It was the first time since winning the Formula One Drivers’ Championship at the Buddh International Circuit a few weeks ago, that four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel would return to Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s headquarters in Milton Keynes after his seventh successive victory this season at the Etihad Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this past Sunday.
The man that joined Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to have secured four world titles in succession and is casually is breaking records in the sport on a regular basis. Four titles in six seasons of one of the most demanding racing series is a formidable achievement for a man who keeps his private life away from the public eye and always looks to the task at hand, which always is “the next race,” according to the 26-year-old maestro.
Even with a slight 20-minute delay for the Heppenheim native due to low-lying fog at Cranfield, the press conference got underway with former-F1 driver and Red Bull Racing alumni David Coulthard hosting the proceedings, with theCheckeredFlag.co.uk being present amongst the world’s media in attendance last Wednesday.
When asked about the challenges for this season, tyres was a clear talking point in the way that the team tried to understand and had to design the Renault-powered RB9 around the Pirelli P-Zero characteristics to “get more performance out of the car.”
The way that a driver works to the best of their ability was further exemplified by how Sebastian himself was asked to explain about his own driving style, especially with different factors to take into consideration: “It is difficult to describe a driving technique, as you try to learn something new every lap, as the tyres are changing in particular. It is sometimes difficult to filter what the car needs. That’s part of our job, as we try to use our ability in the car to filter what is going on and set priorities.”
With the fact that on-track testing is heavily restricted, the teams have to resort to state of the art simulators, that cost millions of pounds in some cases, and are not really shown to the public, especially with the way that teams are trying to keep their tools as low-key as possible to reduce the risk of espionage within the sport.
Vettel said that it is an important tool for both the team and driver, as it helps to make a difference when the car hits the track on the very first practice session as a baseline indicator can help the team and driver. This is ever more essential when it comes to developing the car as grip, tyre understanding and aerodynamics are just some of the factors needed to be included in optimizing the car’s performance.
He also stated that the simulator also helps him to get into driving rhythms for certain tracks, as well as helping to “try and eliminate some of the testing that you want to do at the track itself, especially being able to go the race weekend with a list of priorities.” This in turn helps the team to do what they can to up the level of performance of the car as the weekend progresses until the lights go out.
He mentioned that after five years with the team, which has expanded over the years since 2005 saw a fresh-faced Christian Horner take the reigns as the youngest Formula One team principal, that he knows where everything and everyone is in the Milton Keynes base, and is looking forward to the team’s Christmas party.
The German driver was clearly pointing out about the fact that being “in the moment” was a clear factor of helping get the best result possible, especially when he was asked by Coulthard about the focus ahead for the last two Grand Prix of the season: “ When I jump into the car, I’m not thinking of what has happened before, I’m not thinking of what is going to happen in the future even if it is this free practice session, this qualifying or this race and try to get everything out of it.
“Obviously you have to plan for the future a little bit, especially with what is happening next year, which is going to be completely different in many regards, but nevertheless as long as you manage to focus on what is happening right now, I think you’ll have a better future as well. ”
Vettel himself was very modest throughout the proceedings, in what was an understated affair at Red Bull Technologies during a damp and slightly foggy day. Even though he was asked about having to move to another team to prove his talents, the driver said that he would always shave those that would doubt him, don’t like who he is and what he does, but was clearly very happy where he is now.
Success has clearly not gone to the head of the man that keeps his private life firmly behind closed doors, and made it abundantly clear with the way he said that each individual has to be happy with themselves and love what each person does.
There has always been a respect between Vettel and Mark Webber on track, especially as they are rivals within the same team, which comes to an end after five years at Interlagos after the chequered flag falls for the final time this year. Sebastian said that between the pair, who have had their fair share of altercations over the past few years, have not lost the same respect for each other as drivers.
“We’ve respected each other inside the car and over the last five years, we’ve gotten to know one another rather well, meaning I know his strengths and where I have an advantage when it comes to certain corners. It has been close between us, but a lot closer than people seem to remember.”
He was completely honest about the fact that a personal relationship between the pair of them was not the best between two ultra-competitive racers, who were looking to be the best in the world of Formula One, but it can come with the territory. Vettel’s will to win, as well as having a design genius in the form of Adrian Newey, who is able to help compliment the style that Vettel has behind the wheel and make it a clear total package that is the class of the field.
Red Bull’s team principal said that the team has had little chance to “rest on our laurels,” especially with the teams that are battling hard to wrestle the glory from Milton Keynes, whose impressive trophy cabinet will need to be further extended as the success achieved by not just the drivers but the team may not be at a end just quite yet.
He mentioned about complacency having no room in Formula One, as all the teams are having to think further forward, and with his experience as a racer himself, as well as running teams in GP2 and GP3, it proves that he has a lot more to deal with apart from the day-to-day running, which includes the political side of the sport that can sometimes be a lot more in depth than people think.
But he said that the team has to take in and live in the moment of what the outfit has achieved in 8 years, but explained just what was the biggest part of what has spurred Infiniti Red Bull Racing to the highs it is now currently experiencing: “Our facility is modest in comparison with our rivals, but what exists in the building itself is a large amount of desire and passion. It’s that what has helped to achieve the success we have had over recent years.”
Horner himself, who entered as the youngest F1 team principal in 2005, praised his lead driver, especially with the way that Vettel has evolved and matured over time, with such excellent performances along the way.
So the Circuit of the Americas awaits the grid to gear up for racing, with Vettel potentially winning on a track that he has not yet conquered, as Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural Grand Prix at Austin last season behind the wheel of a McLaren. The rise of a driver that will be talked about for years to come, whether it be for the right or wrong reasons, but being in the same circle as Prost, Fangio, Senna and Schumacher when it comes to drivers that have been praised for their achievements, is an acclaim others do not share. However, the youngest four-time world champion in the sport’s history will still focus on the “next race,” as America waits for a champion to dazzle all.