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Exclusive Q&A with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel 13 Jul 2012

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel customises a pair of jeans to be auctioned for charity, Berlin, Germany, July 2012 Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, Berlin, Germany, July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, Berlin, Germany, July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, walk to the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 26 May 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, Berlin, Germany, July 2012 Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel customises a pair of jeans to be auctioned for charity, Berlin, Germany, July 2012 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, kisses the trophy.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 22 April 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One Testing, Mugello, Italy, Day Three, 3 May 2012

In the build-up to his home Grand Prix in Germany next weekend, we caught up with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel to discuss his hopes for Hockenheim, his 2012 title rivals and - more importantly - to get his thoughts on fame and fashion. Why fashion? Vettel was at Berlin’s iconic Bread & Butter fashion fair, getting to grips with a branding iron and some paint to help customise a pair of one-off jeans to be auctioned off to raise funds for the Wings for Life charity…

Q: Formula One racing is a glamorous business. Do you consider yourself to be a fashionista?
Sebastian Vettel:
Ha, to be honest fashion is not too high up on my agenda, but of course I do look at the mirror before I leave the house so I am not totally free of a vanity. (laughs) One thing is clear: my clothes have to be comfortable. Jeans and a t-shirt, with a shirt loosely worn over the top - these kind of things. When it comes to colours, I would count myself among the gutsier dressers. I definitely do like things colourful.

Q: What’s the craziest item of clothing you have bought?
SV:
There has never been an ‘extreme’ purchase. I am not that kind of guy. I have always bought things that I will definitely wear. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I once bought an old-fashioned hat in my teens - I never wore it.

Q: Finish the sentence. Clothes have to be…
SV:
…comfortable, functional and, of course, they should look good. At least I hope they look good! (laughs)

Q: If jeans are the mainstay of your wardrobe, which famous names do you associate with them?
SV:
Well, I think everybody wears jeans. They are a global garment; a part of our everyday culture. Sure, it was different in the days of James Dean or Marlon Brando, as jeans back then were not the norm but the exception - rebel gear - so you could probably name them as the most famous poster boys for jeans. Today you can wear jeans to almost every occasion. At least I can! I still count myself below the age when you become a bit too old for that.

Q: What’s the age limit then?
SV:
When you’re over 30 or so? Then the ‘every occasion’ should be narrowed down.

Q: What are the downsides to fame?
SV:
What people don’t see. They see you in the car, see you racing, and if it works out for you they cheer you. But they don’t see what it takes to be at this level - the discipline, the daily training and toil, overcoming your inner temptations and struggling through tempers. Those are the physical challenges that the outside doesn’t see. But then there is also the intellectual challenge - in meetings with your engineers, to be at the same level of discussion as they are, to understand what is going on technically in an almost laboratory-like environment. All these aspects are hidden from the fans. They don’t appreciate it because they don’t see it. When you switch on the telly and see qualifying you might think that it’s much ado about nothing - just a few laps. But to get there is a 24/7 marathon for at least ten months.

Q: Have you ever bought a fashion magazine?
SV:
It might surprise you, but yes, I have. Several times. (laughs)

Q: So you are into high-end fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar?
SV:
Oops, I have to admit that I have never heard of the latter.

Q: You are living your dream. How does it feel?
SV:
Different than you might think. You have always dreamed about the racing and in that respect it cannot get bigger. But the life that goes with it you cannot dream about because you don’t know what it will be like. You can’t imagine in the slightest what comes your way. You are permanently travelling, have a 24/7 job, and have little time for yourself, and even less time for friends and family. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining as I love to live this life and if I had to choose all over again I would always pick this one, as I get the most satisfaction out of racing. I have never come across anything that would remotely give me the same level of fun. But I also have to admit that it comes with baggage and it seldom looks from the outside how it feels to live it. All that glitters isn’t gold!

Q: But you look pretty comfortable…
SV:
…and I definitely am. I am in a lucky position and I hope that I do appreciate it enough.

