Exclusive interview - Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel 28 Jan 2008
If you scored points for doing well at tests, Toro Rossos Sebastian Vettel would be flying high in the standings. Since the end of last season Vettel has finished several multi-team sessions in the top ten and at Jerez in December he even ended a day proudly atop the timesheets.
Ahead of his first full season of Formula One racing, the 20-year-old German is certainly feeling confident, despite no new car for the opening race, and despite a four-time Champ Car champion as his new team mate
Q: You experienced some real highs and lows - and even tears - last year. What lessons did you learn that you can bring with you into your first full season of Formula One racing?
Sebastian Vettel: I learned a lot last year. One lesson especially was pretty hard to swallow, but sometimes it is the bitter medicine that helps the most because now I feel much more confident in the car. I know what I am doing and that is quite important for my first full season. Expectations? Well, last year I scored six points so the target is clear - to do better. To lurk for chances and then seize them.
Q: Your new team mate may be a Formula One rookie but he is a multiple champion and one of the worlds most highly-regarded drivers. Does that make you nervous? What do you expect to learn from Sebastien Bourdais? Will you be giving him the lessons to start with? SV: Well, yes, he has got a lot of experience. He is much older than I am - he is 28 - so sure I expect to learn from him. And that aspect definitely doesnt make me nervous, but it is too early to say what exactly the learning process could be. Looking at the tests we are quite close, probably with the advantage on my side in that I know the car better. But for the moment the most important thing is that we get along very well, that the chemistry works - it was obviously a problem in the team last year.
Q: The tests at Jerez and now at Valencia showed a car that is performing well with you and your team mate always classified in the upper midfield. Will you shed a tear when you let the STR2 go?
SV: Yeah, at the moment it looks and feels really good. We will get the new car after the first three or four races so we will start the season with an evolution of the 2007 car, the STR2B. In fact I see it as a benefit to start the season with a car I know and that has overcome reliability issues in the last quarter of the 07 season. Lets wait and see if we are not doing better with proven material than many others in their brand new machines having to overcome teething problems.
Q: Is a launch date for the STR3 already fixed? Will it be at the beginning of the European season?
SV: Nothing has been fixed yet. At the moment we have concerns other than thinking about the launch of the new car. We have to push the STR2B forward. We also have to see that the development of the STR3 goes in the right direction so we have a competitive car right away, as by that time all the other teams will have solved many of their teething problems.
Q: Will your 2008 car be based on the Red Bull RB4?
SV: It will be similar. Thats all I can say.
Q: Toro Rosso obviously had their share of trouble last year with a team atmosphere that was somewhat difficult. Are the two Sebs doing better?
SV: Its hard to predict how the season will unfold as it is always your team mate who is the first guy you want to beat. At the moment the atmosphere is very relaxed, but it is difficult to say if the package of the two Sebs is better.
Q: Recently there have been discussions about increased danger due to the ban on traction control. Are you concerned? Almost all other categories race without it
SV: It would be wrong to say that it isnt safer to run with TC, but the risk is not that much higher because, in difficult conditions like those last year in Japan, it is also dangerous to run with traction control. Formula One is potentially dangerous because if you are driving at 300 km/h and you lose control, for whatever reasons, the speed has to go somewhere. So the important thing is that the safety has increased. This season we will have a higher headrest support.
Q: And what about the request not to race in wet conditions? You had a great moment in the wet at the Fuji Speedway, even if it came to an inglorious end
SV: We are obviously racing in the wet. I think that neither drivers nor teams have a problem with that. It is a question of assessing at each individual race what measures have to be taken to keep it safe for us guys. To start with in Japan there was the safety car and we followed it until the conditions improved. And in the end we do have wet tyres so there must be a reason for that!
Q: But the more experienced drivers and the younger daredevils seem to be on different sides of the debate about racing in the wet. Is it a question of age?
SV: The older ones have a lot of experience and probably it is their duty to point out possible risks. I am 22 and dont think too much about risks. I am just happy to be there and the only thing I worry about is how to drive the car. But clearly I see the necessity of an instance that pioneers safety.
Q: How are you preparing for a long season ahead of you? What do you do?
SV: I do pretty much what everybody is doing: endurance training, running, swimming - and testing, all helps a lot. The neck is always a crucial body part, so the training addresses that.