Exclusive Sebastian Vettel Q&A: I'll fight to the last breath for the title 18 Sep 2009
After finishing the race eighth, last weekends Italian Grand Prix was a bitter blow to the title ambitions of Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel, who now has to make up 26 points on championship leader Jenson Button over the seasons four remaining rounds. Its a tough ask, but Vettel isnt someone who gives up lightly. Despite Buttons advantage, and the recent renaissance of Rubens Barrichello, the young German still has only one thing on his mind - the 2009 drivers crown
Q: Sebastian, one point in Monza does not make for a happy Red Bull driver. Why was it such a difficult weekend for the team?
Sebastian Vettel: To be honest, we were struggling from the beginning onwards. We were quite confident going into the weekend, but clearly in the end you could say that we did not have the pace. Monza obviously seems to be not our best circuit - even though I had a fantastic moment there last year. It was not raining, which definitely would have helped us, and in the end we were lucky to take one point. But looking at the result, with the Brawns on top, it was a bad weekend for us. So we are looking forward to Singapore as the target there will clearly be to win, as it is the target at all remaining races. Scoring the maximum points is the target, and regarding the championship, we will see what that means.
Q: Looking at the Monza result, of the top six cars, four were powered by a Mercedes engine. Is that the engine to have at the moment?
SV: I think our performance in Monza was not an engine problem, but I am not telling a secret when I say that the Mercedes engine is a very strong engine. But we have to be fair to our partner Renault. They are trying to do their best and are working very hard, so I dont think that weve lost out in Monza due to engine problems. But to answer your question, Mercedes really seems to be on top of the game at the moment.
Q: You said that you consider yourself still in the running for the title. You are 26 points behind Jenson Button, but you must have an idea of how to overcome that gap. Where and when are your best chances to attack?
SV: Everywhere and anytime! From now on our target has to be to win. We will see every race separately, and in the end we will count the points and will see whether it is enough or not. Its true the gap is quite big - 26 points says it all - and it will be very difficult to catch up, but be sure we will try.
Q: Ferrari and McLaren are already concentrating on their 2010 machines. What about Red Bull? Any enhancements planned for the last few races?
SV: We are still pushing and putting new parts on the car. In Singapore we will get an update, a modification or a new front wing and a little body work. To be fair I dont think that any of the teams will stop putting new elements on their cars. There is still too much to be gained from good results. Looking at the 2010 car it will be quite similar, apart from the changes due to the refuelling ban. There will of course be changes to the design but the basis of the car will remain the same. As testing is restricted, all the teams will use the track time as much as they can.
Q: In Monza you were running your only remaining fresh engine. How will you deal with that situation over the next four races? Can you avoid a penalty and survive on the used engines you have left?
SV: To survive with the engines we have is quite simple- they have to be all perfect from now on. Friday running, as we have seen at the last two races, is very restricted for me and for sure we cannot have another failure. If we do, obviously we have to accept the penalty and take an extra engine. That is not what we want, so the plan at the moment is to run a little on Friday in order to avoid the penalty. With hindsight it probably would have been okay to take a new engine and the penalty in Monza when you look at the result, but then you never know.
Q: Over the course of a year you have gone from promising youngster to one of the top dogs. Your life must have changed a lot. How do you deal with that?
SV: Life hasnt changed much. I am still the same person, but for sure you learn every day, you try to improve together with the team, and I can say that after a couple of months I feel very much at home. When you start finishing on the podium or winning races it helps as you get more respect from people. And it helps if you have an opinion - you have the weight to get things done. The more you move up the pecking order, the more careful you get, as you might find your notions immediately in the media. Probably it was more relaxed 20 years ago. But in the end you are who you are, and you cannot change for anyone, and you shouldnt. Of course some things are always better left unsaid and you learn that when dealing with the media.
Q: You are known as something of a social butterfly on the drivers parade lap. What have you learned about your competitors?
SV: In reality the drivers parade is the only real meeting point you have with the other drivers. In normal life everybody in the paddock is with his team and things are so closed that you dont get much chance for social interaction with your peers, except for the drivers parade and drivers briefing. In the end, doing that lap in front of the fans is always very relaxed and sometimes it is funny.
Q: Who do you think will win the title and why?
SV: I hope myself. I will fight to the last breath and minute. Being a couple of points behind, I know its not going to be easy, but we will see. I think any of the top four - or three - has a clear chance. For some, the chances are bigger, for some smaller. It would be quite a surprise to see Rubens (Barrichello) win the title. He is getting stronger but hes quite old. It would be very special for him, but that goes for any one of us. None of us has ever been world champion. We will see.