Sebastian Vettel’s assault on the F1 records

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Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2011

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2011

Sebastian Vettel has been dubbed ‘baby Schumi’ by some. And he shows every sign of rivalling Schumacher’s record-smashing feats.

After a scorching start to the season, Vettel is rapidly making inroads into F1’s all-time records for wins, pole positions and more.

And he’s already already the youngest driver to win a championship, a race, score a point and set pole position.

Most wins

Just 73 races into his F1 career, Vettel is already equal 14th on the all-time list of winners. He’s tied with Lewis Hamilton, who has started nine more races.

Schumacher’s 91 wins towers over the rest but what’s even more impressive about that record is the strike rate.

Driver Wins %
1 Michael Schumacher 91 32.62
2 Alain Prost 51 25.63
3 Ayrton Senna 41 25.47
4 Nigel Mansell 31 16.58
5 Jackie Stewart 27 27.27
6 Fernando Alonso 27 15.98
7 Jim Clark 25 34.72
8 Niki Lauda 25 14.62
9 Juan Manuel Fangio 24 47.06
10 Nelson Piquet 23 11.27
11 Damon Hill 22 19.13
12 Mika Hakkinen 20 12.42
13 Kimi R?‚?Ůikk?‚?¬nen 18 11.54
14 Stirling Moss 16 24.24
15 Sebastian Vettel 16 21.92
16 Lewis Hamilton 16 19.51
17 Graham Hill 14 8.00
18 Jack Brabham 14 11.38
19 Emerson Fittipaldi 14 9.72
20 Alberto Ascari 13 40.63
21 David Coulthard 13 5.28

Schumacher won almost one-third of the races he started, a record which has taken a knock since his win-less comeback. Vettel’s strike rate is 21.92%, which underlines just how hard it would be to match Schumacher’s record.

He would need both a superior car and a weaker opposition to match Schumacher’s tally in the same kind of time frame. But when it comes to hitting that all-time figure, Vettel has the advantage of youth on his side.

Most podiums

Vettel isn’t the only current driver who’s showing well on the list of most podium finishes.

Fernando Alonso and Hamilton also feature highly on the list. It’s a testament not just to their skill as drivers, but also the benefit of spending several season in reasonably competitive cars, and the ever-improving reliability we see in F1 today.

Driver Podiums %
1 Michael Schumacher 154 55.2
2 Alain Prost 106 53.27
3 Ayrton Senna 80 49.69
4 Fernando Alonso 69 40.83
5 Rubens Barrichello 68 21.59
6 David Coulthard 62 25.2
7 Kimi R?‚?Ůikk?‚?¬nen 62 39.74
8 Nelson Piquet 60 29.41
9 Nigel Mansell 59 31.55
10 Niki Lauda 54 31.58
11 Mika Hakkinen 51 31.68
12 Gerhard Berger 48 22.86
13 Carlos Reutemann 45 30.82
14 Jackie Stewart 43 43.43
15 Damon Hill 42 36.52
16 Lewis Hamilton 40 48.78
17 Riccardo Patrese 37 14.45
18 Graham Hill 36 20.57
19 Jenson Button 36 18.00
20 Juan Manuel Fangio 35 68.63
21 Emerson Fittipaldi 35 24.31
22 Denny Hulme 33 29.46
23 Jody Scheckter 33 29.46
24 Felipe Massa 33 22.92
25 Jim Clark 32 44.44
26 Jacques Laffite 32 18.18
27 Jean Alesi 32 15.92
28 Jack Brabham 31 25.2
29 Juan Pablo Montoya 30 31.91
30 Sebastian Vettel 29 39.73

Schumacher leads the list, of course, but hasn’t added to his tally of 154 since returning to F1 at the beginning of last year.

Most pole positions

For Vettel, two changes in F1 coincided perfectly to make him the modern master of the pole position.

The first is, obviously, the superior one-lap pace of the recent Red Bulls. He and team mate Mark Webber have been first on the grid for each of the last 12 races.

But another key factor here is the ban on refuelling at the beginning of last year. This meant drivers in the top ten no longer had to qualify with their race fuel loads.

Thanks to that, we’ve seen a return to proper, low-fuel qualifying laps. It’s an area where Webber previously excelled, but his team mate has proven a formidable opponent.

Last year the margin between the two was often very tight – in the region of a tenth of a second at many tracks. This year Vettel has tended to have the upper hand, though Webber has gradually chipped away at his advantage since the beginning of the season.

