Vettel went way out on a right turn, and his car slid left back across the track and into the crash barrier on the other side of the Istanbul Park track.
Some debris flew off the body of Vettel's car, and the wheels were skewed at weird angles.
The F1 champion successfully controlled the crash, bringing the car to a complete standstill. He then waited for track officials to reach him before the mangled car was towed away.
Vettel leads the overall standings, 21 points in front of Britain's Lewis Hamilton, after winning two of the opening three races.