Sebastian Vettel and the Top 10 Maiden Formula 1 Race Wins

Scott Mitchell@scottmitchell89Contributor ISeptember 14, 2013

Sebastian Vettel and the Top 10 Maiden Formula 1 Race Wins

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    September 14, 2008 saw the start of something special in Formula One.

    That day, on which the Italian Grand Prix was held, heralded a new race winner for the sport: Sebastian Vettel. You may have heard of him?

    Red Bull Racing's triple world champion started his F1 career in 2007 as a stand-in driver for BMW and scored a point on his debut at the United States Grand Prix.

    After one race, the Red Bull junior was quickly moved into the F1 operation's feeder team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, and he went on to score a remarkable fourth in only his seventh Grand Prix.

    In September 2008, his first full season as a racing driver, he entered the history books as a Grand Prix winner. Five years later and, as they say, the rest is history.

    But it did get us thinking: What are the other maiden Grand Prix wins which stand out? F1's history is rife with tales of unlikely victors and relieved, "Took me long enough!" winners.

    But which are the best? And where does Vettel's triumph stack up against the others?

Honourable Mentions

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    In putting together this list, greater emphasis was placed on the circumstances in which the maiden triumph was taken, not on what that driver went on to achieve.

    That also means that the value of a win to the driver/team/fans and how long it might have been in the making is part of the selection criteria.

    Here are a few other maiden wins which came close to deservedly slipping into the list.

    Mika Hakkinen, Europe 1997: Ultimately not a stirring drive to victory at Jerez, as Jacques Villeneuve nursed his ailing Williams home and McLaren teammate David Coulthard moved aside. But the Finn had many near-misses, had waited 96 races and was a hugely popular character, so this one meant a lot.

    Elio de Angelis, Austria 1982: Wins a remarkable race of attrition from seventh on the grid on the 54th attempt by just 0.050s from eventual champion Keke Rosberg.

    Nigel Mansell, Europe 1985: Another driver who had waited much longer than expected to step on top of the podium, Nigel Mansell eventually triumphed on his 72nd Grand Prix start. It was a home win at Brands Hatch, so it meant even more.

    Dan Gurney, France 1962: Laps the entire field en route to a maiden Grand Prix win after starting sixth on the grid, the first of four for the American.

    Denny Hulme, Monaco 1967: A race of attrition allows Hulme, the eventual '67 champion, to capitalise. Only six cars finish, with Hulme a lap clear of Graham Hill and two laps ahead of third-placed Chris Amon.

    Jochen Rindt, United States 1969: It's fair to say Jochen Rindt was an unfortunate man, having retired in 33 races from his first 50 starts, twice while leading. He finally claimed victory in the 1969 United States Grand Prix, in which he also claimed pole and the fastest lap.

    Mark Webber, Germany 2009: Ends a seven-year wait for his first win with a determined drive to victory which included overcoming a drive-through penalty. It was typical of the Australian to have to face back luck, even when he finally won, but the success proved very popular and very emotional.

    Vittorio Brambilla, Austria 1975: The March driver lined up eighth for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix but proved the class of the field in torrid conditions as he flew through the lead drivers to win comfortably. However, he dealt with the slowing-down lap a bit worse, throwing his car off while celebrating.

10. Alessandro Nannini, Japan 1989

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    Alessandro Nannini's maiden win was fortuitous, and in controversial circumstances, which makes it a prime candidate for a memorable first triumph.

    There were plenty of drivers and cars capable of being well-placed with title rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at the chicane at Suzuka in 1989.

    But it was the affable Nannini, driving brilliantly in the tri-coloured Benetton, who took up the baton when the McLaren duo infamously came together.

    He led on the road when Senna pit for a new front wing but was passed by the Brazilian later on. Senna was then controversially disqualified for "cutting" the chicane upon rejoining the circuit after his collision with Prost, handing Nannini victory.

9. Francois Cevert, United States 1972

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    The hugely talented Frenchman who won just one Grand Prix during a career far too short for his talent.

    Sir Jackie Stewart's protege was tipped to be the next big thing and was serving what was becoming an apprenticeship to the world champion at Tyrrell.

    Starting fifth in the United States Grand Prix of 1971, Cervert was swiftly up to third and then picked off Denny Hulme and race leader Jackie Stewart to assume the lead by Lap 15. He went on to win by a crushing 44 seconds.

8. Gilles Villeneuve, Canada 1978

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    Gilles Villeneuve will be forever remembered for daring overtakes, outlandish talent and exuberant driving.

    His first Grand Prix victory was somewhat fortunate and perhaps lacked some of the characteristics which stereotypically define a great win, but circumstance propels his victory into F1 folklore.

    Competing in his first full F1 season, Villeneuve had conspired to rob himself of a maiden Grand Prix in the United States Grand Prix at Long Beach when he tripped over a backmarker.

    Come the final round of the season, the first running of the Canadian Grand Prix held in Montreal rather than at Mosport, it looked like victory would elude him in is maiden season.

    Rain had fallen heavily on Friday, pathetic fallacy perhaps given the then-recent passing of Lotus driver Ronnie Peterson at Monza two rounds previously.

    His replacement, Jean Pierre Jarier, claimed pole position with Villeneuve third.

    But, in front of a crowd of 72,000 people which included Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Villeneuve won, re-passing a quick-starting Alan Jones and slipping by Jody Scheckter before race leader Jarier hit mechanical problems.

    Fortunate it may have been, but it was equally well-deserved. And memorable? Absolutely.

