We had a nice time together through 2008. When Sebastian arrived he was already quite experienced and we were able to build up a strong relationship starting from the technical side.
We had a new car that year in Monaco and we started getting better results from then on – sometimes he was leading and sometimes I would lead.
There was some coaching I had to do as he was still very young. I taught him some of the basics – how the car behaves and how the tyres behave to changes in the car 'set-up'. I showed him how we could develop a car and make it match his driving style.
With such a young driver that meant going through a learning curve process to give him the best opportunity to see what the car could do and what he was able to do with it. This allowed him to see the limit of the car and the limit of the track.
We could see from the beginning that we had someone special, particularly with his level of braking, and he had a very high level of sensitivity to the feel of the car, especially when conditions were changing. He was able to achieve 90 per cent of the car's capability faster than other drivers.
I think he learned quite a lot from his year with us: he started from the basics and by the end of the season he was able to tell us what he needed from the car. This is something I'm proud of because we gave him the possibility to understand what the car can do and put this into practice. The best example, of course, was his win from pole position at the 2008 Italian GP. What a great experience.
He gave us our best results and we're still friends. He drove my wedding car when I got married.
Gerd 'Talent Spotter' Noack
Owner of the Michael Schumacher karting centre, Kerpen, Germany
I can't precisely say what it was that I saw in Sebastian Vettel
when he came to our go-kart track for the first time. He caught my attention because he was such a lovely toddler who was very good at what he was doing. Something about him reminded me of my first driver, whose name is Michael Schumacher…
The Vettel family wasn't awash in money – quite the contrary – and I felt I had to try to prevent his career stalling by running out of money, so I helped find him sponsors. In 1997 – back then Sebastian was only 10 years old – I let out my kart business to fully support Sebastian's career. After winning the juniors' European kart championship twice, I bought him a Formula BMW. In our first season we just failed to win the championship and it wasn't even Sebastian's fault. In the final race he was punished for a rival's jump start!
When Sebastian entered Formula 3 I realised it was time for me to step back. As soon as he got involved in bigger teams I wasn't able to actively contribute any more, so I went back to karts. With Mario Theissen of BMW
and Red Bull's Helmut Marko taking care of him, I knew Sebastian was in good hands.
When Sebastian took his first F1 title it was the greatest gift to me I can think of because it's the perfect acknowledgement that I wasn't wrong about that toddler on my go-kart track.