'I hate losing' - Sebastian Vettel reviews his 2009 season 03 Nov 2009
Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel started 2009 hoping for wins and finished it coming closer than anyone to beating Jenson Button to the title. Vettel says he has grown as a driver as a result, but makes no secret of his anger at losing out - at those missed opportunities and small, but costly mistakes.
At least his win at Sundays inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix served as some consolation - and as a reminder of just what an excellent season he and Red Bull have had, despite both titles slipping through their fingers
Q: Sebastian, has the Abu Dhabi race eased your mood? Did your win wash away the bitter taste of missing out on the title?
Sebastian Vettel: It sure did, but it also showed that we could have pulled it off. But now its no use to cry over spilt milk and in fact, what could be better than bidding farewell to the season with a one-two victory? For sure I head for the winter break with a much better feeling having left my mark at this very first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Q: You started this season with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now you are the championship runner-up, yet you called yourself the first loser. Why are you so hard on yourself?
SV: Well, that is a common saying in Formula One and when I said it I obviously felt it. It is always hard to let an opportunity slip through your fingers.
Q: From the initial goal to deliver a good season, the expectations escalated with every race to the point where the title was within reach. Can you remember at which race that feeling of wanting it all set in?
SV: Well, when you realize that you are sitting in a competitive car naturally you start to think about the title. In fact I think that was early on in the season. In Melbourne I started to understand that we had a very competitive car. But then you wait one more race - Malaysia, because Australia is a street circuit so it might not reflect the real potential of the car; then you come to China, the second proper race track and youre still quick; and then you start to understand that this is going to be a very good season. I could probably say that after the second or third race I started to think about the championship. The penalty imposed for the Melbourne incident wasnt helpful in Malaysia, but that had nothing to do with the fact that the car was great.
Q: What did you learn about yourself this year?
SV: I wish I didnt have to say it, but that I hate losing. I think I knew it all along, but now I am definitely sure. But somehow that doesnt only go for racing - Im afraid I hate losing in anything I am doing - whether it is playing a silly game, or football, I obviously simply hate to lose. Coming back to racing, with that attitude I must say I am in a perfect sport because we are wearing helmets so no-one can see our faces when things go wrong!
Q: After that disappointing qualifying in Brazil you were very tight lipped, but then your face told a different story. Had you really believed that you could turn the tide in your favour in Sao Paulo?
SV: Yes. Im not one of those people who stop believing very early. I was literally hoping up until the chequered flag that something would happen in my favour and when it didnt it was like a slap in the face. Looking back I would say that since Silverstone we clearly had a better car, but unfortunately things didnt always come our way. Sometimes it simply wasnt meant to be, but our opponents also did their best in failing to score points. Looking back the doors were open, or in a football terminology, the goal was open but we still failed to bury the ball in the net. The season had 17 races and five we did not finish.
Q: Were there situations where you blamed yourself for not having done everything possible?
SV: Generally I have to say that Ive made a big step forward from last year to this year - as a driver and from a fitness point of view. I would say that Ive grown and have improved my performance in the car quite a bit. On some occasions - not too many - I could have done a little better from my side. Maybe some qualifying performances, which at times would have changed the outcome of the race - like in Spa, where we had the quickest car, but I made a mistake in qualifying. But that is all would and could. All in all I did a pretty good job and we did a pretty good job as a team.
Q: Would a different team strategy have had an impact on your championship result?
SV: Looking back, for sure. Races like Turkey, where we tried a three-stopper to put Jenson (Button) under pressure, but we simply didnt have the pace to make it work. Or like Monaco, where we were not good enough to win, but good enough for fourth or fifth. Or by forcing the car on to pole, where weve been so short (on fuel) that the race was sacrificed. These were clearly the wrong decisions. There have been other minor issues, like in Barcelona where I had to follow Felipe Massa all race long - I came into the pits when he did, they fuelled as long as we did and that destroyed it for me. But then we are a team - there is never only one person to blame.
Q: How do you deal with disappointment? In public you are always very controlled. Do you take it out on the pillows back in the hotel room?
SV: I can tell you that it is pretty hard sometimes to control yourself when anger is almost overwhelming you and you want to get out of the car, throw the steering wheel away and destroy everything around you. But these cars are pretty expensive so you have to slow yourself down. When you are behind closed doors - among your people - you can show much more of your anger. And when I get back to my room for sure there are objects flying around.
Q: Midway through the season Flavio Briatore said that the wrong guy in the wrong car was leading the championship. That guy and that car went on to win it. What did you make of this remark?
SV: I totally agree with it - we should have won! But as I said before should, could and would dont matter in sports, only results. But for sure I would have loved to win - and the team as well, and probably Flavio was thinking the same thing. But congratulations to Jenson and the Brawn team.
Q: Lewis Hamilton reportedly said recently that he likes a team player as a team mate. To some that sounds like hes looking for a supporter rather than a challenger - you rarely hear of a team player winning the championship. What kind of team mate would you prefer?
SV: I can be pretty happy (with Mark Webber). Outside the car we get along pretty well and inside the car we fight each other - and it was probably fortunate for the team that we didnt come close too often. We are both pretty straightforward. If you want to win you have to beat everybody - and that includes your team mate. In fact hes the first one that you want to beat, because hes running with the same material as you and when he beats you thats no compliment for you. For sure you dont want a team mate that you hate desperately.
Q: Red Bull Racing have not announced an engine partner yet for 2010. This could be a key issue for you and your championship challenge next season
SV: Yep, and nothing has been decided yet. It is quite difficult to race without an engine - probably we will have pedals, but then I have to rapidly take my fitness to another level!
Q: What is on your agenda for the next couple of weeks?
SV: No plans made yet. There are some meetings (at the Red Bull factory) in Milton Keynes for analyzing the season to be able to do it better next year. Then I need time for myself and with friends and family. For sure a little holiday. I love skiing so the mountains will be my destination at some point. And then Ill start to work on my fitness again.