Vettel: I’m way too young to understand what it means to be four times world champion
27 October, 2013
Four times Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has joined an elite group of drivers who have won the championship four or more times – Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost. After the Red Bull driver clinched the 2013 title in fine style, for himself and the constructors’ title for his team, with yet another dominant victory at the Indian Grand Prix. He spoke to media about the remarkable achievement.
Tell us your emotions from this victory.
Sebastian Vettel: First of all I would love to say thank you to the crowd. Unbelievable reception today. It’s a shame we are not racing here next year. I’m speechless, I don’t know. I crossed the line, I was empty. I took ages thinking about something to say. It’s one of these moments you wish to say so many things but you can’t. Phenomenal season. The spirit inside the team is so strong that… I said it on the radio, it gives me so much power that, it’s a pleasure to jump in the car and go out for the guys and just try to give it all I have. The car was phenomenal today. It was phenomenal all season to be honest. I couldn’t ask for more.
I think the crowd here probably enjoyed your little celebration before coming up to the podium. Had you thought about that or was that just purely instinctive reaction?
SV: No, I haven’t really thought about it. Rocky, my engineer called for the usual procedure but I said “yeah, not this time,” and there’s so many people here on the main grandstand that I had to do it. Usually we are not allowed to – but it felt so right at that time. I want to say a big thank you to the team, to all the people that were behind us. For sure it was not an easy season, even if people from the outside get the idea that we had it in our hands for quite a while, the last couple of races. But I think it was a difficult one all in all. Very difficult one for me personally. To receive boos, even though you haven’t done anything wrong, to overcome that and to give the right answer on the track and finally get the acceptance that I think we’re all looking for as racing drivers…it makes me very proud to join people like Prost, Fangio and Michael is unbelievable.
You’ve said you’re speechless and can’t find the words to describe the emotions of this moment – but please try one more time. As you stand here away from your racing car, how do you feel?
SV: I miss it! How do I feel? I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say. I think it’s one of the best days of my life so far. When I was small…I always try to think back and think back where you started. Formula One was so far away. To race against these drivers, to race in Formula 1 was so far away. There have been so many people that I have to thank along the way from go-karting, junior formula categories, up to now, that have been teaching me a lot. I’ve always tried to listen and learn and it’s incredible to race some of the best drivers in the world, that Formula 1 ever had. I think it’s a very strong field and to come out on top of them…as I said, I think the spirit in the team is fantastic and to go for numbers and statistics that we have done in the last four years is unbelievable. I don’t feel old – I’m getting older but I think I’m not that old yet and to achieve that in such a short amount of time is very difficult to grasp. Maybe in ten years’ time. I’m trying very hard to come to the level I am now and maybe then I’m a little bit better in understanding what we have done so far.
There was something unusual we saw at the end of the race: you got out of the car, almost kneeled, almost kissing in front of the car. What was that?
SV: It’s just an appreciation for the car, for the team. It’s pretty special. We work so hard all year to try and make that car faster, as simple as that. The guys are pushing, you could argue that it’s the fifth season with this generation of cars. Next year it will be a new generation, but you still see issues that we have. Unfortunately Mark had a problem with the alternator, similar to last year. Out of precaution, I wasn’t allowed to use the drinks bottle in the race, we switched the KERS off, we did everything to try and save energy at the end. So the cars are built on the limit, even if you think it’s season number five, with the same – in a way – the same kind of car. The fact that the car lasts, the work that the mechanics put into the car. It’s just an appreciation. I think it’s a team effort at the end of the day. I spoke to the guys yesterday night…surely you could argue that I have an important job when I’m out there driving the car, no doubt, I’m aware of that but I’m not selfish, I’m not taking all the credit myself. I’m very thankful for what these guys are doing. If you look at their pay check at the end of the month, you’d be surprised if you could do the amount of hours that they do. I think it’s better to work at MacDonalds than to do what they do! It’s one hundred percent commitment. They love their job, they love the fact that they are working on a Formula 1 car and get to see technology like that. I think at the end of the day we could…it’s rockets in a way. It’s a shame, in a way, that with modern circuits people don’t get the excitement of the speeds that close any more, but I think for safety reasons there’s no doubt…you don’t want to go back to where we’ve been in the past, so I think the sport has progressed but for sure you lose some of the excitement but I think for racing fans, such as the mechanics, it’s still the same. It was just a gesture of saying thank you.
Would you say this has been amongst your most or probably the most emotional day, as an F1 driver?
