When Sebastian Vettel retired at the end of 2022, it was a momentous occasion. Every single individual remotely related to F1 was praising him as a hero and legend of F1. Though this has not been the case forever. About a decade ago, when Vettel was dominating the F1 grid, many just disliked him to the core. To add to that, Sky Sports F1 ran a poll to check and quantify the number of people who liked or disliked the German world champion.

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Many assumed Vettel was the villain of the F1 paddock. Decimating his competition on the track, wagging his finger in celebration on the podium. It wasn’t the most well-received sight in the sport. To analyze this Sky Sports presenter and commentator, David Croft ran a poll of 4 questions about Sebastian on Twitter.

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As per some archive F1 footage from the 2013 Japanese GP broadcast, Croft ran through the results of this poll. The first question was about Seb’s social media presence, which was negligible back then. Only 38% wanted Vettel on social media.

David also revealed how only 33% of people liked Seb’s finger-wagging celebration. The percentages further kept being in the minority, coming to Vettel being the best and legendary driver of F1. Croft said, “Is Sebastian Vettel the best driver on the 2013 grid? And only 24% say yes he is the best driver. So 76% say, A. there is a bit more he has to do. B. It’s all about the car.”

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – NOVEMBER 25: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates with team mates on the podium as he finishes in sixth position and clinches his third consecutive drivers world championship during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 25, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the British commentator also revealed how only 40% believed the Red Bull driver was a living legend of F1 back then. This was a quite contrasting trend to how Seb became a hero of F1 today in the twilight of his career.

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It has been a crazy transition from being one of the most disliked to arguably the most liked driver of F1. To be fair, fans had mainly seen the best of Vettel back then with 4 back-to-back titles. People often miss the story of the young German who defied the odds to reach the heights of F1.

The Rise of Sebastian Vettel to F1

With Michael Schumacher’s career paralleling his childhood, Sebastian Vettel developed his F1 interest. Seb spent a lot of time karting before making his car racing debut in the Formula BMW series in 2003. As per Josh Revell, this was the equivalent of today’s Formula 4 series.

Vettel was proving his worth to Helmut Marko as well, who had signed him up for the Red Bull junior academy program. The German driver did exceptionally well through these feeder series. But in 2005, his Formula 3 Euro campaign got him up against his long-term rival, Lewis Hamilton. While Hamilton dominated that year, Sebastian settled for P5.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 02: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing talks with Dr Helmut Marko as he prepares to drive during practice for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

In 2006, again Vettel had to miss out on the F3 Euro title. But his fate drew him close to F1 with his talent. Eventually, in 2007, he was signed up as a test and reserve driver for BMW Williams. And when Robert Kubica had an accident; that was Vettel’s shot to take in F1.

He grabbed it with both hands, showing an impressive performance on his debut weekend at the US GP. Seb had qualified brilliantly in the top 10 and scored a point as well in the race, finishing P8. It was a stellar debut race that caught the eye of many in the paddock.

Eventually, Helmut Marko got him racing for Toro Rosso. And Vettel did not disappoint with making history in Italy in 2008. Amidst a rainy Monza circuit, Sebastian had put his Toro Rosso in pole position when the top contenders stumbled.

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Now, everyone thought this was a surprise result by chance and things would reset on race day. But it didn’t as Vettel stormed to victory in the Toro Rosso, becoming the youngest F1 race winner back then.

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WATCH THIS STORY: Sebastian Vettel championship seasons

It was a fairytale day when F1 truly saw the potential of Sebastian Vettel. Little did anyone know how this young German would go on to dominate F1 and have a complete journey of love and hate from fans in his career. What do you think of Vettel’s career journey to the pinnacle of motorsport?