THIS STORY APPEARS IN THE OCTOBER 16 ISSUE OF MOTORSPORT ILLUSTRATED NEWS
For a man who is just 26 years of age, Sebastian Vettel has come a long way in a short time, and it’s in Japan that the rapid rate of his ascension comes into starker focus. Back in 2007 at Fuji Speedway, a 20-year-old Vettel made the biggest mistake of his career in Japan, clattering into Red Bull driver Mark Webber behind the safety car in treacherous conditions as they were both in contention for unlikely podium finishes. Webber, a straight-shooter at any time, let alone after an unforced retirement on a day when he was ravaged by food poisoning and repeatedly vomiting inside his helmet, was unimpressed to say the least.
“It’s kids, isn’t it?” was Webber’s memorable response when asked by a TV reporter for his immediate thoughts after the accident. “Kids with not enough experience – and they go and f**k it all up.”
Vettel’s tears in the Scuderia Toro Rosso garage that day told you he realised he needed to grow up, and fast. In the six years since, it’s fair to say he’s done just that. Sunday’s race win at Suzuka – his fourth in five years at the revered Japanese track – was his fifth victory in succession, the first time any driver has managed the feat since his mentor Michael Schumacher won seven straight races for Ferrari in 2004. And as a fourth consecutive world title came within touching distance, the German could bask in the glory of another success at a circuit that the drivers agree is the best on the calendar.
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