7. Jim Clark, Belgium 1962

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    Starting from 12th on a circuit as long and challenging as Spa and a Grand Prix as demanding as Belgium, Jim Clark's victory prospects were not outstanding.

    Nonetheless, the Brit showed every portion of guile and talent that would come to mark him out as one of F1's greatest drivers as he worked his way to the front with minimal fuss.

    That he won the race by an eventual 44 seconds, beating defending champion Graham Hill and setting a fastest lap 1.4 seconds quicker than the pole position time in qualifying, is testimony to how untouchable the 25-time Grand Prix winner was that day in the Ardennes.

6. Jenson Button, Hungary 2006

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    Many questions were being asked of Jenson Button by the time he finally won a Formula One race.

    He'd had near-misses; plenty in fact. But he'd never quite lived up to the hype, be that of a British press desperate for another world champion, or his own self-belief.

    Lining up 13th for the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, you'd have been forgiven for thinking it was unlikely he was going to lift the weight of expectation that Sunday in Budapest.

    But, proving superb in dry, wet and greasy conditions, he stormed through to take the win at the 113th time of asking.

    The wide-eyed Button was stunned, as was the watching audience. It was a remarkable drive and a fully-deserved win.

5. Sebastian Vettel, Monza 2008

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    When the rain came down during the 2008 Italian Grand Prix weekend, one man stepped up and delivered.

    It was not the world champion, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Nor was it the main players in that season's title fight, Lewis Hamilton or Felipe Massa.

    It was not Heikki Kovalainen, Hamilton's McLaren teammate who qualified second and was in search of his first Formula One win.

    It was Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Toro Rosso's 21-year-old sensation who was in his first full season racing in F1.

    It was not just (and I use that term relatively) the German had fought off a McLaren for pole position and then the victory in the most appalling of conditions. 

    He managed to do so while running a very low downforce setup, a consequence of his team believing the race would be dry. Low grip would have been an overstatement.

    Vettel delivered a crushing performance, winning by 12 seconds in the end. It was Toro Rosso's first and only Grand Prix win, one they've not since come close to replicating. 

4. Ayrton Senna, Portugal 1985

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    Torrential conditions were initially the main talking point at Estoril for the 1985 Grand Prix of Portugal, but Ayrton Senna soon gave everyone something new to talk about.

    He dominated qualifying, clocking in almost half a second faster than Alain Prost. But that was nothing compared to his race performance.

    In a manner which would soon become synonymous with the legendary Brazilian, Senna powered to an utterly irrepressible maiden victory in awful conditions.

    He lapped everyone up to second-place Michele Alboreto, who was still a mammoth one minute behind the Lotus. 

    That it set a precedent for Senna's prodigious wet-weather talents is irrelevant, that's not what this list is about. It was, quite simply, a performance produced by a driver who demonstrated a talent nobody else could come close to, let alone match.

3. Olivier Panis, Monaco 1996

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    Frenchman Olivier Panis could never have envisaged that, starting 14th for the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix in his Ligier, he would claim his first and only Formula One win that afternoon.

    In a race which began in wet conditions, Panis would deliver the Ligier team its final Grand Prix win on a day where only two other drivers were classified as finishing with just one more, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, circulating at the race's end.

    It was a remarkable and frankly astonishing series of events which led to Panis ultimately taking the win, which included an opening lap spin for Michael Schumacher and a series of retirements which left just 13 cars running after only five laps.

    Engine failure for race leader Damon Hill handed Jean Alesi the initiative before suspension failure condemned him to retirement. Panis, who had made a perfectly-timed switch to slick tires, took control and eventually beat David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert to take the win.

2. Jean Alesi, Canada 1995

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    Tears were shed as Jean Alesi finally stood atop a Formula One podium, and they were not just from the eyes of the Frenchman.

    A hugely popular figure in the paddock and hero to the fans, it seemed cruel that Alesi had yet to win in F1.

    Five years on from his Grand Prix debut, Alesi inherited the lead when Michael Schumacher was delayed with an electrical problem which required a pit stop and steering wheel change.

    Wearing the No. 27 made famous by home hero Gilles Villeneuve, Alesi was unimpeded en route to his only Grand Prix victory, winning more than 30 seconds clear of Rubens Barrichello.

    Fans flocked onto the circuit while the cars continued to circulate on the slowing down lap, as Alesi ran out of fuel exiting the hairpin and surfed on top of his car as it rolled to a stop.

    Given a lift back aboard Schumacher's Benetton, Alesi wept as he took to the top step of the podium. Oh, and did I mention it was also his 31st birthday? A perfect way to celebrate.

1. Giancarlo Baghetti, France 1961

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    No driver before had achieved it, no driver since has either. The 1961 French Grand Prix has a special place in history.

    It is the race in which Giancarlo Baghetti sensationally won on Grand Prix debut. He had contested non-championship races with success before being handed a real shot with Ferrari in 1961.

    Baghetti started down in 12th, and even dropped to 13th on the opening lap. But he quickly worked his way up the order and was fifth by Lap 10.

    He yo-yoed slightly as he attempted to break into the top three, but as they headed into the final third of the race, the final podium position was his.

    Still, Baghetti was not finished. Long-time race leader Phil Hill retired, and Baghetti entered a titanic scrap with Dan Gurney, who was also searching for his first win.

    The Ferrari man emerged on top of a seven-lap sprint to the flag in which the lead changed hands almost by the lap. One-tenth of a second separated them at the finish with Baghetti the victor.