Vettel: You have to work very hard to win races, this does not come out of the blue
12 December, 2013
The dust has well and trully settled on the 2013 Formula 1 season and much has been said and written about Sebastian Vettel’s incredible run to capture his fourth title in succession and with it smashing just about every record in the book. The German spoke about the momentous season past and looks ahead to the challenges he faces as he begins his quest for a fifth title, starting next year.
“Four titles…even now it is difficult for me to understand what it means,” began the 26 year old from Heppenheim. “On one hand you have the plain numbers; on the other hand you have the person behind those numbers and I have to say that my approach has not really changed in [these] last four years – and nor has the way I look at things. When I look in the mirror I see pretty much the same person – older, yes, and the beard is slightly thicker, but in terms of how I perceive myself I am still the same ‘old’ me.”
“Of course you try to learn over the years – you become a better driver who intimately knows the tricks of his trade – but I think that goes for every driver on the grid. What is still very present for me are the fantastic races that we’ve won and seeing that the whole team breathes the same spirit. The precision that we have established and the will to win that is almost physically tangible – these are the things that come to mind when reflecting on the last few years.”
“Grasping what it means to have won four titles is probably something that I will have the luxury to reflect on when I am not racing any more – when you have the time to look back and have the distance to compare yourself with other drivers. All the time you are racing your next race is always the next big challenge that you are focusing on, and not the elusive question of who is the best, the fastest or the most famous ever.”
From early on in his F1 career Vettel started breaking records and thereafter making history relentlessly. First he became youngest driver [at the time] ever to score a point in Formula 1 at the age of 19 years and 349 days; at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix Vettel became the youngest driver to win a Formula 1 race and at the same time become the youngest polesitter and youngest podium finisher; at the age of 21 years and 287 days Vettel became the youngest grand prix driver to win for two different teams after his victory in the 2009 Chinese GP; at the 2010 Japanese GP at 23 years and 98 days, Vettel became the youngest grand prix driver to win at the same track on two occasions; a few weeks later he won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and became the youngest World Champion in the sport’s history; a year later he won the Championship again and thus became the youngest ever double World Champion and also the youngest back-to-back Champion; in 2012 at age 25 he became the youngest ever triple World Champion and now the youngest quadruple Champion at the pinnacle of the sport.
“When looking back on what I’ve ‘achieved’ at the age of 26, I have to say it doesn’t really matter to me. I left school in 2006 – and that is not so long ago – and now I have won four titles in Formula 1. It has been incredible to do that in such a short time, yes, but on the other hand it was also always about taking the next step,” mused Vettel
“Sometimes you realized that you weren’t ready for that next step so then you worked on yourself and made sure that you were ready the next time. I was very lucky never having to feel pressure from the people who were close to me trying to push me into something that I was not ready for.”
Since his first win at Monza in 2008 Vettel has triumphed a further 38 times, been on the podium 62 times and started from pole position 45 times.
Vettel reflected, “Of course my ultimate goal was always to win the F1 title, to prove that I can do it – with all the names in the back of your head from the history books of the Champions. To win two or three or four times – or even more – is way beyond your imagination, so when it happens you just go with the flow. I can say that I am the one who puts the most pressure on me. I expect myself to perform.”
“I don’t expect to win or to be one of the best. You have to work very hard to win races – this does not come out of the blue. You have a certain amount of talent. You can’t influence the amount of talent that you have, but there are a lot of other things that I can influence and I am focusing on those. Winning the title in 2010 was a huge relief in that respect, as it was a tough season and at the end you’ve achieved something that nobody can take away from you.
In the latter half of the 2013 season, where he won nine races on the trot, Vettel was simply in another league compared to his rivals. His performances been almost alien-like in a Senna-esque manner and each one special in their own way. No surprise then that the Champion finds it tough to single out one single performance as his best.
“The moment you cross the finishing line you want to have the feeling that you’ve done your best – and that does not necessarily mean that you’ve won the race. Sometimes you win a race but know that you’ve made a mistake here, had a lapse there – so you won, but the satisfaction level is not that high.”
“And then there are sometimes races like for me in China where I didn’t qualify well because the speed was not there and so we decided to run a different strategy. Slowly we came through the field and nearly finished on the podium. That was a very satisfying race for me as I had the feeling that I had given everything I had.”
“What does that teach you? That by no means is a race only a good race when you win. Sometimes the ‘troubled’ races are the ones that get the best out of you, where your ‘recovery’ qualities are what make the difference. China was similarly satisfying to the race in India where I was able to control the race. It’s only sad that after a race like in China – where you personally feel you’ve done everything right, coming from a difficult starting position – you don’t get a trophy, whereas in India obviously I got one.”
The achievements during the past four years are diluted in the eyes of some sceptics who believe his success is due to the genius of Adrian Newey who has designed all of Vettel’s winning cars. The World Champion is aware of the doubters.
“I think a lot of people think of a lot of things when thinking about my wins: Red Bull Racing, Adrian, myself – and a handful of key people in the team. In general we all get enough credit. There is enough attention. But there are so many more people involved in that ‘winning process’ – Christian Horner was rightfully speaking about all the unsung heroes who contribute a lot with their hard work and brilliant ideas.”
“They don’t get enough credit. Sure, it is not possible to name 500 or more people, but kudos to them all! Every single individual in the team has contributed to Red Bull Racing becoming a racing legend.
“You are who you are. When you’ve done something wrong in life you’re the first person to know. So the first person you cheat is yourself. If you are happy with yourself and can live comfortably with the person that you are, then there is no reason to doubt anything.”
Vettel trounced highly rated teammate Mark Webber, who did not win a single race in 2013 as the World Champion notched up 13 victories. The Australian has quit Formula 1 and fans would have relished a top line driver – Kimi Raikkonen or Fernando Alonso spring to mind – at Red Bull. Instead the team has opted to promote Daniel Ricciardo from Toro Rosso.
“I think at the end of the day we don’t have to prove anything. We’ve proven enough. We have had four fantastic years – and where were all the others in those four years? Nothing happens without a reason. Of course you need the right package – and we had that strong package – but I remember we also had a strong package in 2009 and finished second in the Championship,” ventured Vette.
“Think of last year  the Championship was not decided when I was sent to the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi and had to fight my way back. Then we had a nightmare of a race in Brazil: the car was damaged and I was last after the first lap and managed to come back. So we had our share of misfortune on many occasions and it was down to the others to seize their chances in such moments. “
“I am convinced that you create your own luck. There will always be people who doubt, but that is their problem. Daniel will come to the team strong and will do a good job. He is coming from Toro Rosso and is in a bit of a similar situation to mine in 2009. Maybe the biggest difference is that the team has different expectations now, but also a winning record that wasn’t there when I joined.”
Technical regulations for 2014 are virtually all new – it’s farewell to the V8 normally aspirated engine as the sport usehers in a second turbo engine era. The changes could shake up the pecking order in Formula 1, a fact that does not escape Vettel.
“We all know that there will be massive changes and the biggest change for me is the engine. Everything else will be usual stuff, but in regards to the engine it will be an incredibly big challenge for the drivers.”
“Imagine having only 100 kilos of fuel available for a race! That might require looking for completely different techniques that allow you to go as quick as normal but also save fuel. You have to adapt to this new situation – and find the best way to go as fast as possible to the chequered flag!” declared Vettel before signing off and embarking on a well earned vacation. (GP247)
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