Exclusive Q&A - BMW Sauber's Sebastian Vettel 20 Dec 2006
BMW Sauber's recruit on his goals for 2007 and beyond
BMW Saubers third driver Sebastian Vettel is fast becoming one of the most talked about talents in the paddock, thanks to a string of impressive performances in testing and Grand Prix practice sessions. Next season, the German teenager will divide his time between his Formula One duties and a race drive in the World Series by Renault. We caught up with him before his schedule gets even busier
Q: You are only 19 years-old but have already been named as BMW Saubers third driver. Are you still on cloud nine?
Sebastian Vettel: Yes, I am. It was a big step and the reality of it is still sinking in. Gradually I understand what Ive achieved this year, what the next year will mean for my development, and what the future might hold.
Q: Next season you will divide your time between your role as BMW-Sauber's test and reserve driver and your race drive with Carlin Motorsport in the World Series by Renault. Thirty-five race appearances is an intense schedule, do you think its manageable?
SV: I definitely think that it is manageable. Otherwise we would not have opted for this arrangement. And all involved understand: should there be any overlapping, the priority is clear on Formula One.
Q: Do you have a master plan for your career for the next three years? Where do you see yourself in a few years time?
SV: There is no such thing as a master plan. A career in Formula One is so unpredictable, but I think this is valid for all sports. Something can always get in your way, so its almost impossible to plan way in advance. The most viable approach for me seems to be thinking and planning from one year to the next.
Q: So many young drivers would love to be in your position. Did the competition increase the closer you got to Formula One racing?
SV: It seems to be common thinking that competition gets harder the higher you get. When I go back in my memory, the fight to win was no different when I was eight or nine years-old than in the previous year when I was driving in Formula 3. What is different is the level of professionalism, but the competition level stays the same. Sometimes the competitors are stronger and their number is higher, that varies. But if you drive at the top there are always one, two or three guys that you have to beat. So winning is not easy and never was.
Q: Trevor Carlin has a growing reputation as being a mentor for young drivers on their way to Formula One racing. Did that play a role in your decision to join his team?
SV: Trevor Carlin is fantastic, a really nice man. Up to now I have driven for him two times in the World Series, in Misano and in Spa, and one time in Formula 3 in Macau. Next year I will join his team for the World Series for the whole season. Our co-operation has already yielded fruit: in Misano I drove his car for the first time - and won both races. It was a perfect race weekend! This experience was key for the decision to go with Carlin and the World Series.
Q: You have tested the new Bridgestone tyres for BMW Sauber. How did they feel?
SV: It is quite challenging. The new Bridgestone tyres have less grip - to put it simply. So you are a tick slower. I think the secret lays in the fact that you react accordingly and adapt your driving style to that fact. I think it will take some time till all - car, team and driver - will have adapted to the tyres. So I think it benefited all, that we had some intense testing. All in all I tested the new tyres during three days and am very satisfied with the progress that we made. In January we have to see how they work on the new car. But I am very confident.