Even so, the numbers speak for themselves: Vettel has been on pole position in 18 out of 30 races since the beginning of last season. He is already among the top ten drivers to have set the most pole positions:

Drivers Poles %
1 Michael Schumacher 68 24.37
2 Ayrton Senna 65 40.37
3 Jim Clark 33 45.83
4 Alain Prost 33 16.58
5 Nigel Mansell 32 17.11
6 Juan Manuel Fangio 29 56.86
7 Mika Hakkinen 26 16.15
8 Niki Lauda 24 14.04
9 Nelson Piquet 24 11.76
10 Sebastian Vettel 23 31.51

His strike rate may not be up there with the likes of Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark or Juan Manuel Fangio, but it is comfortably better than that of the current ultimate record holder. It’s quite possible Vettel could move up to sixth on this list by the end of the year.

‘Youngest ever’ records

Last year Vettel claimed the record for being the youngest ever world champion off Hamilton.

That completed the set for him – he is the youngest driver to score a point (the only teenager to do so), and the youngest driver to claim pole position and win a race:

Record Age Race Next on list
Youngest point-scorer 19 years, 345 days 2007 United States Grand Prix Jaime Alguersuari
Youngest pole sitter 21 years, 73 days 2008 Italian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso
Youngest race winner 21 years, 74 days 2008 Italian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso
Youngest world champion 23 years, 134 days 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton

With a long-term Red Bull contract in his pocket and Adrian Newey set to remain at the team for the foreseeable future, Vettel’s ascent through the history books could prove very rapid indeed. He’s also passed the mark of 1,000 laps led.

Do you expect Vettel’s streak of success to continue? What other records could he break?

And which drivers are best-placed to stop him? Have your say in the comments.

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171 comments on Sebastian Vettel’s assault on the F1 records

  1. Mtom99 said on 6th August 2011, 15:38

    Everyone cites vettels win in the torro rosso as evidence of his genius. But That car was fantastic, even liuzzi had it on the second row in that race and no one considers him a particularly strong driver.

    • KevinPNW said on 6th August 2011, 15:54

      How about the 9 points finishes that season vs 2 for the other Sébastien.
      Pole and races are different things. Nico (H not R) was able to get one in a not very good Williams, great accomplishment, but nonetheless, not a win.
      Not to mention Minardi did have Webber and Alonso when they were young drivers as well.
      Anyway, point being, anytime Vettel does well, people always say it’s the car, even when it’s in a Minardi / Torro Rosso.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 6th August 2011, 16:53

      It was a midfielder. Not “fantastic”. So yes, it was a brilliant win.

      • brum55 said on 6th August 2011, 21:56

        It wasn’t a midfielder though. It was the best car that weekend. If Vettel qualified 1st and his team mate 11th then you could argue that it was a midfield car. But when they qualify 1st and 3rd then you can assume it is down to the car. His team-mate was hardly Ayrton Senna, it was Bourdais.

        Also in Spain Alonso qualified 0.9s ahead of Massa and in Germany Hamilton qualified 1.1s ahead of Button, both of whom have achieved far more in F1 than Bourdais.

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 6th August 2011, 22:53

          And Vettel outqualified Webber by 1.1 in 2010 Bahrain. And he absolutely left Webber for dead in 2011 China. And Mark is known as a good qualifier; don’t forget that.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 7th August 2011, 0:17

          Vettel, a 20 year old, put the Red Bull B-Car on pole by 0.9 over his teammate and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the 53 laps. Bloody impressive.

          Vettel beat Webber (a driver currently higher ranked than Massa) by 0.8 in Australia 2011, 1.1 in Bahrain 2010 and 0.6 last week.

          • brum55 said on 7th August 2011, 1:12

            That Red Bull B car was faster than than the Red Bull A car that season and in no way comparable to the Minardi’s that were constantly at the back of the grid. I never stated that his win was lucky or anything like that, it was excellent as you say. But Minardi have never qualified 1st and 3rd.

            The reason I pointed out the qualifying of Hamilton and Alonso is because you mentioned Vettel out-qualifying Bourdais as if it were major feat. Indeed outqualifying Webber by so much certainly trumps that also.

    • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 6th August 2011, 22:43

      Come on! How many of you on here THAT DAY were saying ‘thats one of the greatest things I’ve seen in F1′ and putting that up there in the best drives ever

      now he’s become very successful its the same old rubbish ‘lucky win, best car, no opposition’ lines

      • Guilherme (@the_philosopher) said on 6th August 2011, 22:58

        I agree 100%. Actually, you’ve just said what I always wanted to say, but was never able to put on words!

