Baby Schumacher. The nickname is one that Sebastian Vettel is quick to play down, but looking at his driving style and that of Michael Schumacher, the seven-time Formula One world champion, and their close relationship with their mechanics and engineers, you can see how the nickname came about. These similarities, however, are nothing when you compare the two German drivers’ careers, as it would seem that Vettel is replicating Schumacher’s achievements almost perfectly.
The Early Years
Vettel and Schumacher got their first experience of racing at the Kerpen karting track, near the Nurburgring. Both would then go on to join junior-driver programs, Schumacher with Mercedes and Vettel with Red Bull.
Their F1 debuts came after replacing drivers mid-season. Schumacher replaced the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot at Jordan in 1991, while Vettel stood in for the injured Robert Kubica at BMW in 2007. The record book will show Vettel having a far more successful debut -- seventh in the United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis -- but Schumacher also impressed (at Spa, no less), comfortably out-qualifying his teammate who was 11 years more experienced.
Coincidentally, this would be both drivers' only appearance with their debut teams; both would go on to join new teams to continue racing that year. Here another similarity can be found: Benetton (for Schumacher) and Toro Rosso (for Vettel) were non-manufacturer teams and entered the sport to market their non-automotive related products.
The First Victories
In their first full seasons, Schumacher and Vettel would achieve some impressive results before taking a surprise victory in cars very few believed capable of winning a grand prix. Schumacher took his win in a year dominated by the Williams FW14B, while Vettel won for the team previously known as Minardi, the famous and much-loved tail enders of F1. More comparisons can be made when you note that these victories were both taken in wet conditions and came roughly a year after the drivers joined their teams.
Their second full seasons saw the opening of the championship dominated by one driver; in 1993 it was Alain Prost in the mighty Williams FW15C, and 2009 saw Jenson Button win six of the first seven races for Brawn GP. Schumacher and Vettel managed several podium finishes but both missed out on the championship, no thanks to a large number of retirements.
The First Championships
In their third full seasons, both were considered to be title-challengers; however a season of mixed fortunes would come to pass. Schumacher would lose points through various disqualifications and exclusions while Vettel lost points due to mechanical failures and collisions with other drivers.
Still, both would go on to take their first world drivers’ championships in the final race of the year -- and both driving car number 5. It was also the first year their non-manufacturer teams (Benetton and Red Bull) had won the drivers' title.
Both drivers finished their championship year with ten grand prix victories to their name and while Vettel took the title of youngest world champion, Schumacher missed out on achieving the very same feat by a little over a week.
The Rest Is History
A year later Schumacher had a much smoother championship campaign. He dominated the season to become a back-to-back and double world champion, winning the championship by a whole three race wins over his nearest rival. Sound familiar? Yep, Vettel went on to do the same thing in his second championship success.
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