Sebastian Vettel will make his 150th Grand Prix start in Belgium on Sunday - but did you know that only one driver in history can boast a better win-record at the same stage of their career? We take a look back at some of the defining milestones and moments from the German’s nine years of Formula One racing...
From his first 149 Grand Prix starts, Vettel has been a tour de force in F1 competition, and boasts a simply staggering record of four world titles, 41 victories, 73 podiums and 45 pole positions.
Only one driver in history can trump that victory strike-rate at the exact same stage of their career - Michael Schumacher. The legendary German had racked up 47 wins and 88 podiums after 149 starts - but had ‘only’ taken three world titles (one fewer than Vettel) and 37 poles (eight fewer than Vettel).
Of the other greats to have amassed 149 starts, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton all have similarly superlative records. Prost and Senna recorded 39 wins each by their 149th start, while Hamilton had managed 34. Prost led the way on podiums (79), marginally ahead of Senna (78) and Hamilton (72). Senna had the edge on titles, taking three to Prost’s and Hamilton’s two.
Senna, however, had claimed a breath-taking 61 pole positions by his 149th start, 16 ahead of Vettel. Hamilton’s tally was 40, while Prost’s was 19.
Vettel, of course, was just the fourth driver in history (after Fangio, Prost and Schumacher) to win four or more world titles - and overwhelmingly the youngest, achieving the feat at just 26 years of age.
But Vettel’s record-breaking exploits don’t stop there. No man has won more races in a season than the German: in 2013 he was victorious an incredible 13 times, a record matched only by Schumacher in 2004.
He also tops the list for consecutive victories, with a record nine wins on the trot between Belgium and Brazil 2013. Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher are next up with seven consecutive triumphs (Schumacher also took six straight wins on another occasion), while Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Nigel Mansell and Lewis Hamilton have all scored five consecutive victories.
While Vettel’s name will forever be associated with Red Bull, many forget that he made his F1 race debut with a one-off appearance for BMW Sauber, standing in for the injured Robert Kubica at the 2007 United States Grand Prix. He qualified seventh and finished eighth, thus becoming the (then) youngest points scorer in F1 history, aged 19 years and 354 days.
Vettel’s first Grand Prix weekend appearance had come earlier in 2007 - as BMW Sauber tester he topped Friday practice in Turkey, but also picked up what is almost certainly the fastest fine in F1 history after exceeding the pit-lane speed limit just nine seconds into his very first session.
His second Grand Prix start came in Hungary in 2007, and after a switch to the far less competitive Toro Rosso team. Within seven races, however, he had scored again, delivering a magnificent fourth place - he started 17th - in China.
Vettel’s maiden victory came the following season at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. That weekend saw him become the youngest polesitter and youngest race winner in F1 history. He retains both records to this day.
He also still holds a number of other age-related records: the youngest man to stand on an F1 podium, the youngest to lead a Grand Prix, and, of course, the youngest world champion.
Vettel began a six-year stint with Red Bull Racing in 2009. That year he brought the young team their first pole position, their first race win (both in China), and their first fastest lap (Great Britain).
Vettel has taken 117 points finishes - in other words, he has scored points in over 78 percent of his races. Only two drivers with more than 10 starts can match that - Juan Manuel Fangio, who tops the pile with 43 points finishes from 52 starts, a ratio of 86 percent, and Lewis Hamilton with 125 points finishes from 158 starts, a ratio of 79 percent.
Vettel’s happiest hunting grounds in terms of Grand Prix victories have been Malaysia and Japan. He has won at both Sepang and Suzuka on four occasions. In fact, there are only two venues on the current calendar at which Vettel is yet to triumph - Austria and Russia.
Vettel is the joint highest points scorer in F1 history, sharing the honour with long-time rival Fernando Alonso. Both men are currently on 1778 points, 90 ahead of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel’s 45 career poles mean he has started 30 percent of his races from P1 on the grid. Only four men in F1 history can better that stat - Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Alberto Ascari and Ayrton Senna.
Vettel also holds the record for most pole positions in a single season. On his way to the 2011 title, he started 15 of the 19 Grands Prix from P1.
And finally, Vettel is one of only seven men in F1 history to have secured four or more ‘Grand chelem’ (taking pole, victory, fastest lap, and leading every lap at a single Grand Prix) - and of the six others, none is on the 2015 grid. In fact, of Vettel’s current rivals, only Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have achieved the feat, though both on only one occasion.