Rookie to Racer: Sebastian Vettel’s Special Connection With the Turkish Grand Prix

Published 08/25/2020, 8:41 AM EDT

After a 9 year absence, the Turkish Grand Prix returns to the F1 calendar in spectacular fashion in 2020. However, Istanbul Park is a significant circuit to one particular F1 driver, who’s endured pleasure and pain over the years. That man is Sebastian Vettel and here’s why Turkey is such a special place.


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14 years ago, a fresh-faced German got behind the wheel of an F1 car for the very first time. The letters V-E-T appeared on the timing charts for one of the BMW-Saubers. Not many may know this, but Sebastian Vettel set an F1 record mere seconds after driving out of the garage for the very first time.

How has Sebastian Vettel fared at Istanbul Park?


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An enthusiastic Vettel received a $1000 fine for speeding in the pitlane, 6 seconds into his F1 career. Then 19, Vettel impressed on his F1 debut, setting some impressive lap times during free practice.

Vettel’s love affair with Istanbul Park really began in 2009, when he clinched pole position, barely edging out Jenson Button. Sadly, the German couldn’t convert his pole to victory, prolonging his wait.

🗓 #OnThisDay in 2006

Sebastian Vettel makes his F1 debut with BMW Sauber, at the #TurkishGP 🇹🇷

Sebastian impressed many on that day, as he set the fastest time in FP2, on his first Grand Prix weekend appearance.#SV5 #F1 #14YearsInF1

— Sebastian Vettel #5 (@sebvettelnews) August 25, 2020

A year later, Vettel left Istanbul park with some painful memories in a race that produced one of the most iconic moments in F1 history.

Mark Webber on the intense rivalry at Red Bull ⚔️🔥

Watch the full episode of #F1Unscripted on our YouTube, on Sunday at 12:00 BST#F1 @Heineken #SocialiseResponsibly

— Formula 1 (@F1) August 22, 2020

Pipped by then Red Bull teammate Webber to pole, Vettel bounced back on race day and was on a mighty charge to make up for last year’s disappointment. Eager to snatch the lead of the race, Vettel collided with Webber to end his race.

The German’s actions and subsequent reaction to dropping out of the race created a fair amount of buzz within the F1 world. It was also a sign of things to come.

Such a mega track! 💪

Relive Sebastian Vettel's brilliant pole lap from 2011 – the last time we raced at Istanbul Park #TurkishGP 🇹🇷 #F1

— Formula 1 (@F1) August 25, 2020


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Finally, in 2011, Sebastian Vettel redeemed himself at Istanbul Park. Clinching pole by a whopping near 4 tenths, the German produced a flawless drive to finally seal a win in Turkey after years of disappointment.

Turkey’s witnessed the evolution of Sebastian Vettel from rookie to racer. Having experienced glory and heartbreak before his mighty Championship run in Formula 1, Vettel can proudly look back on the Turkish Grand Prix.


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F1 returns to Turkey on November 13. The Turkish Grand Prix will be held on November 15.


Abhishek Bharadwaj

720 articles

Abhishek Bharadwaj is an F1 author and content strategist at EssentiallySports. Having joined ES in January 2020, he has over 700 articles to his name. While he was first introduced to the world of F1 in 2006, he started religiously following the sport in 2012 and has had an undying passion for it ever since.