Q: What makes Formula One racing glamorous?
SV:
I think Formula One and glamour go hand in hand, yes, but for me the sport, of course, takes priority. It’s more the fascination with the technical aspects, rather than the grid girl beside your car. That doesn’t mean that I never dare to take a look, but it is definitely not the highlight of my weekend! (laughs)

Q: Who do you think is cool? Brad Pitt, Barack Obama, Homer Simpson?
SV:
Somebody who lives in his own way. If you follow the footsteps of others you will never leave marks. To judge Brad Pitt, for example, I would have to know him, which I don’t. What I admire is people who are grounded and resistant to all kinds of whisperings. Kimi Raikkonen, for example. You may like him or not, but he lives his way. He does the things he has identified as worthy for him and he is not trying to be everybody’s darling. At least he doesn’t give that impression.

Q: Is Raikkonen the closest thing to a friend you have among your competitors? The two of you are often seen chatting together during the drivers’ parade…
SV:
Yes. He is straightforward and honest and he tells you if he has a bad day. Period. He is real. He’s not political. He’s never up to something. If he doesn’t want to tell you something he will say so and not hum and haw. He doesn’t beat around the bush, never coming to the point.

Q: After years of being the darling of the media, you have felt a bit of head wind so far this season. Could that have a positive effect?
SV:
I believe in the saying that you are never as good as others say you are - and not as bad. I would not go so far as to say that you should ignore all of it, but it should not influence you. My parameter is that you should be able to look in the mirror and be satisfied with what you see. I adore honesty and self-honesty. How easy and convenient would it be to say that the wheel came off and that’s why I flew off the track? But mistakes do happen and you have to stand tall through them and also apologise when it’s your fault. Like in Spa two years ago when I tried to overtake Jenson (Button) but lost the car and ruined both our races. It was natural that I went to him and apologised. I expect the same. It’s about respect.

Q: So far we’ve seen seven winners in nine races. Who would you say has the upper hand?
SV:
At the moment it is still very competitive. There are a number of drivers performing on a similar level, as the results show. There are three of us within 29 points - after nine races. I think that the drivers who stand out right now are Fernando (Alonso) - he is one of the most complete drivers - and Lewis (Hamilton), who is very quick even though he was a bit unlucky in Silverstone. But then again there are plenty of others. Michael (Schumacher) is still in the game, as I don’t think that he’s lost it. The truth is that your performance is only as good as you and the package you have - and that can change every fortnight. So there are definitely more names to drop than just one.

Q: When it comes to the greats of the sport, would you judge them by the number of titles they’ve won?
SV:
Yes - and no. Sure, success plays a huge part in our business. If you take names like Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Jackie Stewart or Niki Lauda for example, they all won numerous titles. But sometimes there are other names which remain in your memory because they had something extra. Everyone in Formula One is a quick driver, but then there have been guys who had that special something, who connected exceptionally well with the fans. Maybe they had a good sense of humour or could mock themselves. These things make these men linger in our memories even though their number of wins doesn’t match up to others…

Q: Who would you class as one of these drivers?
SV:
Jochen Rindt. He won one championship but he was someone that went far beyond that title. He was an icon - and not just for the German, Austrian or Swiss fans. He was probably the first Formula One ‘superstar’. He met the expectations of his time - and of course he was a flashy dresser! (laughs)

Q: You have lived out of your suitcase for several years now. How at home do you feel?
SV:
Sure, your suitcase becomes very dear to you. And with time packing becomes routine, of course. You never quite eliminate the mistake of taking too many things that in the end you don’t need. I think that is in a traveller’s DNA. (laughs) Overall I believe that being in Formula One is kind of the antithesis of being a holiday traveller. They look forward to getting on the plane, sleeping in a hotel, having a breakfast buffet in the morning, whereas we are happy to sleep for once in a while in our own bed and fumble around in our own kitchen.

Q: What must you never forget to pack?
SV:
Toothbrush - and the white socks that immediately identify you as a German! (laughs)

Q: If you had one month to yourself how would you spend it?
SV:
Definitely not jumping on a plane! I would spend some time with friends and family and for the rest of it I would take a tour either on foot or on a bike. Set a destination and then to go off cross-country.

Q: Your home Grand Prix at Hockenheim is just around the corner. Do you feel that you owe your fans something there?
SV:
Sure, it is always a special race, no doubt. So it is different, yes. But on the other hand, you don’t get more points there so I will enjoy the weekend and do my best. That goes without saying…

Q: But you would like to win it, wouldn’t you?
SV:
Yes I would.

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