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Stepping into Schumi’s shoes?

Sebastian Vettel provided an answer to all those wondering how German Formula One fans could ever replace Michael Schumacher in their affections.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2008 23:13 IST

Sebastian Vettel provided an answer on Sunday to all those wondering how German Formula One fans could ever replace Michael Schumacher in their affections.

The 21-year-old, dubbed 'Baby Schumi’ by his national media, won the Italian Grand Prix to become the sport’s youngest winner and the first German to triumph since Schumacher retired in 2006.

Already Formula One’s youngest points scorer and the youngest to start on pole position, the Toro Rosso driver tried in vain to play down the comparisons with the Ferrari great.

‘To compare anybody to Michael I think is a bit ridiculous,” said Vettel. “I’m very young and at a very early stage of my career and therefore I think there is no need to make a comparison.”

He may need another 90 wins to equal his compatriot but he is on the right track, having spent time

at Schumacher’s Kerpen karting circuit and sharing his love of soccer.

The seven-times champion, watching from the Ferrari pit wall, was open in praise for a youngster who never put a wheel out of place after starting behind the safety car on a wet and slippery surface.

“What he did today was absolutely first class — to make no mistakes in these conditions and dominate the race from the start, and that in a car that is not the fastest,” he told Premier TV.

“I was crossing my fingers that the car would keep going and he’d bring it home. I’ve known him since he was small, we’ve played football together and so we are closer.

“He has the potential to be world champion but it’s a long and rocky road,” added Schumacher, who first brought Vettel to the attention of Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger when the German was a baby-faced teenager with a love of karting.

Berger, himself a winner at Monza with Ferrari, agreed.

“I’m not into comparisons but what I do know is that this guy will win a lot of races and a lot of championships,” he told reporters.

Vettel, one of Formula One’s more talkative and playful drivers with a love of British humour, was for once lost for words.

With the adrenalin still fizzing and a team that were once struggling tail-enders waiting to mob him after their astonishing first win, it was all a new experience for him.

“Sometimes I was thinking there is still P1 on my board, how can it be?” he said.