Thursday 12 March 2015


The three German Ferrari drivers in Formula One - Wolfgang Von Trips on the left was the first
Come Sunday, Sebastian Vettel will be the third German driver to race for Ferrari works team in Formula One. Going by the record his previous two compatriots have achieved - there is little to suggest otherwise but success for the youngest four-time world champion.

In the 1950's, there was none more famous German driver than Wolfgang Von Trips - who began his Formula One career with Ferrari in 1956. It took some time for him to get going and it was in the season of 1961, when he and the American Phil Hill both demonstrated their prowess and the power of Ferrari. If not for his death as a result of a collision with Jim Clark at the Italian Grand Prix, Von Trips would have clinched his first driver's championship as he was leading the championship at that time. The only consolation for Ferrari was Phil Hill's triumph as he won an emotional race marred by the on-track incident involving his team mate.

Two of Von Trips wins came in his final season at Netherlands (Dutch Grand Prix) and Aintree (British Grand Prix) and it was not until 1992, a German driver had won a full-length race in Formula One. At the time of Schumacher's victory at the Spa-Francorchamps (Belgian Grand Prix 1992), it was just the fourth win (Jochen Mass won the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix which was curtailed) for a German driver.  And since then German drivers have won a total of 146 races.

One of the best drivers of all-time and taken in the same breath as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher will go down as the best German F1 racer irrespective of what Vettel will go on to achieve. For the 1996 F1 season, Michael Schumacher had decided to don the famous red colours of Ferrari. The two consecutive driver's titles with Benetton were anything to go by, a move to the ailing Italian team was perceived as an illogical move. Ferrari was struggling and the team were in a desperate need for a champion who could revive their fortunes. In came 'Michael Schumacher' to overcome this challenging task and to bring back the glory days of the Prancing Horse.

With Michael Schumacher at the top of his game, Ferrari rose to new heights which also saw them claim six consecutive constructor's title (between 1999-2004) and five consecutive driver's title (2000-2004). In those 11 seasons with Ferrari, Schumacher won a wow-rendering 72 races! (91 in total). Just for the record, the second placed Alain Prost has 51 victories in his career.

Sebastian Vettel is 27 years old, the same age as Michael Schumacher when he joined Ferrari. Vettel said at the time of joining Ferrari - "When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it's an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari."

For Ferrari, since that emotional heartbreak in Brazil in 2008, they have not won any championships. This winless phase is nothing compared to the 20 years drought they went through between 1979 and 1999. Like every era, this too is different and with technology and news reaching to all corners of the world by a single click, each season without a win makes it that much harder, opinions are quickly drawn which aches the management a touch more and thus with the start of new season comes pressure in the form of expectations, great expectations.

Fernando Alonso during his stint with Ferrari came close to winning more than once, but always found wanting at the last hurdle. This year Vettel will be on the other side after scripting those memorable wins for Red Bull which had him win those close encounters against Alonso. Alonso will remain a rival if it is of any comfort and instead Vettel will be alongside Kimi Raikkonen, who was Ferrari's last champion eight seasons ago.

This is what great racers are made of, the ability to drive a team forward, win championships and taste successes together. Michael Schumacher had to wait four years to achieve glory with Ferrari, and who knows how long Vettel has to wait. One thing is clear, he would definitely enjoy this challenge than spending few more years at Red Bull.

We will see how history unfolds for the German driver with the Italian team. 

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