SV: In a way, we saw that one coming. Last year was very special. If you look at the race last year, Brazil, it was…if you tried to write a story like that you can’t because you can’t be creative enough. Maybe this year the difference is that it happens in a place like this. What I want to say is that I would actually love to take the time out and travel India, travel around here, because I think this country has the possibility to teach you so much. The majority of people are very poor, if you compare the living standards to Europe. I think it’s within human nature that you always find something to complain about. Being German, maybe it’s in my roots to find something to complain about but you come here, the majority of people have a very difficult life you would say, but they are very happy. Obviously we don’t get to see much because it’s an isolated world, we are here in the paddock so if you get to see a little bit of the surroundings, it’s quite frightening sometimes to see the circumstances people have to live in, but the big lesson is that they are happy. It was a difficult emotion to cross the line and to feel happy all of a sudden because you’re in a rhythm, you know what you’re doing, you have a certain routine. Yes, I was very nervous before the race but I am all the time, I am nervous, usually the last hour of my sleep from Saturday to Sunday is quite poor because I’m looking forward to the race, I’m having all sorts of scenarios in my head. I think it takes time to understand what happened but I think it is also a special place to win at and yeah, when my engineer called for the usual procedure – parc ferme, park the car – I said to myself I don’t care, I go there, the crowd was great in the main grandstand and I’ll have some fun there which I enjoyed a lot.
When you were growing up, watching Formula 1, did you ever root for the underdog, did you ever want the guy finishing behind Schumacher to win, as a fan?
SV: I was never imagining myself to…what were we dreaming about when we were young boys? To be honest with you, when I started karting, I was doing the free practice, I was interested in the result, knowing if I was quick or not, I wanted to know, and after that I went to the sand and played with toy cars. We played hide and seek… it was a very nice time, to be honest. I had a lot of friends at the go-kart track, at the age of seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, when it was really about just growing up and having a hobby, you know? My friends at school went to play football, I joined them, I wasn’t very good. I already didn’t like losing at the time so yeah, it was a very nice time. It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours you put in, but I have to thank my parents in a way because they never put pressure on me. I understood it was very serious, I understand that they…maybe I understand now better than back then, but I understood that they spent a lot of time with me, sacrificed their lives in a way but we had a good time as a family together. Yeah, even if I wouldn’t be here in Formula 1 now and successful somewhere else, I don’t know, studying and having a normal job, I would still look back and say it was a nice time we spent together as a family and we would still talk about it every second or third dinner, because they are nice memories that we have. So when I was a child, I wasn’t really…of course, it was a dream to race in Formula 1 but I think it’s wrong to say it was a target. Later on, when I was 15/16, yes, I had a target but now, looking back, it was very difficult to grasp.
You returned to your hotel at nine at night which was six hours after qualifying finished. Is it normal or are you as diligent at any other weekend?
SV: I think I spend a lot of time here at the track, looking at stuff, writing my reports and trying to give feedback but also to be honest, last night I had dinner here at the circuit. Many times people complain about the paddock and the people; to be honest with you, I’m not like that, I enjoy being here and spending time with people that [I] know. I had an interesting discussion last night with a journalist. I like the paddock, it’s not like a prison to me. People say when you cross the entrance it’s like being in a circus but I think it’s what you make of the circus also. If you come in with a negative mindset then for sure you will have a bad time. This morning, when I looked at the car and also yesterday to be honest, I looked at it and it’s a small piece of kit. It’s not very big. A truck is bigger, any truck you can buy on the road is bigger but imagine the speed this car can travel with you behind the wheel. It’s amazing. I just appreciate that fact, you know. Whether you finish first, second, 15th or last, it doesn’t really matter, but I think it’s something unique, that we get to feel, we get to enjoy. I appreciate that and hopefully this kind of feeling never changes.
First all the boos you got recently – from maybe many Ferrari fans – were quite shameful, it was not very much deserved. Your thoughts
SV: Yes, but to be honest with you, I’m not blaming the Ferrari fans. I tried to make the example, unfortunately nowadays the world is ticking so quickly that people are not always listening exactly to what I’m saying or what I’m trying to say. I don’t blame the people that booed, you know. If I go to the football stadium, for example, I cheer for the home team. The first moment you maybe don’t appreciate the outside or the away team to score a goal, the guy who actually scored a goal you don’t appreciate him being an amazing player and you might boo because other people boo. So in that regard, I think I know how to put it but like I said, obviously it doesn’t feel great but if you have a love for..for example for Ferrari or McLaren…I had actually one guy writing a letter after Singapore. He apologised because he was in the crowd and he was booing and he apologised that he was booing, it was the wrong thing to do. I think if people think about it they understand but in the heat of the moment, you know, there’s nobody really to blame. Somebody starts, some people join in, others don’t. We are fans of the sport and if some people have a passion for Ferrari, which they might have for good reason, they’ve been around for quite a while, they don’t like it if somebody else wins. It’s not necessarily my fault. I think I’m mature enough to understand that.
Four names: Fangio, Schumacher, Prost, Vettel.
