Exclusive Q&A - Sebastian Vettel prepares to hit 100 in Austin 12 Nov 2012
Sir Jackie Stewart finished his Formula One career at the age of 34, with three world titles and 99 race starts under his belt. Sebastian Vettel is about to head into his 100th Formula One race weekend, having won two titles, but aged just 25. That shows just how drastically demographics have changed in the F1 paddock in recent years. Not surprisingly for one so young, Vettel remains hungry for more success. It's perhaps fitting then that his centenary race - at Austins all-new Circuit of The Americas - could see the Red Bull star wrap up his third drivers crown
Q: Sebastian, the race in Austin this weekend will be your one hundredth Grand Prix. How would you sum up your Formula One career so far?
Sebastian Vettel: Its all gone so quickly. One hundred is a big number - one hundred Grands Prix sounds a lot: one hundred starts, one hundred times surviving the first corner. If I reflect on it, it doesnt feel so long ago that I broke into Formula One. That shows me that time flies when you do something that you really like and enjoy. So lets focus on the second hundred! (laughs)
Q: Reflecting on this season, it looked as if you didnt get the start that you wanted and your lead now looks harder-won than in previous years
SV: The first race was good - it brought me a nice podium in Australia - but after that the rollercoaster ride started and the only good news was that everybody had checked in on that ride. Sometimes we didnt get the results that we deserved - and at others we got the result that we deserved - but we werent happy with those, so yes, it was not the easiest season. But we kept the belief from the very start and were never caught in a situation where we had to re-motivate ourselves to go out and fight for wins.
Q: At races where it didnt go too well you expressed your frustration over the team radio. How do you overcome frustration?
SV: I dont think there is anything wrong with being unhappy - to be polite - if you had a bad race and you are not happy with the result, when you feel that you could have done better. There is nothing wrong with that. But the moment you cross the line there is nothing more that you can do. Sometimes you are very angry with yourself, about a specific situation, but you cannot rewind time and go for a second try so you have to accept it and move on - focus on things that you can change in the future and not waste time and energy on things that are already in the past.
Q: 2012 has been the most unpredictable season in a long time: the first seven races saw seven different winners. Has that lack of consistency helped you - as now that you have found consistency you are top of the table?
SV: Yes and no. With everyone being very close to each other, with the performance of the cars being very equal, you might have a good car but finish only seventh. The next race your car is quite similar and you might win and the guy who won a fortnight ago is not able to do better than fifth or sixth. This is indeed very different to previous years when you knew that when the car felt good and had good pace you might still finish on the podium - even if someone else was quicker - as there have only been a handful of guys fighting it out. This year, well, not everybody can win, but the circle of suspects has definitely widened.
Q: Lets look at Fernando Alonso. He was very consistent for a long time this season, but now he must feel the pain of having had some retirements - contrary to you, whose season has dramatically changed since Singapore
SV: Of course the last races we had were very good for us, to put it mildly. They have helped us a lot. If you look at the whole season with 20 races, you do have incidences that you dont like to have, you probably have some retirements due to technical problems. We had those - and hopefully we have now passed this phase. It is very hard to run so many races without incidents. It is not something that is part of your calculation, but you have to be prepared when it hits you not to stand there with eyes wide open. (laughs) If you look at the races weve done so far I think Fernandos and my DNFs or calamities are equal. I still believe that the driver who deserves it most will be champion. No doubt we are in a very good position now and I hope we do well until the very end to make sure that we deserve the glory.
Q: On the grandstands and at home in front of the television this season has unfolded like a thriller. Right now it still has an open ending
SV: Yes, the fans got the best Formula One for a long time. I personally would have loved it to be a little bit more boring at some stages. When you think back some years ago, when you were in the lead and had only ten laps to go you could have been pretty sure that the race was yours. Today anything can happen until the moment you pass the chequered flag. The tyres keep results up in the air until the very last metres of the race. When you are in the hunt you still can turn it around - and when you are in the lead you can still lose it!
Q: Qualifying has been a bit of a hiccup for you in 2012. But there must also be some fun and satisfaction involved in overtaking other cars and fighting your way to the front?
SV: Well, I think satisfaction is always linked to whether you have done a good race or not. It is obviously fun when you can overtake many cars, but ideally you start in the front and dont have to overtake! You simply want to stay where you are. (laughs) When you start at the very back - and believe me I know what I am talking about since Abu Dhabi - your race seems endless, and the podium was the perfect reward for a work-loaded afternoon.
Q: Eighteen races out of 20 completed: what was the highlight for you so far?
SV: I hope it is still to come! Maybe the first win of the season in Bahrain was a big relief - to know that everything is still functioning the way it used to. A highlight for sure was the win in Singapore, because I consider it physically the hardest race of the season. And, of course, the Abu Dhabi race. But as I just said, I hope the best is still yet to come.
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