Over the last 15 years, Formula 1 has undergone substantial changes. Cars have evolved considerably, new safety improvements such as the halo have been introduced, engines have changed from V8 to V6 turbo-hybrids, many drivers have made their debut in the category, while some legends have retired…
However, in these 15 years, F1 has had two great protagonists: Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. The German dominated the grid between 2010 and 2013, breaking numerous records of precocity, while the Englishman dominated the hybrid era, equaling Michael Schumacher with seven world titles.
Undoubtedly, they are two of the greatest Formula 1 drivers, who have already gone down in the history books despite still being active. They have faced each other on the track on numerous occasions. Today it will be their turn to face each other on paper. Let’s start!
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Hamilton vs. Vettel: Their Impact On Formula 1
Hamilton and Vettel have won 11 of the 14 world championships since 2008, so their importance is undeniable. After the glorious era of Michael Schumacher, they have led and marked a whole generation of drivers, establishing themselves as important influences for future generations and representing the ideal of the contemporary driver.
The German’s dominance marked the end of the V8 engine era, and its spectacular sounds, while the Englishman’s dominance meant the beginning of the hybrid era and technology. However, not everything was a bed of roses for both: Vettel fought with Alonso to the end in 2010 and 2012, and with Hamilton himself also in 2010, while Hamilton had to face Rosberg and later Vettel during his time at Ferrari.
The German has broken all Formula 1 records for earliness, while the Briton has become the best driver statistically in F1 history.
Very different on and off the track, both are similar in terms of professionalism, dedication, and passion. A proof of this is that at 34 and 37 years of age respectively and with a long sporting career, both are still at the highest level.
Lewis Hamilton: The Rise of the Record-breaking Man
Lewis Hamilton made his F1 debut in 2007 with McLaren, the team that accompanied him since he was a child in the junior categories, achieving many successes together. In Formula 1, the Englishman continued winning. In his rookie year, he already achieved 4 victories and numerous podiums, finishing only one point behind the winner, Kimi Raikkonen, and tied with his teammate, double world champion Fernando Alonso.
In 2008, after a heart-stopping season finale, Hamilton won his first world championship, beating Felipe Massa and becoming, at 23 years and 9 months, the youngest winner ever so far. He stayed with McLaren until 2012, and after failing to win the championship in any of those four seasons, he signed for Mercedes in 2013, a team that had returned to F1 after leaving the category in 1955.
Many were skeptical of this move, but it has been proven that Hamilton knows how to pick a team in the long run. The Silver Arrows have dominated the category with the 2014 regulation changes and the introduction of the V6 turbo-hybrid engines. Hamilton has won 6 world titles with them and broken virtually every record in place.
Currently, Hamilton is the driver with the most wins, pole positions, and podiums of all drivers, so the numbers say he is the best driver in the history of Formula 1.
Sebastian Vettel: The Youngest World Champion in F1 History
Sebastian Vettel was Sauber’s test driver in 2006 and 2007 and made his F1 debut in the 2007 United States GP, replacing Robert Kubica. The German finished eighth and was the youngest driver to score points in F1, at 19 years and 349 days. His great performance led Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s second team, to sign him for the second half of the season.
In 2008, his first full season in F1, the young German surprised everyone, taking pole position and winning the chaotic Italian GP, and taking the team’s first victory, even ahead of big brother Red Bull. Vettel became the youngest driver in history to score a pole, a podium, and a win to date. In 2009 he was promoted to Red Bull, where he fought for the title with a competitive car, finishing runner-up.
His golden years came in 2010, dominating the grid until 2013 and winning 4 drivers’ titles in a row alongside the energy drinks team. At 23 years and 134 days, the German became the youngest world champion in history, a record he still holds. During those years, he had Fernando Alonso as his most formidable rival, reaching the season finale in 2010 and 2012 with title options.
After a bad season in 2014 with Red Bull, Vettel signed in 2015 for Ferrari, drove at a high level, obtained numerous victories and podiums per season, and fought for the title in 2017 and 2018 against Lewis Hamilton, albeit unsuccessfully. In 2021 he signed for Aston Martin, thus starting a new stage in his sporting career.
Hamilton vs. Vettel: Career Stats
Hamilton and Vettel have entered almost the same races, as both have raced in F1 since 2007, although the German competed from the second half of the season onwards. Both drivers have sporting careers and statistics that would be desirable for anyone.
As mentioned above, Hamilton has become the statistically best driver in history, as his long domination with Mercedes has allowed him to break all kinds of records previously held.
The Englishman has entered 296 GPs and scored 103 wins, 183 podiums, 103 pole positions, 58 fastest laps, and 4,215.5 points. This means that he has won 34.8% of the races in which he has raced and has achieved 61.8% of podiums, 34.79% of pole positions, and 19.59% of fastest laps.
