F1's youngest champion

Four-time Formula One winner Sebastian Vettel is youngest in history

Originally Published: December 9, 2013
By Matt McCue | ESPN The Magazine

Sebastian VettelPaul Gilham/Getty ImagesVettel does most of his training outside the car with a regimen that includes cycling and running.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 23 Interview Issue. Subscribe today!

Matt McCue: At 26, you are the youngest four-time champion in Formula One history. Did you expect this level of success so early in your career?
Sebastian Vettel: No. I am aware that I am not that old, but I think that as soon as you get the chance to prove yourself, you make use of it. Maybe one day when I'm without hair and have a big belly, I might be able to judge it a bit better.

McCue: You won the Singapore GP and fans booed you on the podium. Is it because they thought you were making the sport boring by always winning?
Vettel: We see it completely different. Every race is a new challenge. I give it my best, stand on the podium and then get booed. It's not nice. It does hurt. As long as I haven't done anything wrong or cheated, I shouldn't take it the wrong way.

McCue: Christian Horner, your coach, recently said that mental strength is your greatest asset as a driver. Where does that come from?
Vettel: There is no secret behind it. I don't have a clever guru trying to make me think in a certain direction. It's very easy. When I don't win, I'm pissed off. I accept I make mistakes and that there is a day other people deserve to beat me because they are better, but that doesn't mean they will always beat me.

It's very easy. When I don't win, I'm pissed off.

McCue: Describe your normal training week.
Vettel: It is mostly spent outside of the car. We don't get to test that much because it's too expensive. To run the car properly, it takes 30 to 40 people. What I do is prepare physically: I work out twice a day for about four to six hours a day, six days a week. My training includes running, cycling and playing tennis and badminton. I also spend time in the gym—neck stability is very important. The 5-g lateral forces get very tough and I need to be able to keep my head straight.

McCue: Your childhood heroes were three Michaels: Jackson, Jordan and Schumacher. And you really wanted to be like the pop star?
Vettel: I thought I had brilliant dance moves, but then I realized they weren't so great and that I didn't have the voice. That dream vanished quickly. Some athletes have their own shoe. You have your own Infiniti FX Sebastian Vettel SUV that can go 186 mph. Have you ever maxed out on it? To be honest, no. People look at race car drivers and think we are completely mental in the car. I would be lying to you if I said I always respected every speed limit, but I'm not a race car driver outside of the racetrack. I do love driving fast, but I do it on a track where everybody is going the same direction and there are professionals around me who know what I'm doing.

McCue: Kate, Kate's Dirty Sister and Kinky Kylie are a few of the nicknames you've given your cars over the years. How do you pick them?
Vettel: My mechanics and I sit down before the first race and come up with a name. There are lots of them that we shouldn't mention because we couldn't put a sticker on the car with those names. So far, I think we've had some good ones. The mechanics and I spend so much time with these cars that they're not just machines. I wouldn't go so far as to say they have souls or that I say "good morning" and "goodbye" when I come and go, but I feel you should appreciate your cars.

Follow The Mag on Twitter (@ESPNmag) and like us on Facebook.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.