Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Champion or not, we all start at zero in '11 02 Feb 2011
You cant enjoy the sweet smell of success without sweating a little, and in Formula One racing that means endless hours of testing. Indeed pre-season laps at the test track are so important that even the reigning world champion cant rest on his laurels and escape. So its lucky then that Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel was actually eagerly anticipating getting behind the wheel of his new RB7 at Valencia. And after racking up 93 laps on his way to Tuesdays fastest time, its clear Vettel is determined to pick up where he left off at the end of 2010, as he explained exclusively to Formula1.com...
Q: After the media frenzy that followed your title win, we havent seen a lot of you over the last few weeks. What have you been up to?
Sebastian Vettel: Well, it was always planned to lay low over the holiday season and I have to say I enjoyed that time very much. One of the essential needs before heading into a new Formula One season is to fully recharge your batteries to get a head start with the same tenacious verve that I ended 2010 with. For the holidays I was with the family and at the beginning of February I hit the slopes for skiing. It was very relaxing and at the same time it added to my fitness. For the rest of the time I simply stayed home. I told many that I would go places but the truth is Ive spent time as a couch potato. Over the last two weeks I started a severe training programme - and now Im here to see if the car is as prepared as I am! (Laughs)
Q: You are the defending champion. Has that inspired you to do more physical training - or less?
SV: It is hard these days to do more, as time has become very scarce. You have to develop a very tight regime that allows you to fulfil all your commitments and at the same time enable you to keep your fitness level up. The aim, of course, is to do more because you want to defend and you want to get better. If you allow yourself to stand still Formula One will punish you terribly. That goes for the physical fitness of a driver as well as for the technical development of your car. Its a simple truth. If you dont go forwards you go backwards - especially in a highly competitive sport such as this one. F1 never forgives any backward movement.
Q: How does it feel to be the champion? The number one on your car is a sign of your success
SV: Believe me it feels fantastic - and not only because of the number on the car. To wake up every morning with a broad smile, and the longer the fact sunk in, the broader the smile got. One of the moments when it absolutely dawned on me was when I picked up the trophy in Monaco. The trophy bears my name, and should there be any doubt, all I have to do is look at the trophy to convince myself that its no dream. It makes you very proud, but then as a professional athlete you put aside all that vainness very quickly and concentrate again on your core business.
Q: What will be your motto for this season?
SV: Ha, I dont know if I ever had a motto!
Q: Maybe you dont see it as a motto, but last season your device seemed to be the phrase never give up
SV: But that was because its the way I am, rather than a device I chose. But if we talk about my aspirations, then clearly I want to be more competitive at the first races, so that we dont start as slowly as we did in 2010, and that we will be in a position to collect points from the very beginning and not give somebody else the chance to grab them in front of our very eyes. I would not mind a season with a bit less excitement and fewer question marks - even though I know that the fans enjoyed it very much. Of course from the first outing of the car it is hard to say what will be. There are so many new things and changes that at first we have to get enough data and then see how the others are doing. But I dont think it is a big secret anymore that I never get a kick out of finishing second, so you can be sure that I will do anything for a deja vu season.
Q: You just mentioned your championship trophy. How many titles would assuage your appetite?
SV: Ha, when I received the trophy I was told that I would have to give it back at the end of this season - so the only way to keep it is to win the championship again! This trophy was for so many years part of Michael Schumachers household that I am sure when he had to give it back there was a faded spot on the wall. I would like to experience the same! (Laughs)
Q: You had the honour of taking the RB7 out for its first run. Was this because youre the champion?
SV: There is too much read into who takes the car out of the garage for the first time. Believe me, when the test sessions are over both of us will have completed an equal amount of mileage - and that is all that matters.
Q: What are you first impressions of the RB7?
SV: I always find it very extraordinary that weve already won both championships with the car name at number six. This makes me very proud. But coming back to the question. The RB7 is an evolution of the RB6, so it feels pretty much as last season. How good - and how good compared to the others - it is will probably only dawn on us for the first time in Bahrain, maybe at the last test there or even in the race. But why shouldnt we be on the same performance level as last season? There is nothing to be said against us being again one of the hottest candidates for the titles. My running today was very smooth and I would say it was a successful day today without any issues at all. It felt great to be back in the car and I was able to do 93 laps. I think there was only one other guy who did more. So yes, its been a promising day.
Q: Ferrari fears that the complexity of the steering wheel could irritate the drivers. Is that your fear as well?
SV: I dont know what kind of steering wheel they have but its really true. There are many buttons that you have to push this year. How well each of us will handle that we will see. After one day of running, it is definitely too soon to make a judgement.
Q: You are the prey this season. Do you feel more comfortable as the hunter or the hunted?
SV: When it means that its a sign that I am the champion - then it feels good. But Im very aware of the fact that I have to attack from the very beginning because, champion or not, we all start at zero again.
Q: Do you expect Fernando Alonso to be your biggest challenger or could the rule changes create a completely different scenario?
SV: You always have to count on Fernando as being one of the top favourites, but you also must not disregard McLaren and Mercedes. And who knows, maybe an outsider has got it dead right and we will see some surprises this year. What I want to say is that you have to bank on your own strength but never lose track of the others - insider or outsider alike!
Q: There has been much speculation lately about your future at Red Bull
SV: If everything is quiet in the long and dull weeks in winter and there is no real news to bandy about then headlines are made up. I have always said that I feel very happy where I am - and I say this not only because of my contractual situation - so I am looking forward to yet another successful season with my team and then another season. And then lets see where we all stand. Ferrari is a legendary team - as is Mercedes. It is something special to drive for a legend and being found eligible to do so, because the fact is that every driver entering Formula One dreams about driving for these teams and only a few will ever be asked.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.