Editor’s Note: This article on Sebastian Vettel is posted in collaboration with an outside sponsorship client. The opinions and information contained within do not necessarily represent Frontstretch and its staff.
Across his 14 years in Formula 1, Sebastian Vettel has claimed four driver’s world championships. However, despite his success, the racer with 53 race wins to his name is facing an uncertain future within the sport. That said, regardless of what happens next in his illustrious career, we’re going to consider whether F1 still needs the 33-year-old.
At the Forefront of Expanding the Sport’s Global Appeal
Crucially, there’s a widespread belief among the open-wheel racing community that the dominance of Mercedes has somewhat led to the sport’s slow demise. In recent years, both Lando Norris and Max Verstappen have openly stated that the action-packed nature of F1 is being lost through its one-sided landscape. Due to this trend, along with broadcasting factors, the world-renowned sport lost an average of 533,000 viewers per race in Britain during the 2019 championship, according to Forbes.
Single-handedly, there’s nothing that Vettel can do about that, given the sport’s decline has occurred throughout his years at Ferrari. However, if the relationship between the four-time world champion and F1 was to end after 2020, then the sport would be losing one of its star attractions. Fundamentally, Vettel is just the second German driver after Michael Schumacher to claim the championship, achieving this triumph with Red Bull back in 2010.
Aside from being the only championship-winning German on the F1 grid at present, he’s also the only driver to represent the country. In turn, the 33-year-old is the main attraction for F1 fans based in Germany. Moreover, as per a report by YouGov, Vettel is the third-most-popular figure within the sport and the second-most famous. Although youth prospects are coming through the ranks, losing the Ferrari driver will seemingly have a negative impact on the sport’s contemporary appeal.
Furthermore, from a product perspective, the Heppenheim-born racer has been the face of the sport’s developments for much of the last five years. Intriguingly, since the 2015 F1 video game, Vettel has been a cover star across the gaming franchise. Interestingly, because of the successes of the console games, F1 has since become central to more diverse markets, such as iGaming.
At VegasSlotsOnline, for example, F1 fans can immerse themselves in Grand Prix, a slot title that seeks to replicate the sport’s fun, fast-paced atmosphere in a five-reel format. In this regard, as a result of his contributions to open-wheel racing, Vettel has been able to help the sport expand into different markets and attract new audiences, as highlighted at online casinos.
Retaining a Four-Time World Champion Seems a No-Brainer
Having considered what the sport could lose away from the track should Vettel opt to walk away, it’s now time to analyze his on-track abilities. On the face of it, it’s no secret that the 33-year-old’s Ferrari career hasn’t reached the championship-winning heights many were expecting across his five years with the Prancing Horse. However, despite failing to displace the title-clinching Mercedes drivers, most commonly Lewis Hamilton, Vettel’s time with Ferrari hasn’t been a disaster.
For much of his time behind the wheel of the famous scarlet car, the four-time world champion was the only driver to consistently pose a threat to Mercedes dominance. That’s evident from the 2015 drivers’ standings, where, despite finishing third, Vettel was 128 ahead of his at-the-time teammate, Kimi Raikkonen. Furthermore, he was just 44 points behind Nico Rosberg.
Aside from this, Vettel also posed a strong challenge for the championship in 2017 as he enjoyed his best campaign with Ferrari. Sadly for the Ferrari driver, had it not been for a succession of individual errors and unfortunate mechanical issues, including hitting Hamilton at Azerbaijan under the safety car, then the German could have claimed his fifth drivers’ championship.
Just as it looked like the 33-year-old’s efforts were slowly taking him towards the sport’s pinnacle once again, the Prancing Horse replaced Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto in 2017. Interestingly, the former Ferrari boss claimed that he had a “fantastic relationship” with Vettel, a factor that undoubtedly helped the Italian team mount a challenge throughout 2017. Although things appeared to start positively for the German under Binotto, coming second in 2018, Ferrari’s latest cars haven’t catered to Vettel’s preferred driving style. Instead, Charles Leclerc has surpassed the German in becoming the team’s number-one driver.
From this, it’s apparent that despite consistently being in a worse car than Hamilton, his main rival, the 33-year-old kept Ferrari competitive during a troubled period. While, at the time of this writing, there is no announcement on Vettel’s long-term future, a move to Racing Point in place of Sergio Perez after his departure from Ferrari was made official is reportedly on the cards. For both the German and Racing Point, this move could be a beneficial one. The Silverstone-based team has aspirations of challenging at the front of the grid, and that’s something that Vettel has demonstrated that he can do on numerous occasions.
Plenty Left to Offer
Regardless of what happens next in Vettel’s career, few can argue that he still has a lot to offer the sport, particularly on the track. Unfortunately for the German, his legacy at Ferrari has become something of a victim of recency bias, with spectators opting to remember his collision with Leclerc at Brazil in 2019 or his torrid race at Monza during the same year, for example.
Despite these misfortunes, the Heppenheim-born driver also took Ferrari to an unexpected victory at Singapore in September 2019. As well as being a driving force for change off the track, Vettel continues to show that his talent remains. For the 33-year-old, his next decision doesn’t revolve around finances, but instead the ability to consistently challenge for race wins. Furthermore, although some will argue that Vettel has let Ferrari down, it would be unfair to lay the blame solely at his door.
Fundamentally, over the last five years, the Prancing Horse has been inconsistent, with the current car seemingly a downgrade on the 2019 model following reductions to their power unit. Upon looking down the paddock, Vettel will see a handful of teams, most noticeably McLaren and Racing Point, making forward-thinking steps. Pivotally, with a car that caters to his driving style, the German could once again find himself lifting the drivers’ championship in the coming years.
A Crucial Figure in Modern F1
Ultimately, despite his recent struggles, Vettel will always be one of the sport’s most influential and successful figures during the 21st century. Aside from being a world-class racer, the German is a captivating personality that continually strives to make F1 the best that it can be. Retaining Vettel is essential for a sport that’s stuck in an era of one-sided dominance.