      • KevinPNW said on 7th August 2011, 3:03

        Still one of the greatest F1 moments. Seeing Minardi win after all that time even after the takeover was amazing. They’ve been around since almost as long as I have been around. The year before I think Vettel was BMW’s backup driver.
        Their car was more decent than their car most years, but it would be comparable to seeing Sauber (non BMW) or Force India win a race this year.
        Vettel’s subsequent success in a more competitive car at RB should not diminish what he in a very average at best car.
        I would of course loved to see Alonso or Hamilton in a similar mid field car do something as amazing, not counting Minardi’s history etc…

  2. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 6th August 2011, 15:38

    I’d like to know what the laps led records are. That’d certainly be an interesting one.

    • El Abuelo said on 6th August 2011, 15:53

      1 SCHUMACHER Michael 5 108
      2 SENNA Ayrton 2 931
      3 PROST Alain 2 683
      4 MANSELL Nigel 2 091
      5 CLARK Jim 1 943
      6 STEWART Jackie 1 919
      7 PIQUET Nelson 1 600
      8 LAUDA Niki 1 592
      9 HAKKINEN Mika 1 488
      10 ALONSO Fernando 1 414
      11 HILL Damon 1 358
      12 FANGIO Juan Manuel 1 347
      13 MOSS Stirling 1 181
      14 HILL Graham 1 102
      15 VETTEL Sebastian 1 086
      16 RAIKKONEN Kimi 1 071
      17 HAMILTON Lewis 993

      And Hat-tricks
      1 SCHUMACHER Michael 22
      2 CLARK Jim 11
      3 FANGIO Juan Manuel 9
      4 PROST Alain 8
      5 ASCARI Alberto 7
      6 SENNA Ayrton 7
      7 MANSELL Nigel 5
      8 HILL Damon 5
      9 HAKKINEN Mika 5
      10 ALONSO Fernando 5

  3. Judging by some of the comments so far, Vettel doesn’t seem to get as much respect for his achievements as Alonso or Hamilton. Personally I think he’s just as good as those two. People slate him for his apparent weakness at overtaking, but he’s just as good as Alonso and better than Hamilton when it comes to consistently getting the maximum possible result out of his car. Also he’s more consistent when it comes to stringing together perfect qualifying laps.

    Just look at last week’s race. Hamilton had a faster car in both qualifying and the race, yet he failed to get pole position and lost a sure win due to bad strategy and a spin. Whereas Vettel nabbed pole, drove a steady race to increase his championship lead with a 2nd place, and he even overtook Alonso on track.

    I think he’ll get the respect he deserves eventually. He’s too good not to.

    • He doesn’t need to overtake. Because he’s usually so far in front anyway!

      People need to re-watch Spa ’08, Britain ’10 and Spain ’11. Some of Vettel’s better races, where he did overtaking!

      • Nick.UK (@) said on 6th August 2011, 18:55

        I cant speak for Spa as I didnt see it.

        Silverstone 2010 is not a good example of overtaking sucess. The RB6 was miles better than any car he overtook that day. The mere suggestion that overtaking those midfield cars was a demonstration of skill, simply, offends me. Anyone who could not pass those cars in that situation, should have been sacked on the spot.

        Likewise in Spain this year. His overtakes were clearing traffic on an outlap. This year has shown the importance of fresh tyres especially. He overtook some cars who were dissadvantaged with badly worn tyres. Contratulations Vettel, well done…

        Silverstone this year, and Germany especially show better evidence of his abilities, or lack there of. Unable to pass Hamilton and Massa respectivley, evenw ith DRS. I’m not saying he is a ‘bad’ overtaker, but he has not demonstrated the skills of other drivers like Hamilton or Alonso. He still needs to go toe-to-toe with a driver in an equal or better car, same condition tyres and fuel, and then get passed. If he does that, then i’ll start showing him a little more respect.

        • Cole (@cole) said on 6th August 2011, 19:12

          Risk management.
          He doesn’t need to pull out risky moves.

          What’s great overtaking? Hamilton’s in Melbourne last season?? with a more powerful mercedes engine and the F-duct?

          Don’t get me wrong, not saying here Hamilton isn’t, but just showing that every one could argue about the other drivers, but reality is that Vettel is a GREAT driver, with Outstanding qualifying pace, great speed and this year he’s also showing composure. Something, and let me tell you now without risk of being wrong, Hamilton lacks.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 6th August 2011, 19:22

          For one, craig’s point is that Vettel barely needs to pass- he’s someone who’s started 1st more times than Alonso and Hamilton.

