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Vettel on his F1 hero – and his ultimate street circuit

6 April 2011

In a revealing interview, defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has lifted the lid on the identity of his hero in the sport, the era in which he would have liked to have competed, the team he would have liked to have raced for and his ultimate street circuit. It makes for interesting reading.

Speaking to the official F1 website in the fortnight gap between the curtain-raising 2011 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne a week-and-a-half ago and the forthcoming Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, Vettel was asked a variety of questions a world away from the kind of topics that he would usually be faced with over a race weekend.

When he was told to pick one fellow former world champion as his ideal team-mate, the team that he would have loved to have competed for in years gone-by and the decade in which he would choose to participate were time-travelling a possibility, a recurring theme quickly emerges.

“Jochen Rindt, very clearly!” the 23-year-old fired back, when asked about who he would have liked to have had the opportunity to race alongside. “For me, he had something that was very inspiring. He was a cool guy, and it would be an honour to race against him in the same team. In that way, you could get all the secrets of his exceptional personality, and of course it would be a big challenge!”

And the team, then? “Clearly, Lotus from the old days – the Colin Chapman outfit. I think the drivers didn't have an easy time there, but it was iconic – and of course it was a big challenge to have Chapman as your team principal.”

The era, similarly, fits in neatly with the symmetry: “The 1970s...with the safety standards of today! The atmosphere must have been very special, and being part of that must have been quite some experience. I guess even being there made you some kind of hero.

“F1 was obviously very special in that decade, but of course from a pure instinct of survival you would always choose today. From an emotional point-of-view, the '70s must have been fantastic – how pure the racing was, the camaraderie among the drivers...that's what's missing a bit today.”

Rindt – the sport's only posthumous world champion – F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and multiple title-winners Juan-Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna constitute Vettel's quartet of dinner guest choices, whilst in terms of legendary cars from yesteryear, it is the 1990 McLaren-Honda MP4/5B that gets the young German's vote. As to which two greats he would like to see in action again, meanwhile, there is no hesitation.

“Senna and [Alain] Prost,” he responds, quipping that had he been in charge of a team with the Brazilian and Frenchman as his two drivers, he 'would probably have [had] to take some sort of course to learn how to handle them!' “Today, I would understand much more about their 'battles'. When it happened I was too young to understand, and of course I was too far away from the action to get a real idea. They were both so completely different in their personalities. I would like to witness that.”

In terms of the regulations, Vettel makes it clear that he is no fan of the current innovations designed to increase overtaking – the controversial moveable rear wing and KERS chief amongst them – although he is very much in favour of the end goal. When it comes to spicing up the spectacle, indeed, the Red Bull Racing star knows exactly what he would reintroduce...

“I'd put big V12 engines in the cars!” he grinned. “[I'm] against all the four-cylinder advocacy. I would take KERS off the car and put a V12 in – that would be 'greener' than what we have now! Put lots of downforce on, because this is what gives us the feeling and sensation. I definitely would go for a lot of power [and] a nice sound – some brutal machinery so that you have to rise above yourself every time you jump into the car.

“[I'd like to] make it possible to overtake – that would be fantastic for the drivers and [would] obviously help the show. Everybody knows that it is almost impossible in F1 to overtake, so if you manage to do it you know that you've achieved something – overtaking is something that separates the men from the boys.

“On the other hand, I think overtaking should never be artificial, and that is partly what I feel we are facing with this moveable rear wing. I just hope that it is not becoming too artificial. Obviously it is really hard to find a mode that allows the fastest man to find his way through. I think what is important is to have a sizzling atmosphere around the track – to have 100,000 excited people. Such an atmosphere would be very special, and thank God we have a lot of races where the atmosphere is fantastic. You always really look forward to these races.”

Talking of the races, finally, Vettel lists Suzuka, Spa-Francorchamps and the fabled Nürburgring Nordschleife as his favourite three circuits, reasoning that 'at these tracks you would never get bored', and his perfect lap would be composed of 'sector one of Suzuka, sector two of Spa and some parts of Singapore and Monaco'. The eleven-time grand prix-winner would re-instate either Kyalami, Buenos Aires or the Nordschleife on his fantasy F1 calendar, and as to a new street circuit, he is unequivocal.

“Very clearly and 100 per cent New York!” he replies. “There have been rumours lately, and I think that it would be the ultimate city to race in. Everybody knows New York, and it would be awesome to be part of such a race. The paddock in Central Park and racing along Fifth Avenue, all the way down to Washington Square... Manhattan is not that big, so we could have a circuit passing all the important landmarks. Awesome!”


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