In a few weeks we’ll be recording our season review podcast with Nigel Roebuck, Damien Smith and Rob Widdows. We did the same last year in our local, the Chelsea Ram, and it seemed to work very well. There’s nothing like a few pints of beer and four opinionated F1 fans to create some debate!
I remember we spent a good deal of time talking about how good Sebastian Vettel had been in 2010, and I am sure much of the conversation this year will be centered around the man from Heppenhiem. He truly has had a stellar season.
However, it’s not just thanks to Vettel that he has two World Championships already. His team, Red Bull, has played a massive role in his success.
In our latest issue Simon Taylor had lunch with the man at the helm – Christian Horner – and it made for a fascinating read when it landed in the office.
“Seb’s been part of the Red Bull family since he was a 12-year-old karter,” he told Simon over lunch at The Birch in Woburn. “His car control is phenomenal, so he has no inhibitions about the car being ‘on the nose’, being loose at the entry or exit of a corner, which might unnerve other drivers. His ability to carry that off has been accentuated by the Pirelli tyre. It’s all down to the set-up: Mark drives the car in a classic style, whereas Sebastian may be happy to wind on more front wing to chase front-end performance and just deal with a looser rear.
“In 2010 he had a tough year. He was publicly criticised for some of his actions, and unreliability cost him three wins. But he never gave up, and it all came right for him in Abu Dhabi. Once the championship was on his CV that pressure was gone, replaced with a new confidence, and he’s stepped up a level this year. Based on 2011, you have to say Sebastian is currently the best driver in the world. He works harder on his own performance than any other driver in the pitlane. He’ll be in the paddock later than anyone on Friday and Saturday night, even if he has pole, trawling through his data and Mark’s, soaking up information like a sponge. He has the speed, the racecraft, the intelligence and the technical sympathy to understand what the car is doing and what it requires. He can create strategic options and opportunities by the way he drives the car.
“It helps that he is a very nice young man. He’s a wise head on young shoulders, but he has a sense of fun, and he’s humble. He just sees himself as one of the team. He doesn’t have a manager, he’s a shrewd guy who does his own deals. He and his girlfriend live in Switzerland, but he doesn’t bring her to the races, he protects her from the media. He’s got a thing about statistics, likes to tot up the wins, the poles, the fastest laps, the percentages.
“I’m always giving him grief about fastest laps. He’ll be leading comfortably into the last lap, nothing to be gained by taking any risks, and on the timing screens the first sector goes purple [indicating fastest of the day]. Rocky’s telling him to take it easy, stroke it home. Second sector goes purple. As he takes the flag, the third sector goes purple. So he’s got fastest lap. He’s doing all his celebrating on the slowing-down lap, and he comes on the radio: ‘Did I get fastest lap?’ Rocky says, ‘No, you missed it by a tenth.’ ‘I can’t believe that,’ he says, ‘that can’t be right.’ So then Rocky says, ‘Yes, you did get fastest lap. And you’re a bloody idiot.’”
Rocky may think he is a “bloody idiot” sometimes, but there’s no faulting Vettel’s hunger or talent. 2011 will surely be remembered as ‘the year that Vettel blew everyone away’.