Long before Max Verstappen, Red Bull had their first ‘wonder child’ and that was the four time world champion Sebastian Vettel. It is striking how similar path the two different generation of Red Bull youngsters took, with the German going on to be one of the most successful drivers ever in the sport.
His racing career started in Formula BMW in Germany, finishing second in his first season in 2003, before winning the series in 2004 with eighteen wins from twenty races, finishing on the podium at every race.
A move to Formula 3 Euroseries was less successful in 2005, but it was his first season finishing fifth and getting on the podium at Macau with his first attempt, which not many F1 drivers have done. Significantly he was picked up by BMW Williams as a test driver.
A second year in Formula 3 promoted him to second, along with a couple of rounds of the Formula Renault 3.5 series, something he would go on to compete just seven rounds of in 2007.
2007 was a breakthough year for Vettel, starting his first race for Sauber, having been their test driver the previous season, before making the immediate switch to Toro Rosso for seven races that season.
2008 would prove to be an interesting year for Vettel at Toro Rosso. What started poorly, turned into a great season for the German, the youngest driver to win a Grand Prix at the Italian Grand Prix, helped by the wet weather that weekend. He also had good drives at the Brazilian Grand Prix where he raced as high as second and the German Grand Prix.
The promise he showed at Toro Rosso meant he got the call up to Red Bull after the retirement of David Coulthard at the end of that season. He would drive alongside Red Bull favourite Mark Webber, something which would later go on to be a toxic relationship. Four further wins would come this season, finishing second in the world championship, behind Jenson Button.
As Red Bull dominated the next four years, it was Vettel would take the leading role in the success of the team. That sparked a fierce battle with Mark Webber, who was still highly rated by the team and kept on beside the German despite their differences. The nature in which Vettel won gave images of former world champion Michael Schumacher in his sometimes ruthless nature of winning.
With new regulations coming in for 2014 Vettel would have a new teammate in the form of Austrian Daniel Ricciardo. The downfall of Renault would play the part of making Red Bull uncompetitive, Vettel not winning a single race for the first time since 2007. Not only that but Ricciardo was quicker, which promoted a change of direction for Vettel.
2015 brought a move to Ferrari, and that heralded early gains to three wins, the first coming in the second race in Malaysia, but there were still handling issues with the car and a lack of speed from the Ferrari meant he would finish third. A year later and frustration was boiling over, swearing regularly over the radio. It meant no wins, and a situation at the team which has left them in a similar position to previous seasons.
Retaining Kimi Raikkonen as a teammate for another season will be good for Vettel, but it is questionable how long that can remain, with a number of decent drivers waiting in the wings.