On this day 15 years ago, Sebastian Vettel stunned the Formula 1 world by taking his and Toro Rosso’s maiden grand prix triumph at Monza.
Vettel’s unfathomable path to victory began with a sensational maiden pole position on the Saturday of the 2008 Italian Grand Prix weekend, mastering the wet conditions and utilising his Toro Rosso’s powerful Ferrari engine to maximum effect.
To this day, Vettel remains F1’s youngest-ever pole sitter at the age of 21 years and 73 days.
Heikki Kovalainen joined him on the front row in the highly competitive McLaren that team-mate Lewis Hamilton was using to fight for championship honours.
Despite surging to pole on Saturday, the general consensus suggested that Vettel would be unable to pull off a victory on Sunday, during what was still his first full season of F1.
His team Toro Rosso only began competing in F1 in 2006, having acquired Minardi, a team routinely suited to running at the back of the grid.
This wasn’t a winning package by any stretch – but the usually sunny Monza was blighted by the same downpour on Sunday that had aided Vettel in his pursuit to pole position.
After two laps under the Safety Car, Vettel led the field away at Monza.
By Lap 18, the young German had stretched his advantage to over 10 seconds when it was time to take his first pit stop.
Once the first round of stops were completed Vettel’s advantage out front was locked in once again and he would never relinquish the lead.
As the track began to dry and allow for intermediates, Vettel pitted for a second time on Lap 36.
It was a drive of a seasoned veteran in a leading team, being put on by a driver in his second (and first full) season of F1 for a minnow.
The low drag STR3 coupled with a strong Ferrari engine was the perfect tool for Vettel to make history with at Monza
Vettel crossed the line with a 12-and-a-half-second advantage over Kovalainen with the one-stopping Robert Kubica finishing in third for BMW Sauber.
It was the first win for Toro Rosso, in what was the Faenza-based team’s home race. Despite being junior to sister team Red Bull, it had also beaten the Milton-Keynes squad to victory.
The small Italian team had taken on the giants of F1 and won and the members of the team scrambled out of their garage in a flurry at the end of the race.
At the time Vettel’s maiden victory made him the youngest winner in grand prix history, at 21 years and 74 days of age and his legacy as one of F1’s all-time greats had begun.
Vettel would go on to claim Red Bull’s maiden win at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix and the first of four successive titles a year later.
The German secured a total of 53 wins, enough for third in the all-time standings and off the track he has become an advocate for social change.
But his path to greatness can all be traced back to Monza on this day in 2008 and after crossing the line, Vettel was left in near shock at his achievement.
“I don’t know what to say, I miss the words, grazie mille,” he said over team radio.
As is tradition, fans swarmed to the track to soak in the podium celebrations, with a chorus of cheers ringing out when the Italian national anthem played to celebrate the momentous win.
“The best day of my life, these pictures, these emotions I will never forget, it’s unbelievable,” Vettel said in the post-race press conference.
No words could sum it up better than those from the man himself.