          He passed Massa’s Ferrari and Petrov’s Renault (which had the speed to get a podium before Kubica’s breakdown) at Silverstone 2010. And Alonso last Sunday.

          So sweeping those under the carpet and highlighting Britain 2011 and Germany 2011? Not a very good move.

          • Nick.UK (@) said on 6th August 2011, 19:38

            Petrov: Highlighting a rookie here remember. A challenge… probably not (and before you throw Abu Dahbi my way, the track there is the problem, not the drivers in particular).

            Massa: Well, I don’t think anyone can say he’s been performing as well as he could :( And in any case, basing a whole counter-argument on one overtake.. hardly ground breaking evidence.

          • Guilherme (@the_philosopher) said on 6th August 2011, 23:08

            And I can’t even see what’s so wrong about not overtaking Massa at Germany. The Ferrari was evidently faster that day, the DRS was totally useless and the Ferrari had higher top speed (I think). So, given that their tyres were basically the same, I don’t think it is strange that he got stuck. Actually, it happens more often than not.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 7th August 2011, 0:25

            Petrov: Highlighting a rookie here remember. A challenge… probably not (and before you throw Abu Dahbi my way, the track there is the problem, not the drivers in particular).

            Oh, yes, Vettel passes Petrov and “he’s a rookie”. Alonso doesn’t and “it’s the track”. I thought it was possible to pass at Istanbul Park?

            Considering the number of Vettel passes you’re failing to sweep under the carpet, the broom you’re using is getting worn out…

        • Guilherme (@the_philosopher) said on 6th August 2011, 23:12

          He still needs to go toe-to-toe with a driver in an equal or better car, same condition tyres and fuel, and then get passed. If he does that, then i’ll start showing him a little more respect.

          Seriously, how often that happens? Maybe when the driver in front makes a mistake…

      • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 6th August 2011, 22:46

        Dont forget Brazil 09 and China 07 (first few laps especially)

    • f1geordie (@f1geordie) said on 7th August 2011, 13:33

      sorry, did you see vettel’s pole lap at hungary? he didnt make one apex!

      • Mads said on 7th August 2011, 14:50

        Did we watch the same lap? I am sorry, but he got the second fastest car to pole position and he was one of the only of the top 6 drivers to improve their lap times when they got out on their final run. It was a great lap, the car just wasn’t as balanced as it should have been.

      • Mark Hitchcock said on 8th August 2011, 0:37

        Yet he still got pole. What’s your point?
        That the other drivers are so bad that they can’t beat a driver who’s missing every apex? Or maybe that the Red Bull is a terrible car which is incapable of being driver to a perfect lap?

        Or maybe you’re desperately trying to find problems with an incredibly talented driver who has barely put a foot wrong for a year and a half!

        You may not like him, but Vettel is a very good driver. Would is really hurt to just admit it?

  4. Thanks very much for the list Keith. Nice to see Massa on the podiums list too.

    On a very different note, does anyone know who has had the most drive through penalties since they were introduced?

  5. Vanja said on 6th August 2011, 18:22

    schumacher won 2 wdc titles before he came to ferrari
    alonso won 2 wdc titles before coming to ferrari

    schumacher waited 5 years before winning a title with ferrari
    alonso will wait 5 years before winning a title with ferrari

    schumacher is the best ever

    i hope

  6. lewymp4 (@lewymp4) said on 6th August 2011, 18:41

    Whether Vettel can be able to rival any of Schumachers records, maybe Hamilton and Alonso will have something to say about that.

  7. A Singh said on 6th August 2011, 19:01

    I believe if it hasn’t already been mentioned, Vettel will become the youngest double world champ if he wins it this year.

  8. @Eggry yeah with “almost best machine” he outqualified hs teammate and won promisingly.

    • Eggry (@eggry) said on 7th August 2011, 4:55

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Vettel is poor. Without almost best machine, evem Senna would struggle to win. Also he did very well indeed. It was very impressive as rookie, but including it, he have barely faced resistence when he’s winning. You can say it’s because he’s too good, others say he would be struggle to win if he’s behind.

      I don’t rate Button so high but he did better than Barichello. Still I don’t think he has pure speed to win because his pace usually can’t match Hamilton, but sometimes he still managed to win. I respect his skill to manage victory without purr speed but I dob’t think he’s one of greats. Similar but in opposite way is applied to Vettel to me. He has brilliant speed, but I’m not sure he can fight for win against heavy resistence.