SV: It’s very difficult to, to understand. Put it this way, I was watching TV, I was watching Formula 1 when Fernando started to win races and now I’m racing Fernando, he’s been my toughest opponent for the last couple of years. I think he’s extremely talented, very gifted behind the wheel, for sure. He’s Spanish, he’s very passionate, one way and the other. Now, to race people like him, race people like Lewis who I think has an amazing level of natural talent, to race people like Mark who I rate the same way, like Nico who I think is underestimated. A lot of guys, you know: Kimi, Jenson. To win four titles, I don’t know, it’s just a big number, you know? Four. Titles. Fangio put the number of five titles, everybody appreciated him as the best driver in the world. Michael came along a couple of years later or…couple of years! Quite many years later. Different time, different era of the sport. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just talking as a fan of the sport, you know? Yes, he had a very dominant car but he created that at Ferrari, you know? He was working very hard, arguably harder than everybody else. He had some tough challenges coming in and going out: people like Montoya, David, Kimi, Fernando. It’s incredible that one guy managed to actually score more championships than this guy did. Unfortunately Fangio passed away but when you speak to true legends of the sport, in my opinion, like Stirling Moss, they actually have the guts to say that…f#ck, this guy was better than me, he deserved to win and Stirling Moss for sure was not a…he finished twice, I don’t know how many times, three/four times in the championship? To join people like that: Michael, Fangio, Prost is very difficult to put into perspective. I’m way too young to understand what it means. I might be sixty one day, maybe then I will understand but nobody cares any more. I care, it’s difficult to realise something that nobody can take away from you, basically.
Would you say that people have been unfair to you when they say that F1 is becoming boring because of you winning everything but at the same time, there are people like Fernando Alonso who say that you should be respected for being the fastest?
SV: No, I’m not…I don’t know the word, nachtragend (resentful). I’m not…I don’t blame people. They boo because they are Ferrari fans. At the time it hurts, as I said, not to get the reception that you expect but at the same time, I think I’m clever enough to understand why they do it. I’m not blaming them. Maybe if I would be a fan of McLaren, Ferrari, whatever, one of the traditional teams, I wouldn’t like it if the same kind of guys, same team wins again and again. I think the most important thing for me is to get the respect from people that I know and people that I race against. I feel respected amongst the drivers. Sure you have to fight to get that respect when you come in but I’m not blaming the fans. It’s very difficult for the fans, to be honest, to understand what’s going on behind the scenes because they get a little of an idea of who we are but it’s impossible for everyone to introduce yourself and to explain what kind of guy you are. But then again, it’s nice to give a little bit back to people you meet, at the hotel, at the track, outside of the track, maybe when you’re shopping, people that recognise you. Therefore, I think it’s important that you get the respect from people that you really know. Others, I think, will always struggle, there will always be pros and cons, speaking for and against you.
When you entered the room, you were on the phone. Who were you talking to? And what was the talk about?
SV: My parents and my brother. I was basically…they said congratulations. I said that I loved them very much, thank you and yeah, it’s very difficult to find the right words. As I said, it’s one of these things I struggle to understand right here, right now. But as I tried to explain in my message in German, there have been a lot of people supporting me on the way and for sure my family played a huge role. I think we just got to spend a very good time together and to have this sort of outcome, nobody expected that. It’s just a nice bonus at the end of the day.
You just said that you would love to explore India. Considering there’s no race next year, would you like to explore India in the off-season? Would you have the time?
SV: There’s not enough time in the off-season, to be honest. It’s a very busy schedule. If you look at the schedule itself, obviously December will be quite busy and then I get some time for myself at Christmas. And then we start very soon in January. It’s a big, big, big project waiting for us next year. I think teams like Mercedes, Ferrari spend a lot of time thinking of new ideas. It’s a new car, it’s a new engine so it will be an incredibly big challenge. We already start testing in January. I think this year’s winter will be as short as…or will be shorter than many winters before. And then you have…at the moment there’s 22 races in the calendar, so you don’t get to spend two, three, four, five weeks really for holidays or to have a break. I think, in the end, that India is big, lot of people here and you need more than a week or two to really get the taste of the country. It’s a shame but since there’s quite a good perspective that one day I will retire and I will still be young, I’m looking forward to that.
Since you said that India is a special place to win, would you consider naming your 2014 car with an Indian angle?
SV: Actually, don’t get me wrong, but yesterday there were a couple of guests we had from the team and I signed some autographs and I was asking for their names and I regret that because I looked like an idiot. They were spelling the names and I’m…‘OK, can you say that again?’ and one guy who had, I don’t know, some Ts in his name and he spelled it and he said D like Tomato. So I put D and I looked like an idiot because he actually meant T. Don’t get me wrong, you look like an idiot when he spells the name and you put something down wrong. For sure, my English isn’t perfect either but I struggled to understand him. I really like the people here, they are very friendly. He didn’t actually take it personally so we just did another card. With the right spelling.
Subbed by AJN.