On the other hand, Vettel is the third driver with the best statistics, behind only Hamilton and Schumacher. In a total of 286 GPS, the German has achieved 53 wins, 122 podiums, 57 pole positions, 38 fastest laps, and 3074 points. This means that he has achieved 18.53% of the victories, 42.66% of the podiums, 19.3% of the pole positions, and 13.29% of the fastest laps in the races in which he has participated.
In precocity, however, Vettel beats Hamilton. As for the first victory, at 21 years, 2 months, and 11 days, the German is the second-youngest driver in history, behind only Max Verstappen, while Hamilton, at 22 years, 5 months, and 3 days, is seventh.
Vettel is the youngest world champion in history, at 23 years, 4 months, and 11 days, while the Englishman is second, at 23 years, 9 months, and 26 days. Regarding pole positions, Vettel is also the youngest, at 21 years, 2 months, and 10 days, while Hamilton is eighth, at 22 years, 5 months, and 2 days.
Hamilton vs. Vettel: Clashes & Rivalry
Although Vettel and Hamilton have been the two great protagonists of the last decade, they have not really faced each other for the title on so many occasions. The rivalry between the two has been rather numerical on paper, although this has not prevented them from having numerous battles, frictions, and tensions on the track.
The first time the two fought each other for the title was in 2010, although not directly, as 4 drivers reached the last race with options: Alonso, Webber, Vettel, and Hamilton, with the Englishman having little chance of winning.
The years of greatest rivalry between the two drivers were 2017 and 2018. Hamilton’s Mercedes was the faster car, but Vettel’s Ferrari was also quite competitive. The German didn’t make things easy for him, beating the Briton in many races and leading the championship for much of both seasons.
However, during the second half of the season of both years, Vettel was more inconsistent, while Hamilton was more dominant, winning the championships without any problem.
One of their biggest controversies came at the 2017 Azerbaijan GP, when Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton during a Safety Car period, damaging his front win and Hamilton’s rear diffuser. He then drove alongside the Englishman and swerved into his car to protest what he believed was Hamilton brake-testing him. Words off the track were not very kind, producing a tense atmosphere during that season.
In 2019 they also had a controversial clash at the Canadian GP. Vettel led the race on lap 48, while Hamilton was close behind. However, Vettel went straight onto the grass at turn three, missing the chicane. When he rejoined the track, Hamilton was squeezed between him and the wall, forced to slow down to avoid a collision. This maneuver earned Vettel a 5-second penalty, giving the victory to Hamilton.
After the race, Vettel did not park where he should have parked in second place. He removed Hamilton’s #1 sign and moved it to the space where his car should have been, showing his disagreement with the FIA’s decision.
Hamilton vs. Vettel: Strengths and Weaknesses
Hamilton and Vettel are very similar but very different at the same time. Both drivers, when they are in harmony with their car, are practically unstoppable, as the German showed with Red Bull and the Englishman with the Silver Arrows. Both are also very good qualifiers. At Red Bull, Vettel was the best driver on the grid on a single lap, unbeatable, and in the hybrid era, it has been Hamilton who has taken over from him.
Both stand out for outperforming their teammates on most occasions and being true team leaders, especially during challenging moments. Hamilton is a very consistent driver and rarely makes mistakes. However, Vettel has shown a greater inconsistency and failures during the last few years, breaking under pressure.
One of Vettel’s strong points is tire management. The German is characterized by precise and smooth driving, taking great care of the tires. On the other hand, Hamilton is weak in this aspect, as his more aggressive driving has been a serious problem for tire management.
One aspect that also characterizes both is that they have had frictions and tensions with their teammates, Vettel with Webber and Hamilton with Alonso and Rosberg.
Hamilton vs. Vettel: Relationship and Lifestyle
Despite the frictions and clashes, they have had on the track, Vettel and Hamilton get along quite well off track, and have great respect for each other as rivals. The two admire and praise each other and often joke with each other at press conferences and in the paddock.
However, both lead very different lifestyles. Outside Formula 1, Vettel is a very private person; he is the only driver on the grid who does not have social networks. The German spends his time with his wife and family and leads a quiet life away from the media spotlight.
Hamilton, on the other hand, is more eccentric and active on social networks. The Briton is often seen at many public events and ceremonies. He travels a lot, always sharing photos and videos on his social networks, often in the media spotlight. Hamilton also uses his position and influence to raise the voice of many social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, environmental preservation, and LGTBI+ rights.
Vettel, in recent years, has also spoken out on many issues, denouncing, among other things, homophobia in Arab countries and global warming, wearing T-shirts and helmets with messages, images, and slogans to raise awareness.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are the faces of an entire generation of Formula 1 drivers, serving as role models and influences for new generations. They hold most of the F1 records, making them an essential part of the category’s history.
Both have marked some of the most dominant periods in F1 history, and although they are still active, they have already gone down in the history books. It is a joy to see them still on the track as they continue to prove that they are still at the highest level.