Exclusive interview - Toro Rossos Sebastian Vettel 28 Mar 2008
When the news broke of Red Bull chief Dietrich Mateschitzs decision to sell his half of Toro Rosso, driver Sebastian Vettels bright future was put firmly in the shade by his teams off-track issues.
He may have recorded two DNFs this year, but at just 20 years-old, Vettel is widely acclaimed as one of the paddocks hottest talents. So with the rug pulled out from under his team, what lies in store now for the young German?
Q: Sebastian, have you been surprised by the STR3s strong start to the season, particularly in qualifying? You were ninth on the grid in Australia...
Sebastian Vettel: Well yes, the Melbourne qualifying was fantastic. In that respect, we have been more competitive than we expected to be. Sepang was a little bit of a different matter, as the track has some very fast corners where you need a good car. But overall I was satisfied with my qualifying performance, although I was sure that I could have done a little better - probably one more row in front.
Q: How disappointing was that first lap in Melbourne? You had a really good chance to finish in the points.
SV: It was not even a lap - it was after one and a half corners. It was a short race after a good qualifying, so I naturally was very disappointed, especially in view of the development of the race - everybody who finished was in the points, so it could have been our day to bolster our balance sheet.
Q: The Sepang race was a little less promising and you eventually retired with a hydraulic issue. Rain was forecast, were you hoping for a wet track?
SV: As I said before, this track, with its fast corners, is not really to the liking of the STR3. And as I retired, I would just be guessing what could have been with a wet track. It is true that last year the car performed very well in the wet, but over the winter there was little chance to test in wet conditions. And as we have made quite a few modifications, I am not sure if it would behave as it did last season.
Q: Red Bull has announced that it intends to put its 50 percent stake in the team on the market. Were you surprised by that development?
SV: Very surprised. As a driver you are usually one of the last people to come across in-house developments. Fact is I read it in the press - like everybody. What does it mean for me? I want to race this season as well as possible - there is no reason now to be worried. When you saw the people preparing the car for the race (in Malaysia) there was not one who was thinking about what will happen in one or two years - everybody was totally focusing on the moment.
Q: Were two races into the season and both cars retired at each event
SV: We havent been the only team to run into such trouble. These two races have been a quest to define position at many teams - not just us. So I would not take Melbourne and Sepang as the indicator for the rest of the season.
Q: If the team wants to survive, it has to transform back into being a fully-fledged constructor and cut its ties with Red Bull Technology. Is that a frightening thought?
SV: To be honest, they hired me to drive the car and not to worry about those things.
Q: You have a long-term contract with Red Bull. Is it paramount for you to secure a seat at Red Bull racing, as that is where any real development will take place?
SV: I usually dont talk about my contract situation. And for the moment I am happy where I am - and focused completely on this team. The races ahead have my full attention. It was always my philosophy to go step by step and it has served me well so far, so what will be at the end of the season lies too far ahead.