Following what was one of the most talked about driver changes in recent F1 history, Sebastian Vettel has proven his worth by spearheading the resurgence of a team desperate for success, Ferrari.
After leaving Red Bull, a team and company he'd been associated with since childhood, a demotivated, uninspired Vettel was looking for something new. In what would prove to be a masterstroke, he perfectly timed a move to Ferrari, who were under new management and eager to learn from their recent disappointment.
This season they have surged forward, becoming the only viable threat to the dominance of Mercedes.
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In contrast, Red Bull have floundered on the track, unable to make progress due to a vastly underpowered and often unreliable Renault engine.
Following in the footsteps of his hero
It didn't take long for the four-time champion to rekindle sights many long-time F1 fans know only too well. With a much-improved power unit, allied to the unique challenges of Sepang, we saw the German driver win for Ferrari in just his second race for the Scuderia.
The victory instantly led many to believe Vettel could do exactly what his hero Michael Schumacher did nearly two decades ago by joining an ailing Prancing Horse and help them re-find their gallop once again.
While ultimately Mercedes remained just out of reach at the majority of venues over the season, Vettel was always there keeping the Silver Arrows on their toes and ready to capitalise on any slip-ups.
Two more victories in Hungary and Singapore and a total of 12 podium finishes even had Vettel challenging for second in the drivers championship, until Nico Rosberg ended the season with three consecutive wins to ensure Mercedes kept hold of the top two places in the standings.
A new team and some success has also brought about a change in the way Vettel is viewed by many fans and onlookers.
As he rattled off championship after championship people became bored of him, even booing him on the podium seeing him as arrogant and selfish. Some still doubted his ability believing all his triumphs were down to the genius of Adrian Newey and his Red Bull cars rather than the man behind the wheel.
But he has returned to the position he had when he first made his name between 2008 and 2009. He's likable, funny, a breath of fresh air that's now an alternative to the humdrum at Mercedes. Indeed, Vettel often poked fun at the tension between Rosberg and Hamilton and almost all non-Mercedes fans wanted to see him get right in the middle of the championship fight.
Ferrari's new savior
Nowhere has his roller-coaster relationship with the fans been clearer than Italy. In 2008, he was adored following his first victory for the Italian team Toro Rosso at Monza. However, shortly after he became the man who stole Fernando Alonso's thunder twice during his four straight championships, but now back driving for the good guys the Tifosi are loving him more than ever.
His popularity, however, is coming at the cost of long-time friend Kimi Raikkonen. While there is no sign of tension between the two, Vettel has shown a similar level of domination over the Finnish driver as Hamilton did over Rosberg, only finishing behind him four times all season.
While it is largely accepted that Kimi is in the twilight of his career, many see this kind of gap between the pair leading to 2016 as being his last at Ferrari. When the 'Iceman' does eventually hang up his helmet it will be a sad day for F1.
Maintaining momentum key going forward
Regardless of who is alongside Vettel, it is clear that he is the one leading the Ferrari charge in their quest to catch Mercedes. Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene and President Sergio Marchionne must ensure the gains made in Maranello this year are continued and the pace of development quickened if they are to maintain a challenge to the Silver Arrows. If this is the case, then the resurgence of 2015 may just become championship success in the very near future.
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