Exclusive interview - Toro Rossos Sebastian Vettel 21 Sep 2007
With his boyish good looks, many thought Sebastian Vettel had mistaken the paddock for the schoolyard when - as a mere teenager - he started the 2007 season as BMW Saubers test and reserve driver.
Six months on, the 20-year-old German has a world championship point, a permanent race seat with Toro Rosso - and a new haircut! A very confident young man has emerged - and one very much on a mission
Q: You got your race debut at the United States Grand Prix as a temporary replacement for Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber. At Spa last weekend you completed your fourth race for Toro Rosso as their regular driver. How has life changed in between?
Sebastian Vettel: I am in different colours - thats obvious. What else has changed? That Im in the car on Sunday - and thats a major change. At the moment I am growing into the team, and I can say that theres a great atmosphere here. Sure the car is not on the same level as the BMW car, but I see good potential in the team. On a very personal level the change has not been as big as one might expect. As a test driver I had been at all the races so Id already inhaled the paddock climate. The media interest has probably been raised a couple of notches, but thats no big deal.
Q: How important is that one point that you scored at Indianapolis? It might take a while to win another
SV: Gee, I hope not! But lets be realistic. At the moment we are not in the position to score points from our own strength - we are depending on luck. And we have to make sure that we are there, should something happen further down the grid, to collect whatever others leave behind. Sure the one point in Indy was nice - but it could have been three or four had the first lap developed as expected!
Q: How important do you think the Indianapolis race was for your reputation? You are now the youngest driver ever to score a point in Formula one racing
SV: It definitely was important. When you are in a less competitive team the people tend to look at the result and see you in 15th, 19th or whatever position and take this as your performance level. They only start to search for reasons when a Ferrari or McLaren is not in the top five, so it was important to demonstrate that I can do more.
Q: There has been a visible change about you - and its not just the new haircut. It seems you have to grow up fast in Formula One racing
SV: Yes, because if you dont, you have no chance. The paddock has its own rules and if you dont absorb them rapidly, things might develop to your disadvantage. But I would not say it happened in the last two months. I was ready for Formula One at the beginning of the season - so if you are referring to the immediate past, it probably is the haircut!
Q: You have raced with Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil in Formula Three. Since then, circumstances have swept all three of you into Formula One racing at the same time. Hamilton has gone straight to a top team, Sutil to a backmarker and you to a midfield squad. Is it a bit of a reunion?
SV: It is strange. When we met in karting and then moved up together to Formula Three we always looked up to Formula One, chatting about what the magic people in F1 are doing. Then somebody comes along and tells you hey, you are one of them now! and now the three of us are racing against each other in F1! Its magic!
Q: Red Bulls motorsport consultant Helmut Marko has said that you played a crucial role in the negotiations about your move to Toro Rosso. Was your appetite for racing so overwhelming?
SV: The foremost reason was that I dont have a manager - just like Jochen Rindt - so I had to be involved. In the end it was up to me, and I wanted to race. With the new regulations the test drivers dont see so much of the cockpit nowadays. It almost seems that this regulation is penalising the test drivers. Most important though was that I definitely felt I was ready. And here I am.
Q: He also said that you have an analytical mind - like Michael Schumacher, but without the stubbornness
SV: Ah, I am quite stubborn myself. Obviously he hasnt discovered that yet. But isnt that normal for my age? I want to learn and understand what is going on - not only within my team, but in F1 as a whole.
Q: At BMW Sauber you were racing for a possible podium, but now you are in a car that will have to work its way up the grid first. What is the biggest difference between the F1.07 and the STR2?
SV: The STR2 has less grip - its that simple. It is not that the car is undriveable - its just on another level. Its probably more difficult to find the right set-up. So my dream scenario for the last three remaining races would be to grab another point - seems to me a quite humble wish, doesnt it?