Vettel's path: From Baby Schumi to four-time F1 champ and activist

Seeing red: Heading to Ferrari fails to deliver

Frustrated by Red Bull's lack of reliability and poor pace compared to the newly ascendent Mercedes team headed by Lewis Hamilton, Vettel decided 2015 was the time to pursue a childhood dream and follow Michael Schumacher's example by becoming a Ferrari driver. He soon struck up a good relationship with his latest team mate Kimi Raikkonen, and won on his second outing for the team in Malaysia.

He won again in Hungary and Singapore, the only non-Mercedes driver to claim a victory all season. But Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were rampant: Vettel was best of the rest by some margin, but Mercedes' 703 points to Ferrari's 428 told a story all its own.

The following season Vettel (and Ferrari) were winless again with Red Bull picking up the 'best of the rest' honours this time. But soon Vettel was winning races once more and he was runner-up in the 2017 and 2018 championships - although slip-ups by both driver and team continued to prove costly when it came to their unfulfilled title ambitions. Then Vettel finished 2019 in fifth place behind his new team mate Charles Leclerc, and it was soon clear that the young Monegasque was now the apple of Ferrari's eye and their bright hope for the future.

Vettel by comparison was perceived as a busted flush, a washed-up has-been who hadn't been able to deliver the expected titles to Maranello that he had been hired to do, and as Schumacher had done so effectively before him.

The 2020 season was thrown into turmoil by COVID, and like the rest of us Vettel ended up in lockdown at home with his family until the season finally got underway in July. But before that happened, he was shocked to be told by Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto that the team wasn't going to enter into negotiations to extend his contract beyond the end of the season.

It was painted as an amicable decision, but subsequent revelations have made it clear that this was a painful rebuff for Vettel who clearly felt he deserved more respect from the team that he still passionately adored.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF1000 and team mate Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF1000 battle for position. 11.10.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, Eifel Grand Prix

The split left Vettel wondering what to do: should he call time on F1 and retire, or seek a new seat elsewhere on the grid? Perhaps a return to Red Bull which was having trouble finding a second driver capable of matching up to Max Verstappen? I

n the meantime, once the 2020 season did get underway it was clear that the latest Ferrari had a lot of problems. And we do mean a lot. The team slumped to sixth in the constructors battle and Vettel himself scored only 33 points all year.

In the end, Vettel decided to stay in Formula 1 with a two year contact at Aston Martin, which was relaunching itself after previous incarnations as Force India and Racing Point.

It sought to benefit from Vettel's experience and technical insight, but the team itself was still trying to find its way and Vettel's arrival was no magic salve for deeper problems any more than it had been at Ferrari. Vettel himself initially struggled to get to grips with a car that was very different from the ones he was used to, but he finally took points with fifth in Monaco and was second in the next race in Azerbaijan.

He was second again in Hungary but the car was then disqualified for a technical infringement. Overall he made the most overtaking moves of anyone in the season (132) but still finished 12th in the drivers standings and seemed lacklustre on track compared to his younger days. When the 2022 season started he missed the first two races after contracting COVID, and had to watch from home as Nico Hulkenberg took over.