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Sebastian Vettel talks tyres, team mates, 2014 and more 26 Jul 2013

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Hungaroring, Hungary. Thursday, 25 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 (L to R): Tim Malyon (GBR) Red Bull Racing Performance Engineer. and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, walk the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Hungaroring, Hungary. Thursday, 25 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One Young Drivers Test, Silverstone, England, Day Three, Friday, 19 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing in a mini Hummer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Hungaroring, Hungary. Thursday, 25 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Hungaroring, Hungary. Thursday, 25 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Race Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 7 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013 Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand.13th - 16th December 2012.Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel celebrate their sixth win for Team Germany in the Nations Cup. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing and race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 24 March 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 25 May 2013

If he continues on his current trajectory, this season could see Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel become only the third man in history - after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher - to win four consecutive drivers’ championships. For now at least, though, Vettel remains as grounded and approachable as ever. We caught up with him to chat about his 2013 title hopes, his current and future team mates, the lack of ‘Vettel-mania’ and more…

Q: Sebastian, you are rapidly moving towards your fourth consecutive title. Who could stop you?
Sebastian Vettel:
Nobody, I hope! But if you ask the others they probably will tell you that they’re trying very hard. But, honestly, I am not thinking about the championship and the title too much. It’s good to know that you’re in a strong position - and that the others have to get there first - but we are only at midseason so anything could happen between now and the Brazilian chequered flag. If you look back to last year, or 2010 - 2011 was a bit of an exception - it was going down to the wire. So never feel too comfortable where you are - it might be gone fast.

Q: Who is big on your radar for a decent challenge?
SV:
The first three on the scoreboard of course. Fernando [Alonso] and Kimi [Raikkonen] are consistent and quick. And never underestimate Mercedes - they’ve made a huge leap forward from the first couple of races. Tyres are changing again, so this could mix up the whole matter too. We will see some mixing up even this weekend: new tyres, a unique circuit and very high temperatures - that could result in some surprises.

Q: Fernando said here that anyone driving a Red Bull car must be first. Do you agree?
SV:
No, I disagree. I know how much work is behind the effort, so his saying that has no relevance whatsoever. Sure, we have a very strong package, but that doesn’t fall from heaven. Those who say that should first look at their own situation and how they can enhance it. Every one of our wins or podium finishes didn’t come for free - I know that because I was in the car! (laughs)

Q: You were the only one of the ‘big boys’ at last week’s tyre test. Did it surprise you that at a crucial stage of the season and tyre development the other championship contenders were absent?
SV:
Maybe they had flu, who knows? It was good to test, to get a bit of an idea. Isn’t there the saying that practice makes perfect? We are professionals, of course - and we get paid well for that - but that doesn’t mean that you cannot improve - there is always something to be learnt. On top of that I like what I do, so I didn’t mind testing among the youngsters.

Q: Do you feel that you get enough respect from your immediate challengers? Fernando and Lewis Hamilton always speak so well of each other, but Fernando rarely utters a word on you…
SV:
I don’t know, but it is also not very high on my agenda. From my personal perception I can say that I’ve always felt respected by all the others - from the very beginning, since my first proper year with Toro Rosso when I was right on the edge because you have to fight for your place among the drivers to have a say. After that season I felt very respected by everybody. Of course, when I started Fernando was at the top, as were Kimi and Lewis. But things have changed since those days when I had to fight for my place.

Q: You’re still so accessible. Some of your biggest rivals in the past couple of years have been far more reclusive, possibly a sign of relative failure. Does success make you relaxed?
SV:
Well, I do appreciate the support that the fans give me, so I want to give something back. Sure, sometimes when the heat is on you it is difficult to find the right compromise as at the end of the day you are here to race and not give speeches. Your job comes first and that demands that you get enough rest, time to recharge your batteries, and have your private life. Sure, there are always requests - everybody wants a piece of you - so you need to find a compromise and also to learn to say no. But whenever possible I make myself available. I do as much as I feel comfortable with, but I also do have my limits. Maybe my benchmark in that respect is just higher than some others’.

