After asking you to vote for your leading drivers from the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship season, the time has reveal the driver you voted the top star of 2008.

More than 45,000 votes were cast in the F1 poll, with each driver's average score out of ten then being calculated to decide the winner.

F1 Driver of the Year - First place:

Name: Sebastian Vettel Team: Scuderia Toro Rosso Car: Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR2B/STR3 Wins: 1 Podiums: 1 Pole positions: 1 Fastest laps: 0 Championship points: 35 Championship position: 8th

He finished just eighth in the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship, ascended the podium only once and qualified higher than sixth on merely a single occasion - but still Sebastian Vettel did enough to be voted readers' best driver of the year.

The young German - dubbed 'the next Michael Schumacher' in some circles - was competing in his first full season in the top flight, having made his grand prix debut with BMW-Sauber in place of the convalescing Robert Kubica at Indianapolis last year.

Even then, however, there had been clear signs that his was a talent that was really quite special, as Vettel joined the elite club of drivers to have scored points on their maiden appearance. Having joined STR for the final seven races of 2007, he then even more impressively went on to run up in third place in the torrential downpour of the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway, and just a week later achieved the small Faenza-based squad's highest finish of the year with fourth place in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. A star, indubitably, had been born.

That being the case, much was expected of both Vettel and the improving STR in 2008, but in four of the first eight grands prix, he could qualify no better than 18th. What had gone wrong? The answer was that Toro Rosso had begun the campaign with a development of the car with which it had ended the previous season, ahead of bravely introducing the new, Red Bull Racing-based STR3 at the Monaco Grand Prix in May.

In endeavouring to compensate for a car that was clearly not up to the task and lagging behind its direct competition, Vettel was too often guilty of over-driving, and in three of the first four races the 21-year-old failed to even make it beyond the opening lap. The man who had been touted as F1's latest superstar was suddenly in danger of becoming a has-been before he had even made it.

And then came Monaco, and a brilliant drive around the narrow, tortuous streets of the Principality earned Vettel both his and the team's first points of the year with a strong fifth place. The season had finally begun, the momentum was beginning to flow again - and from that point on there would be no looking back.

From the British Grand Prix onwards, the man from Heppenheim only once failed to make the top ten on the starting grid, and over the balance of the campaign he out-qualified record-breaking four-time Champ Car king team-mate S?bastien Bourdais by a margin of 13 to five.

In the last seven outings, Vettel finished inside the top six in all races bar one, and in Valencia, Spa-Francorchamps, Singapore and Fuji he drove with all the composure and brio of a seasoned grand prix veteran. In the Brazilian Grand Prix finale at Interlagos the former German Formula BMW Champion was sublime as he ran up in second place for a while, and just over a lap from home he boldly and opportunistically overtook the McLaren-Mercedes of eventual title-winner Lewis Hamilton to pinch what would be fourth place at the flag.

The undisputed highlight of Vettel's 2008 season, though, was Monza, when the driver who was already the sport's youngest-ever points-scorer added to that achievement by becoming its youngest pole position sitter and grand prix winner too over the course of a weekend that firmly installed him as a world champion in-waiting.

That he stormed to the top spot on the starting grid could perhaps have been explained away by the uncharacteristic weather conditions that caught out many - Hamilton and defending F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen amongst them - but Vettel's performance on race day, not putting a foot wrong and never once letting Heikki Kovalainen in the sister Silver Arrow get close enough to apply any pressure, was a drive of pure genius.

That, as much as anything else he achieved in 2008, was more than sufficient to mark Sebastian Vettel out as one of the key pretenders to Hamilton's throne over the years to come. Red Bull Racing has work to do indeed if it is to provide the erstwhile F3 Euroseries Vice-Champion with a car to match his evident potential in 2009.

To see the full results of the vote, click here


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