Vettel competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2007, and took his first win at the Nürburgring. He was leading the championship when he was called up to Formula One permanently. His seat was taken by Michael Ammermuller.
Vettel became BMW Sauber third driver at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, when former incumbent Robert Kubica was called up to replace Jacques Villeneuve for the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. On his testing debut, Vettel set the fastest time in the second Friday Free Practice before the race. In his second testing session in the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, he set the fastest time in both Friday practice sessions, a race weekend in which all the BMW cars were quick, with his predecessor Robert Kubica finishing on the podium in the race.Toro Rosso (2007–2008)
On 31 July 2007, BMW released Vettel to join Red Bull's Scuderia Toro Rosso team, replacing Scott Speed as one of its drivers from the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards. He earned approximately US$165,000 for finishing the season with Toro Rosso. Before the race, it was also announced that Vettel would drive for Toro Rosso in 2008, alongside Sébastien Bourdais.
Vettel struggled for his first couple of races while cutting his teeth with his new team, but managed two impressive drives in his 5th and 6th drives for Toro Rosso, a team that was averaging a little worse than 14th place in the 2007 season before Vettel's arrival. In the rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, Vettel worked his way up to third, behind Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber, and seemed to be on course for not only his but also Toro Rosso's maiden podium finish. However, Vettel crashed into Webber under safety car conditions taking them both out of the race and prompting Webber to say to ITV reporter Louise Goodman "It's kids isn't it. kids with not enough experience – you do a good job and then they fuck it all up." Webber also specifically criticized Lewis Hamilton's erratic behaviour in contributing to the accident, describing his antics behind the safety car as 'shit'." Vettel was initially punished with a ten-place grid penalty for the following race, but this was lifted after a spectator video on YouTube showed the incident may have been caused by Hamilton's behaviour behind the safety car. Vettel bounced back to finish a career-best fourth a week later at the Chinese Grand Prix having started 17th on the grid while in mixed conditions. He collected five championship points, making it both his and Toro Rosso's best race result.
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz stated his belief Vettel would be one of Formula One's big stars in the future. "Vettel is one of the young guys with extraordinary potential He is fast, he is intelligent, and he is very interested in the technical side."
Vettel competed in the 2007 Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium, representing the German team alongside Michael Schumacher. Vettel and Schumacher won the Nations' Cup Title, after exciting finals. Vettel had to beat two RoC champions, Heikki Kovalainen and Marcus Grönholm, after Schumacher stalled his car. Vettel lost the individual competition however, in first heat, in his second battle against Kovalainen.
Vettel also competed in the 2008 Race of Champions, alongside Michael Schumacher. Once again they won the Nations' Cup Title after a close final against Scandinavia. In the Driver's Cup, Vettel beat Troy Bayliss in Round One, but lost to Sebastien Loeb in the Quarter-Finals. Again Vettel teamed up with Michael Schumacher for the 2009 RoC Nations Cup, which they went on to win in a run-off against the Great Britain team of Jenson Button and Andy Priaulx. In the 2010 edition, on home ground in Düsseldorf, Vettel again teamed up with Schumacher to win the Nations Cup for the fourth time in a row. In the Driver's Cup, Vettel was eliminated in the semi-finals by Filipe Albuquerque, who went on to win the event.
In 2011, Vettel and Schumacher completed their fifth consecutive Nations Cup win, beating the Nordic team of Tom Kristensen and Juho Hänninen 2–0 in the final. In the semi-finals, Vettel had to beat both Andy Priaulx and Jenson Button, after Schumacher lost to Button. The year after, Vettel and Schumacher won their sixth Nations Cup title by defeating the French team of Romain Grosjean and Sebastien Ogier 2–0 in the final.