For any motor sport fan, to be present when a championship is won is a very special moment. I’ve been lucky enough to be at the last six championship deciders. While Sebastian Vettel’s fourth title didn’t have the drama of Lewis Hamilton’s in 2008 or last year’s huge battle at Interlagos, to be part of it all and see history being written is something I never tire of.
Heading into the weekend there was a sense of the inevitable but as we’ve seen so many times in F1, nothing is certain. Then came practice one, two and three: Vettel fastest. Qualifying: Vettel fastest. Sunday surely would be no different.
It wasn’t. The German claimed his fourth title in incredible style. The only thing that might have caused his heart to beat a little faster was the news that Mark Webber’s Red Bull had an alternator failure and the worry of the same happening to him. Sixty laps after starting from the front with Nico Rosberg over his shoulder, that’s how the race finished, although the eight metres on the grid had become 29 seconds.
I’d been given an exclusive interview with Sebastian on Thursday and I’d rarely seen him so relaxed. He was in great spirits and if he was feeling any pressure, he should go into acting! We covered a lot of topics from legacy to team-mates, his thoughts on Alonso and Hamilton, to his feelings a few months on from Multi-21. If you want to see it you can take a look here…
We spoke for 20 minutes but we could only run five minutes of it in the build-up show. One thing we didn’t have time to broadcast was why he chose to send every woman who works at Red Bull a box of chocolates in the summer break. His reasoning was that he spends all his time thanking “the guys in the garage and the guys back at the factory” when he should have been thanking the ladies too. As he lives in Switzerland he decided to show his gratitude in the form of chocolate!
After the race the time he spent with the media was impressive. The thing he seemed most over-awed about was the fact that when he was growing up he had pictures of Michael Schumacher on his wall and how he and all the kids at the Kerpen kart track where he learnt his trade looked up to Schumacher. Now the F1 wannabes of the future are putting pictures of Vettel on their walls and that, he says, is one of the strangest things to come to terms with.
Many describe Alonso as the racer’s racer. His race craft is extraordinary but he is not a four-time world champion and kids look to winners for inspiration. At the moment that is Vettel. Also in the four-time World Champion club are Fangio, Schumacher and Prost. In fact Alain Prost hadn’t won his first Grand Prix by the same age that it has taken Vettel to get four consecutive world titles.
In the past it has been easier for doubters to dismiss the achievements of Vettel but the facts are there. Red Bull and Adrian Newey had not won a Grand Prix in three years together before Sebastian Vettel arrived at the team. There is no doubt the current package is formidable but he still has to put it all together when it matters and he does.
Whether you are a Vettel fan or not he deserves respect for what he has achieved. And who knows what happens after? Did we think that when Alonso won his back-to-back championships in 2005 and ’06 that maybe they just might be his last? The same goes for Lewis Hamilton in 2008. We presumed they were the men of the moment and that they would keep on winning. There have been no more for either since then and there is no guarantee that Vettel will continue to collect titles in the way that Schumacher did.
F1 is undergoing a change in 2014 in terms of regulations and engine rules and while I hope it makes the battles on track closer again, it doesn’t mean to say that I can’t appreciate what we have seen this season and the achievements of Sebastian Vettel.
Click here to read more on Formula 1
Click here to read more from Lee McKenzie