but it wasn't until 1995 that he entered a karting series.

Red Bull clearly saw something in him, because they signed him to their young driver programme in 2000 before promoting him to the Red Bull junior team.

Vettel on titles, team-mates and regrets

He graduated to Formula BMW single-seaters in 2003, going on to win 18 out of 20 races on his way to the title, and developing a relationship with the German manufacturer who would later give him his F1 debut.

Times were tougher in the super-competitive F3 Euroseries, where he was runner-up to Paul Di Resta in 2006, before moving across to the World Series by Renault. At the same time he acted as the third driver for BMW Sauber in F1, making appearances in practice sessions at grands prix during that season.

Vettel was leading World Series by Renault when he got the call from BMW Sauber that he was required to step in for Kubica at the 2007 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis following the Pole's heavy crash in Canada.

He impressed, taking eighth, to become the youngest driver to score a Formula 1 World Championship point. The die had been cast.

The big step

Toro Rosso snapped him up for the rest of the 2007 season, dumping Scott Speed, before Vettel went on to give the team their first win with an inspired wet-weather drive to victory in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix.

In doing so, he became the youngest F1 pole sitter, race winner and driver on the podium. The records, though, would keep on coming.

Red Bull signed him from their sister team for 2009 and he rewarded them with their first pole and victory in the third race of the year in China. But 2010 hinted at a difficult season for the German with a number of crashes.

Few will forget when he and Mark Webber clashed in Turkey while he also came to grief with McLaren's Jenson Button in Belgium, sparking McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh to call him the "crash kid".

But in the most unlikely of circumstances, Vettel overturned a 15-point deficit to Fernando Alonso at the final race of the season to win his maiden championship, taking the lead of the standings for the first time that year and becoming the youngest ever world champion, with five victories during that season.

The title came much easier in 2011 as he secured 15 poles, 11 victories and 17 podiums in 19 races to become the youngest double world champion and youngest back-to-back world champion.

His third triumph in 2012 proved tougher, but the German maximised points scored when his Red Bull wasn't quick enough in the early part of the season and then capitalised when it was, winning four races in a row from Singapore.

Tipped into a spin in the title-deciding race in Brazil, the German fought back valiantly, rising up to sixth which was enough to claim the title.

In 2013, Vettel courted controversy when he ignored team orders and passed team-mate Webber to steal victory in round two in Malaysia. In doing so he took the championship lead - something he wouldn't never relinquish.

Vettel really put the hammer down from Canada onwards, winning seven of the next nine races to pull away from nearest rival Fernando Alonso and give himself the luxury of needing just a fifth place in India to seal the title. He went four better, taking the victory.

Away from the track

Vettel isn't your ordinary racing driver. The German doesn't have a need for a manager, instead negotiating all his own contracts.

The German lives in the mountains near Lake Constance in Switzerland, drives around in a five-year-old Volkswagen people carrier which he bought before entering Formula 1, and does his own shopping.

Sebastian Vettel's first win - Italian GP 2008

He has made no secret that his childhood heroes were the "three Michaels" - Michael Schumacher, basketball star Michael Jordan and pop legend Michael Jackson - and he even wanted to be a singer like the latter before realising his wasn't good enough.

The 36-time F1 race winner is good friends with F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone, and is known to meet up with him for a game of backgammon now and then.

He also loves British comedy and music - he is a big fan of Monty Python, Little Britain and The Beatles.

And he always names his racing cars. The first was 'Kate', followed by 'Kate's Dirty Sister', 'Luscious Liz', 'Randy Mandy', 'Kinky Kylie', 'Abbey' and this year's model 'Hungry Heidi'.