Sebastian Vettel, Lap of Luxury
There are three words you should never say to Formula One’s youngest World Champion: “Not too fast.”
I learn this lesson seconds after slipping into the passenger seat of a 2011 G37 IPL Coupe at Infiniti’s media event at Montreal’s Circuit Icar. The luxury auto brand’s newest global ambassador, Red Bull racer Sebastian Vettel, takes the wheel, as he whips me through the track just days before the Canadian Grand Prix. “So we’re going extra fast!” says the 24-year-old with a mischievous grin.
I take Vettel’s words as a warning as he peels out, thrashing the concrete with brazen force, letting all 330 ponies out of the gate. Conducting an interview while being jackhammered left and right by a car that’s travelling about 220 kilometres per hour can be a challenge, but when you only have three minutes to chat with a defending world champ, somehow you figure it out. “It’s quite, quite tough you know. People don’t think that it’s very physical but it is very much so,” says the German racer, who can be seen flying up to 360km/h when competing. “When you are about to start a race, you feel your heart beat and of course you’re nervous, but it’s positive.”
The evolution of Vettel was set in motion when he first stepped into a go-kart at age 3. You could say that the rest is history, but that would be cutting the book short – the F1 pole leader still has a long road of victories ahead. “I don’t really care about the age,” says Vettel, his blond hair and blue eyes painting an even more youthful appearance. “Maybe when I’m old you know, it’s nice if up to that point no one has beaten that record to look back and say, ‘look I was quite young when I achieved that.’”
Vettel reflects on the irony of going wheel-to-wheel with his childhood idol, Michael Schumacher (who he now repeatedly outraces). “It’s a bit strange, because you know, I’ve been looking up to Michael basically all my life … I started karting when he was already in F1, so if you think of it from that way it’s quite, quite special,” says Vettel, drifting side-to-side with a smile. “Make sure you don’t go like this on the roads,” he jokes.
Along with his astonishing F1 track record, Vettel attracts more attention with his high-spirited, unmanufactured persona. Clearly not a product of public relations polishing, Vettel’s greenness has him revealing the female nicknames he has for his cars and how he splashed celebratory champagne on a national guard after winning Monaco’s Grand Prix.
As my ride ends, Vettel’s begins. A gruelling 70 laps later at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, he stood second on the podium next to Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. Six Grand Prix’s have passed since our Montreal rendezvous, and after a tearful win in Italy Vettel has a tough-to-beat 112 point lead. If he goes “extra fast” at the next circuit, he’ll secure his second consecutive world championship, an impressive feat for a racer of any age.