Q: In 2009, Fernando was supposedly offered a Red Bull drive but declined - do you think that he’s regretting that decision now?
SV:
You’d have to ask him. I am the wrong person to answer that. But let’s look at the reality: in the last couple of years Ferrari didn’t have a rust bucket - and they’ve pushed very hard in 2010 and 2012. They were only a few points short of winning the title. If you have a package that allows you to fight for the championship until the last race, it is not that dissimilar a package from the other guy who is racing for the title.

Q: Did you ever dream as a boy of one day driving for Ferrari?
SV:
Of course, as my hero Michael Schumacher was wearing red! So as a youngster you imagine yourself taking the place of your idol. Nowadays I see it differently: I am very happy in blue and very happy with the team I am racing for.

Q: You will get a new team mate next season - we still don’t know the name, maybe you do - but who would you prefer: a champion or a young driver?
SV:
To tell you the truth, I also don’t know the name. And a champion or a youngster? I don’t mind because if you have the ambition to win, you need to beat the former world champions and the youngsters. What matters is that whoever drives alongside me - or for us - fits into the team and is happy to work in the same direction.

Q: Red Bull claim to never have had a clear number-one driver…
SV:
…and doesn’t need it. As I see it you must never be afraid of the challenge - otherwise you don’t belong here. Yes, it’s true, it is never about finding a friend in your team mate, but it needs to be somebody who fits into the team and is willing to give 100 percent for us - Red Bull Racing - and of course for himself. Otherwise he wouldn’t be a proper racing driver. So let’s turn it around: second after himself hopefully comes the team.

Q: Do you have a target - as you are still so young - to become the most successful F1 driver ever?
SV:
No, thoughts like that are never on my mind. I love what I am doing and of course I want to be successful, but I am not waking up in the morning thinking to myself, 'wow, 2011 was a fantastic year, 2012 was awesome', and so on. I wake up and I’m in the here and now and want to do the best that I can today - not yesterday and not tomorrow.

Q: Before you get out on the grid do you pray?
SV:
Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Q: You’ve already broken countless records, but still there is no hysterical ‘Vettel-mania’ of the kind we used to see with Michael Schumacher. Do you have any explanation for that?
SV:
I have no idea. I think we have a lot of supporters - that is fantastic - and it’s still growing. The team is still a ‘youngster’ in Formula One compared to the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Williams - but we are about to make history. Maybe my fans are more rational. But it is also a different time. It probably has something to do with demographics. Kids today are different - and Red Bull fans are cooler.

Q: Do you feel any responsibility for Mark Webber’s decision to leave F1 racing?
SV:
What do you mean by ‘responsibility’?

Q: That you were part of the reason for his departure…
SV:
No, and to believe that would be very childish. He is the master of his own fate and he had the opportunity to remain with us - or somebody else. I don’t know where else his options could have been. Every driver seeks these things out for himself. The picture that people have had for some years about Mark’s situation in the team is very wrong. I know that, so I don’t think that I had any influence on his decision.

Q: There is talk that Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin will race for Sauber in 2014. He will then be 18 years old. Is that too young? Who better to answer that than somebody who started at the similarly tender age of 19?
SV:
Yes, I was pretty young - and it took me quite some time to acclimatise to F1 and to make sure that it was me driving the car and not the car driving me. In reality it is always a very personal thing when you are ready. But of course, as a driver with a mission you always believe that you are ready - at any age - and Sirotkin must feel the same. Let’s give him his time and then let’s see how he is doing.

Q: Formula One racing is reportedly set to return to Austria at the Red Bull Ring…
SV:
Hopefully we will. I am very much looking forward to that. It will be a fantastic weekend. Red Bull has its headquarters in Austria, so it would be our second home race alongside Silverstone.

Q: Next year F1 racing will be distinctively different. What does that mean for you?
SV:
That we all have to get used to the new cars. But the skills that you need to be successful in Formula One will not change - they will always remain the same, whatever car, whatever decade, whatever drivers.

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