Just one day after the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was interviewed by Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport and talked about numerous subjects, from his private life to the possibility of continuing with the Maranello team for next season:
Q: Seb, your story looks like being predestined, but when you went to school, did you ever want to be someone else, maybe a footballer?
Sebastian Vettel: Michael Jackson.
SV: I’m not joking, when I was kid I really had a nice voice. But as puberty began, I lost every chance as a singer. So I focused everything on racing.
Q: You have many passions, including vintage motorbikes, what do you feel when you drive them?
SV: First of all, if I decide to go for a ride on a motorbike, it’s just for the pleasure of doing it. There must be a beautiful day, the sun must shine and I have to enjoy the weather, the view of the landscape, the road and, obviously, the bike. My motorbikes are vintage motorbikes (Bmw, Kawasaki and others; ndr). I’m generally happy if I get back home without any problems. Once happened that I had to stop for an oil leak. But luckily there are mobile phones today.
Q: The most beautiful travel experience?
SV: There are so many gorgeous mountain trails between Switzerland, Austria and Italy. I would like to go for a ride at the Tremola with my motorbike, on the Gotthard Pass, where I went once, but just in the car. Maybe I’ll ask for help to a guide.
Q: What fascinates you the most about Enzo Ferrari, from what you have read?
SV: I didn’t read a lot about him in the past, but now I am interested in any publication about him. I’m fascinated by the fact that he was a man with vision. Today the brand of Ferrari is well known all over the world, it has global significance but back then no-one could have imagined that. And it’s incredible to think that all this came from the mind of one person. It’s a shame he’s not here any more. Some say I’m lucky here because he was notoriously tough on his drivers [smiles], but his ideas and his principles are still here today and they exist in every person who works at Maranello.
Q: You have even slept in Enzo Ferrari’s home, inside the Fiorano circuit, on the eve of your first test with Ferrari. Do you remember that?
SV: It was special. Although, despite he is not with us, in the end I was his guest and at the same time I wasn’t. It’s a symbolic place, unique, like Disneyland for a kid.
Q: Why, when you joined Ferrari, you decided to put the colors of the German flag on your helmet?
SV: In my Red Bull years, that supported me as sponsor since the beginning, I used their design, adding something personal at every race. However, when I signed for Ferrari, I didn’t think that I should look for another design. So, at the first test at Fiorano, in November 2014, I used a white helmet. I liked it because it reminded me of the one that I used at kart times, when we didn’t have enought money to pay someone to design it. Then I had the idea of the German flag. I love simple and classic designs, such as those of Damon Hill, David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher’s first helmet design, because they are immediately recognizable. Since then, the helmet has remained the same, with small changes.
Q: Being famous allows you to have a normal life, go out, go to the supermarket, bring your daughters to school?
SV: My daughters don’t have the age to go to school yet, so it’s early. But, in general, my life is the one of a normal person. It’s true, it is not easy to feel always comfortable, when everyone around recognizes you, but I think it’s us who decide how to live. I go everywhere without any problems. If someone asks for attention and I’m having dinner with my family, I say no with kindness and people understand. In the end, you find out that there are less obstacles than you think. So, it’s good to set limits. Everyone is the captain of his own boat.
Q: After your victory in Singapore in 2015, over the radio you sang Toto Cutugno’s “L’Italiano”. What is your ideal playlist?
SV: I like music and I change habits, tastes and preferences many times. Right now, I’m listening to the hits from 80s. But it’s hard to make a hit parade. If I had to pick one, I would say that “We are the champions” is not bad, for what it means…
Q: What are you taking with you from Italy?
SV: The passion for food, culture, lifestyle, the familiar atmosphere. Life is made to be enjoyed and there is so much to learn from Italy about this.
Q: Do you like paintings as Helmut Marko?
SV: I appreciate contemporary art, sometimes I go to exhibitions and visit museums, but I’m not someone who looks at an abstract painting and forces himself to find something inside. The paintings must please me at first sight, then I try to meet the artist who made them and to have an interpretation of it from him.
Q: Lewis Hamilton said he bought a Dalì. 12 points separate you and him in the 2017 driver standings, but even more regarding lifestyle. He likes social media and the rockstar life, you instead exactly the opposite…
SV: It’s like comparing white and black. It’s difficult to answer, because, actually, I don’t know Lewis. We don’t spend much time together. Perhaps the only time we are close is when we fight on track. But we’ve been racing together since Formula 3 and we have never had personal controversies. There are so many things in Lewis’s lifestlyle that I wouldn’t do. But he would probably say the same about me.
Q: What kind of driver is Hamilton?
SV: I can’t “see” much of his driving style. To answer this question we should be in the same team and drive the same car. I could do a comparison Raikkonen, my teammate at Ferrari, and say where he is stronger and where I am as well, or Ricciardo and Webber at Red Bull. But with Lewis it’s difficult.
Q: What is your best memory about Michael Schumacher and what does bind you to him as a person?
SV: I think about when I had the opportunity to meet Michael twice. The first when I was growing up and he was my hero, for a child it was like meeting God; And a second time when I knew much more about F1. At the first he was the champion, the other time he was the person. I knew “what” was Michael and who “was” Michael. I never saw him out of shape, angry, sometimes I saw him after drinking many drinks [smiles] but I never heard him say something that didn’t make sense. He always managed to keep control. The same when he was driving in F1, when he was karting or when he raced in a buggy at the Race of Champions: he was always confident and he knew how to manage the situation.
Q: Is it possible to beat his record of 7 world titles?
SV: I don’t think about it, it’s not something I feel I have to do. Michael has been an important source of inspiration for me, but if you have a look at his numbers, poles, victories, world titles, it’s impossible to compare! My greatest ambition at the moment is to become world champion with Ferrari. I have already won four titles, I’m lucky, but I want to win again.
Q: Did the words from Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne (“Seb can stay at Ferrari as much as he wants”) please you?
SV: It’s nice to hear it. In recent years some people criticized him, arguing that he puts too much pressure on us, but just a few are aware of what’s really going on inside the team. It is clear that Marchionne wants to win, he is an ambitious man, but he is helping us as much as possible, providing us all what we need. There are two aspects of him: on one side we have the passionate fan of racing and of F1, on the other side we have the top manager who is very clever and capable. We’d be stupid not to listen to him. However, as I said, the contract at the moment is not a priority. We are all focused to win.
Q: Would you be willing to accept anyone as a teammate?
SV: You have to be ready to fight with anyone, because it’s the team that decides who to put alongside you as your teammate, it’s not me the one who commands at Ferrari. If I could choose, I would keep Kimi for the fact that we have much respect for each other and this solves many problems. It’s like at the kindergarten, when two kids challange for a sweet or a toy: they will never agree on who deserves that prize. We, however, respect each other so much that often, after qualifying or a race, we sit down at a table and we say chapeau. If I do better, he isn’t happy. And viceversa. But we are men enough to shake our hands and admit that the other one was stronger on that day, despite that we hate that and we wouldn’t want to accept it. It’s part of the maturity, the honesty and the greatness of a sportsman.
Q: Can you promise the Italian fans that you will stay at Ferrari also next year and in the coming ones?
SV: I have nothing to complain about. Usually Germans always complain, even when they come on holiday in Italy and the food and the weather are great, they always have something to complain about. In this regard, I’m not very German. I’m happy at Ferrari. There’s nothing against this. I don’t think that there will be any surprises. I’m not worried and Ferrari is in no hurry.