      Every winners are good, every champions are great. But it doesn’t mean they are all equally evaluated.

  9. kowalsky said on 6th August 2011, 20:37

    vettel is going to get better records than alonso and hamilton, evethough i am certain he is not the best of the lot. But the most focused, and the one with less oposition.

  10. Jarv027 said on 6th August 2011, 21:00

    Drivers who win in cars that are not the best on the grid are great drivers. Senna (lotus) Schumacher (benetton) Vettel (Torro Rosso). And he can overtake, melbourne 2011, budapest 2011 both around the outside Button, Alonso.

  11. Daniel said on 6th August 2011, 21:01

    Well said!

    But I don’t believe Schumacher’s record will be broken, not even by himself in his pale return…

    It was a very unlikely combination of factors: having one of the best and frequently the best car during more than ten seasons against uncompetitive team-mates (Vestappen, Herbert, Irvine, Barrichello) and a sometimes strong (Hakkinene, Villeneuve) but always unconsistent opposition, weaker than both the previous and the following generations of drivers(previous: Senna, Prost, Mansell, Piquet; following: Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel)

    • bananarama said on 6th August 2011, 21:49

      Schumacher was better than Massa a lot of the time. By that logic he might have been third in 2007, possibly champion in 2008, bad in 2009 and possibly 5th in 2010. Thats among the best if I’m not mistaken. Of course we can never prove any of those statements but he looks considerably worse since his comeback than he is, I’m sure of that. Its just sad how people describe him as a mediocre to bad driver while they didn’t see him in the nineties (or ignore it).

      • bananarama said on 6th August 2011, 21:56

        by seeing him i mean actually at the track, standing at the corners .. seeing him fly through them like no other driver could. racing other drivers no matter the cost, even at his own expense (and sometimes going too far). maybe i’m just being nostalgic…

    • Alex W said on 7th August 2011, 9:01

      Don’t forget the (better) Bridgestone tyre was made for Schumacher!

  12. James said on 7th August 2011, 1:04

    I’m sure by next season Ferrari and Mclaren will have cottoned onto Red Bull’s secrets. It would suprise me if Mercedes and possibly Renault do to.

    And I hope I’m not suprised to. Having more than three teams fights for a win would be utterly fantastic. Vettel more than likely will win more than three championships in his career, however, I feel that 65% of his success is down to his car. He has rarely “out driven” his car compared to some of his competitors. I’d bet that he wouldnt be some dominant if Ferrari and Mclaren had their cars on a par with Red Bull’s at the moment…

  13. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 7th August 2011, 3:58

    Given the age & the machine they are driving I do think both Hamilton & Vettel will give Senna & Prost a hard time in the number of wins.The pole position may go to Vettel as he is great on a single lap qualifying.But the question will always remain how many WC can they each win.

  14. Mr.Zing Zang said on 7th August 2011, 4:23

    Kieth I know you love Vettel, but he is still not the most inexperienced champion though. i want to see you make a list of that!

  15. Jelle van der Meer (@jelle-van-der-meer) said on 7th August 2011, 7:32

    Guys I am amazed – a great Stat article and all I read in the comments is a discussion who is better or why Vettel is rubbish. That is not the point – it is about stats and records and the numbers tell that Vettel is young but already makes his way up the record lists.

    Just wanted to add more youngest records:
    * Youngest F1 driver to break a F1 record
    * Youngest F1 driver to get a FIA speeding ticket
    * Youngest F1 driver to get into top 10 all time point scorers (25 points or not)
    * Youngest F1 driver to get into top 10 all time poles positions

    In terms of Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel you should not compare stats as set in different conditions but here are the nummbers:
    Wins: Alonso 27, Vettel & Hamilton 16
    % Wins: Vettel 21.9%, Hamilton 19.5% and Alonso 15.9%
    Podiums: Alonso 69, Hamilton 40 and Vettel 29
    % Podiums: Hamilton 48.8%, Alonso 40.6% and Vettel 39.7%
    Poles: Vettel 23, Alonso 20 and Hamilton 18
    % Poles: Vettel 31.5%, Hamilton 22.0% and Alonso 11.8%
    Points: Alonso 974, Hamilton 642 and Vettel 615
    Points per race: Vettel 8.42, Hamilton 7.83 and Alonso 5.73

    You can read/judge above yourself to make your own conclusions

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