F1 2015 Driver Review: Sebastian Vettel

© Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 19
Wins: 3
Podiums (excluding wins): 10
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 322
Laps Led: 176
Championship Position: 3rd

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Sebastian Vettel’s reputation took a big hit in 2014 during a difficult season with Red Bull that saw the four-time world champion be reduced to number two driver status behind Daniel Ricciardo. His move to Ferrari was a gamble, given the struggles that the Scuderia faced last year, but both parties have come out of 2015 looking stronger than ever.

The big worry for Vettel was that he would have another year like 2014, yet from the start of the season in Australia, he looked to be at ease with the car. Victory in Malaysia underpinned this as he perfected his strategy and pace, and he even gave Lewis Hamilton trouble in Spain in the early stages.

This was the year that Vettel proved his greatness. In a season dominated by Mercedes, Vettel pushed them far closer than any other driver, and – unlike Ricciardo’s wins in 2014 – even outclassed them on occasion. To say that his success at Red Bull was only down to the car greatly underestimates the talent and skill of Vettel.

What made him so good this year – and in his championship seasons – was how flawless Vettel was. His only truly terrible race was Mexico when he even apologized himself to the team, and there were mistakes in Bahrain and Canada that were costly. Throughout the year, Vettel was the most consistent and bulletproof racer on the grid.

Vettel also gave a sense of reality to F1 this year. He was the naughty school kid in the press conferences with Rosberg and Hamilton, cutting the tension with wry humor he is known for, yet perhaps hasn’t been able to display before.

It was a big year for Vettel, but 2016 could be better still.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Chalk up 2014 as a mulligan, and reborn, and renewed in the new environment of Scuderia Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel thrived in 2015. Those who have been regular readers of this site over three years know I’ve occasionally been critical of Vettel, or certainly made the mistake of not fully appreciating him. This year, I came to appreciate what a treasure Vettel is in the sport, and it took him leaving Red Bull to do so.

In a year dominated by the Mercedes W06 chassis, and when it was a question of whether Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg would fully control the day, Vettel was this year’s desperately needed thorn in the side. The fact Vettel won second time out in his new environment, at Malaysia, was a dream result that few would predicted. Further wins at Hungary and Singapore, both of which were well judged, meant Vettel matched his hero Michael Schumacher in winning three times in his first season.

But more than the results, it was the human side of Vettel that I fully began to appreciate, which is something those closer inside the sport have known existed for years. Within the Red Bull garage, Vettel was the driver most inextricably linked with the team’s dominance, but perhaps not fully appreciated for his own ability due to the caliber of design from Adrian Newey. It was always a “Vettel-Newey” combination, rather than just Vettel… even though he took Mark Webber to the cleaners in all five seasons as teammates.

Whether it was poking fun at the Mercedes duo in press conferences, or offering refreshing candor in nearly any media session, Vettel almost went full Daniel Ricciardo this year in fully enjoying his season while also being motivated to succeed, comfortable in his own skin outside his comfort zone.