• ESPN Sports Personality of the Year

Sebastian Vettel - the heir to Schumacher's throne

Josh Williams December 13, 2010

At 10 in our list for ESPN Sports Personality of the Year is the man who clinched the Formula One drivers' championship...

Sebastian Vettel reduced the record books to rubble during a year that ended in glory when he became the youngest drivers' championship winner. Prior to that, the 23-year-old had already established himself as the youngest pole-sitter and race winner.

Comparisons to Michael Schumacher, another preeminent German driver, are not as lazy as they may seem on the surface. His ten pole positions and five race wins showed he had the ability to stand alongside Schumacher in terms of skill, while his impetuousness and willingness to court controversy is reminiscent of his elder countryman.

A rivalry with fellow Red Bull driver Mark Webber was an intriguing, if unhelpful, sub-plot that threatened to disrupt the team's dominance of the sport during 2010. Webber even admitted that the competitiveness between the two was to the detriment of Red Bull: "Of course we lost some points with some of the rivalry getting too close," he said.

In the end it was Vettel who landed the telling blow in the feud when Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitted that the team was being built around the younger man. In an era in which team orders were banned and preferential treatment frowned upon, all agreed it was a startling admission - but few thought that it was the wrong call.

Vettel's season got off to a turbulent start as he failed to turn qualifying excellence into race success - in the first 12 grands prix he was never lower than third at the start, but only won two - before he looked to have imploded in the mid-section of the season after failing to threaten over any part of the weekend.

It was a devastating final burst that took Vettel over the finishing line first in the battle for the drivers' crown, as he won three of the final four races thanks to some remarkably composed showings. However, it wasn't all plain sailing - he lifted the trophy having been through the trauma of one of the most dramatic final showdowns in memory.

In Abu Dhabi, Ferrari made the calamitous error of bringing Fernando Alonso in from fourth for an earlier-than-expected pit stop. The Spaniard, who led the title going into the race, found himself struggling to find a way past the mass of cars who had congregated in the midfield. He finished seventh, allowing race-winner Vettel to claim a title that promises to be the first of many.

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Josh Williams Close
Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk