“Don’t worry, just do it. If you think it’s a good idea, do it and you’ll figure it out along the way”.
Sebastian Vettel talks about his mindset about life, what racing means for him now, how he spends time at home with his family, his love for classic motorcycles & cars, the environment & more!
About making his 250th race start – placing him 10th on the all time list.
“I am not sure I am proud of that! But it’s not fair if you compare to the past, because they had way fewer races than us today, so, it’s a bit fake, in my opinion. They did a lot of races probably in other categories so have to add those as well. But they’re not Grand Prixs so I get the statistics”.
How his attitude in F1 changed over the last 14 years.
“I think it does. I think it would be impossible to keep up the impression you have at first. I think, what you mustn’t forget, is that you live in the same time as you grow up, you grow older, you mature, so I don’t know. You need to ask other people, I think I’m the same sort of person, but obviously, you grow along the way, you learn a lot about F1, a lot about the people in F1, running F1, contributing to F1. So, I think it does change my view and I still love it, so, that hasn’t changed but view is different nowadays than it was 14 years ago”.
About (not) looking back to his achievements/career.
“I don’t look back. I look back only to try and learn something, if there’s a lesson to learn and I hope I won’t miss it. But I’m not looking back thinking how great I was, how great that moment was. I have nice memories, don’t get me wrong, and they also push me on to the next thing but I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. I think generally I’m always looking forwards”.
The best race he’s driven in F1?
“I don’t know, my answer. Because for exactly the reason I mentioned earlier! I don’t know, I have 250 races… I don’t know. I mean, obviously name the first win, the first this, the first that. I think there’s a lot of races as well that I felt I did really well but the result maybe didn’t show that”.
Remembering races of the past.
[Abu Dhabi 2012] “Good race. You know, the surprising thing with this is that I have no clue now when you ask me what race this and this is and ask me to name it, I couldn’t tell. But if you are into a race that was a specific one that’s triggered it. But if you get into a race and give me a couple of things that happened in or around that race, it comes back up. So it’s impossible for me to remember every race like that, but then, if we talk about that particular race it’s weird, how I remember it when it comes back. In Abu Dhabi, because I went to the back of the field and then overtook half of the field then hit the DRS polystyrene block, damage the front wing, we had to change it, to the back of the field again and then I was lucky as well with the safety car. But then drove up to 3rd I think in the end. The funny thing there is that people said I didn’t have to overtake Jenson in that final part of the race. But if I hadn’t passed him there and get these extra 4 points, I don’t think I would have been world champion that year, so, it was worth it. Maybe that was a good race but I don’t like talking about myself. Let’s talk about something else!”. (laughs)
Reflecting on his Ferrari years.
“I don’t think I will go on having any regrets looking back. It is true that I have failed because I set myself the mission, or the target, to win the championship with Ferrari, I have failed, I didn’t manage to do that. There’s things I should have done better, things that maybe I should have seen earlier, fights that maybe I shouldn’t have picked but then again I think everything that happened brought me to where I am now, so. I’m generally not talking about stuff that happens on the track. Now losing the car in Hockenheim, in sort of half wet, half dry conditions. Many people point that out as a low point, but, not talking about things like that. I’m more talking about what’s been going on. If I am fair and harsh, then I have failed. Were there reasons? Probably yes but, I don’t accept them as excuses. Whatever happened also I guess put me on the next level and next step forward to focus. [There were fights] that weren’t worth fighting, but then again, part of it is probably my nature and was natural to do so and I think I had a point as well in some of these fights & battles, whatever. Ultimately that’s how you mature and how you learn and I think the important thing is that I don’t have the sense of regret, I’m happy to move on”.
The decision of moving to Aston Martin.
“He (Lawrence Stroll) convinced me. I think the fact that the team is growing, a lot of factors. Those boxes were quite easy to tick in terms of, you know, the performance, the racing side of things, where the team is, where the team might be, the potential and so on. But also I think it was the mindset and the will to really do something good, bring something good together and it sounds like a fun project. Something I ultimately decided I want to be part of. It is very different to Ferrari, obviously Racing Point as it stands today and in the future Aston Martin will be growing, there will be a lot of things happening for the first time and I think it’s an incredible challenging journey for the whole team and me joining I hope I can contribute a lot of things and do good in the car and outside the car. I love racing and I’m looking forward to go racing. As I said I don’t regret the last years and I’ve learnt a lot in my time with Ferrari and think about a different team, a different culture, got to make a lot of friends as well. Certainly Ferrari is a special team in many way and I guess where I’m going will be different but I’m looking forward to it”.
How different Seb is now compared to 14 years ago.
“A lot of it is just the fact that I’m older, I mean you’re different now in terms of seeing things and having a much broaden horizon and all these things. Just because, when I was 19 I was still a teenager and there was a lot of things you miss and you therefore didn’t see, and once you see things then it’s difficult to unsee. Sometimes you’d wish to be able to unsee things but I think that’s just what life is about. Back then I had basically racing and racing and racing and racing. Now I still have racing, but I’m a father as well, I have 3 kids, I have a wife, I have other things in life that I really got to know and got to love and wouldn’t want to miss anymore. We only got married last year, but it’s the same woman as 2006”.
How having a family affects Seb as a driver.
“I think it’s just life and the fact obviously when you have kids I think it does change things. I don’t think it changes you down in terms of the stopwatch. It’s not like I’m taking consciously less risks and attacking less in the car and so on. I think it’ gives you a completely different perspective on yourself, on life itself and so for sure it has a huge impact and changes things, that’s without a doubt”.
Is there a side to Seb that nobody knows?
“I think different to most people around in the paddock and in the public eye, it’s just me. I’m not trying to stay out of sight. It’s just I don’t have much to share. I get along, I’m happy with myself. I am a rebel but not like a crazy one and wild. Obviously everything I do I consider normal but I don’t know if my normal qualifies as wild or boring. I guess I’m interested in a lot of things people consider boring and I’m interested in a lot of things people consider wild”.
Climbing mountain Fuji at night.
“Maybe that was me being young, but I would still do it today! (laughs) Because it wasn’t as bad as you put it now. You have to try and you’re convinced that it works and try and you will find along the way. The way I look at these things is I think if you worry to much, then don’t do it. But I think it’s always useful and helpful, you have to enjoy as well and just don’t worry. Just do it. If you think it’s a good idea, do it and you will figure it out along the way. Obviously it could have turned out to be horrible, it could have stopped but as it turned out it was genius because we were much faster and it was a lot more fun and we were down in no time. I think that’s the state of mind you’d ultimately like to be, in terms of just doing what’s right in front of you and sorting it out, fixing whatever it is. If it’s a problem fix it. Get the people alongside in different inputs and just work it out together. Or if it’s a way up or down a mountain, just figure out which way you wanna go and just do it. Don’t overthink it”.
What winning means for Seb.
“I don’t want to sound stupid but [winning] means less and less nowadays. Because I think you realize that it’s more about the journey, more about what brings you there and that’s the actual bit that you also remember. I like trophies and I’m very… I think winning is giving you the ultimate confirmation of what you have achieved. So, I’m very result driven and I’m very competitive. But you mentioned 51, 52 wins earlier… How many was it? 52? 53. I don’t remember the number, you see what I mean. [How many poles?] I don’t know! [How many championships?] Four! That’s easy. It’s more about the story rather than just the win. So that’s why I am saying less and less important. Obviously don’t get me wrong, I’m here to win. It would feel dull just to be around. I love driving the car, don’t get me wrong, I love racing. But I wouldn’t do it just for that. I need to have the sense that I can win this and I can win the race and I have chance and so on. I think if you give me a year racing for 16th then I’m not that excited. Especially because I have been at the top. If it was 17th I have been racing before and now 12th. But now 16th doesn’t give me a bus. Winning is still important but it’s more confirmation”.
Do bad races keep Seb up at night?
“Yes. Less though than they used to. Because with where I am in my life I have other things going on as well and it’s good to have distraction. You get home and generally my home is not all about my racing. It’s pretty much the opposite and I like it that way. There’s no pictures on the wall of me and stuff like that. I never wanted a home like that. Because it’s not about me, it’s about the home and about us as a family. I have a place where I have all the stuff obviously, because I’m a bit a collector. I keep a lot of the stuff because I think maybe one day it’s nice to have it and also small gifts from the fans or something they wrote or they do. But it does take some space after these years!”
Is Seb watching his races when he gets back home?
“No! (laughs) I’ve never done that! I wouldn’t want to do that. I’ve driven the race so why do I need to see it? Sometimes it’s interesting when they show the highlights, just to see what happened to other people or what happened in the race. But even if you look at the trophy for two hours it’s better than rewatching the race, it’s just a waste of time, you know!”
“The calendar is quite intense so it’s actually nice to have a weekend off. But obviously I don’t see weekdays and weekends. It just all blends into one. But for sure with the kids the weekend becomes a bit more of weekend like other people have it. Normally it’s quite relaxed, just going for a walk, with the dog, spending time outside, now it’s the season we picked some apples. There’s no particular schedule, it just comes up, stuff that you can do with the kids, obviously I go training, when the weather is nice I might go out for a bike ride, pick outside rather than inside always. Just do whatever comes up”.
Sebastian’s classic motorbikes and cars.
“Yeah I have some motorbikes. I just like to go out if the weather is nice. Just to have a joy ride, just an hour or 30 minutes. But I don’t push because the bikes are scary if you push, ramp brakes and they don’t really work. The oldest [bike] I have is 1928 and that’s a challenge itself just to fire it up and then also to actually drive because you have hand throttle, you have the brakes on the foot but on the wrong foot or the other way around. And then, they’re all different, you have the Italian bikes, English bikes, the way you shift you have normally nowadays you have the shift on the left and you upshift on the way up and you downshift on the way down. In the past they had it on the right side the English bikes, and even the other way around the Italian bikes. So you also need a bit of a mental exercise to remember because if the light goes red and you have to stop then you know, you’re doing footbrake but actually you’re doing it as a shifting up so it’s not really helping so you need to remember. But I just like the sound. What I like about old things is that you get what you see or see what you get. Nowadays with the modern car, they’re nice cars, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think you can attach to them as much as the old cars. Especially the behind the scenes or underneath what’s going because you don’t have a clue, it’s full of plastic, so covered up and all the magic happens somewhere else. I’d love to do more of that but if I have time I do whatever comes up for sure I prioritize the family so I’d much rather spend time with the kids. Then fixing the bike. My all time favourite is the F40. About racing cars, it’s not like I have tons of racing cars, I have a couple of old cars that I really and can relate to like the red five from Nigel Mansell. [I haven’t driven it] yet but I’m planning to. Most of the people they have these cars but they never use it so it’s a bit of a shame. They’re pieces of art and normally you hang up art at your wall and you look at it so you can treat it that way but I think the cool thing is that you can actually sit in that piece of art and drive it as well, feel it. But my all time favourite is the 2004 Ferrari that Michael drove. I think that’s… the V10, the sound. That’s what I grew up with in my best childhood memory F1 type of things”.
About Mick Schumacher driving the F2004 at Mugello.
“It’s incredible how loud were the cars in comparison to how quiet the cars are today. So to see, first of all him in his father’s car and in that car on that day and that weekend was sort of surreal. But I really like him as well, he is a nice young man and knowing who his father was and who his father was to me it was very, very special. Plus the car, I’m obviously a fan of the car as well! As I said I really like him because he is just a really nice man and certainly the situation as it is now is very, very difficult for him but I think he is coping with it in a very mature way which you wouldn’t expect from a man who’s just a bit over 20”.
Passions outside racing.
“I don’t only have one thing. Generally I’m quite open minded, I’m very tolerant, I like to try lots of different things, I get easily hooked on people and their thing in life. When I feel they’re very excited about it. I think excitement, that’s my passion. I like when people are excited, whether it’s a carpenter, whether it’s a guy who is doing motorbike racing, anything really. I like to then get into it as well and I’m generally interested so I can be whatever flavour of the month! Flavour of the summer this year has been mountain biking, I’ve always done a bit but this year I really got into it more and more and more and explore a bit more and that’s maybe the current flavour I’m really interested in and then I read about where you can go, which path you can go up and climb, which mountain, which trail to go down and obviously the downhill bit is the fun bit, the climbing is the challenge and the downhill is soft of the sweet and reward. So, I enjoy both. But then I get really obsessed with it in terms of reading maps, seeing where you can go, how long it takes, beating the times that are recommended. It’s not like next to racing I have one thing that occupies my time. Like we spoke about bikes, I’d love to have more time for that. Love to do more work on that. We spoke about the kids so that’s maybe my number one passion, just spend time with them. It’s not just because you are so much time away and therefore it’s the thing to do and you have to be a good father. Generally I just enjoy hanging around with them and doing stuff”.
“I’m a fan of Jody Scheckter (who has a farm) and I think it’s a life example that this takes such a big part of my life now. But who knows what’s coming next and I think that’s really exciting which part of me can’t wait to just dive to the next thing. It’s an immense privilege where I am in my life that I can try anything that I really like. I think that it’s also responsibility because I then do expect not to waste my time but I think it’s something really fascinating. It’s obviously very different from racing but he has shown you can thrive in anything you can imagine. I would say he is an expert in what he does now because he is excited about it, he is interested in it. So you read a lot about it and I find it exciting just listening to his stories. Best fruit and best taste. That’s what he told me. Actually if you get into this and it’s not like “okay let’s plant a seed” and just water it every now and then and then harvest and then put it on the plate. It’s not that easy. In the end of the day it’s like with anything, there’s so much more into it and the fascinating thing for me about farming is that I find it sad, shocking, that we know so little and we are not interested. The majority of people it’s just not interested. Doesn’t look behind the scenes. We consume that though, it’s not that put it on, which is like a shirt or a shoe. We consume it in a way that we actually put it inside us, we eat that stuff and given that we do that and we are what we eat, that we’re not so interested… I mean I’ve also been a long time in my life that I wasn’t interested. Obviously my access to it was sports, performance and then you come across nutrition and you want what’s the best way to eat, what’s the best way to fuel yourself literally, fuel your engine. And then you get into it and the I found it fascinating, I mean I am not a specialist but you just read about it and I’m interested to speak to people like Jody and there’s so much more to it. I find it sad how far we’ve diverted from how we should farm and how we should grow things and how we actually do nowadays because it’s more efficient and therefore it’s a bigger profit margin and a business to make. With animals you can say that these are living creatures but you can also say the same way about crops. It’s also living. If you see how much life there is in flowers, what you can do with it and so on, I’m not a master so I can’t do anything near what they can do but I just think there’s so much more to it. I find it interesting. In the end it goes back to education. It goes back to where we, not necessarily brought up, taught in a way the right things. We get told so much if you look at school and kids and most of that we forget anyways. I don’t wanna sound too pessimistic but I just think we’re not treating things with the proper respect they deserve, whether it’s an animal, which it’s obvious because it’s moving and it’s alive and you have a connection. But with other things, as well. And now bridging to farming is… We should be aware of the fact that this is the stuff we actually fuel our selves, this is our engine and we want it to fire properly and not have misfires and we wanna be healthy. No matter how good or bad your life is, I don’t think there’s anybody who just wants to sort of throw that away. But yet with our habits sometimes and what we consume it’s like as if we don’t care”.
Being environmentally friendly & the future of transportation.
“The time has changed. I think people are generally more aware and I think it’s good that especially the young people are creating more and more awareness. Now with where the world stands today with the Covid situation and so on, the pandemic has sort of killed a little bit that momentum and I hope it hasn’t killed it so that people think of something else because it’s something that effects all of us and we need to be very very serious about. The difficulty really is that, I fell in love with something when I was young, my passion is racing and racing is not on people’s number one list in terms of environmentally friendly. That is true. But then, I think we should focus much more on what we can do rather than what we don’t do, what we can’t change in a way. I think F1 could change and F1 could do better but I’m not Mister F1 and I’m not deciding these things. But I can still decide what I am doing and adapt sort of my life. Growing awareness is growing conscious in each one of us. And then you can decide to do steps for yourself and those steps don’t necessarily always have to be linked to giving up on things. Because I think it’s generally an image of “oh okay you’re doing this for the environment but life is kind of dull and boring if we don’t get to enjoy this.” That’s not true. I think we can still get the same out of our life but in a much better way for all of us which is ultimately our environment. The generation above taught me that they thought we won’t be driving anymore but we’re still driving. We think that probably our kids won’t drive anymore but at some point it will come the fact that you don’t drive your car anymore, unless it’s a classic car! Autonomous driving I think it’s around the corner, the question of making it, answering all the questions attached to it. But in terms of technology, the calculations, algorithms, everything behind it. I don’t think we’re too far away”.
Do you have any regrets about the life you’ve chosen?
“No. I’m not pushing that side of it [the publicity and fame]. I don’t have any regrets. I think you always learn along the way and there’s things that you would do differently if you get the same situation again but that’s the important thing. It’s not about “okay I wanna go back to that situation and replay”. No, it’s time to move on so I don’t have any regrets. The fame – I’m not a big fan of it, it comes with it. But I’m also not depending on it. I’m quite happy if people don’t recognize who I am or more what I do, because who I am is not what I am. For me there’s a different shape between the two. I actually prefer because it’s fair. I am the same as they are and we’re on the same level whereas because many times unfortunately people think they immediately have an image of you and that’s not right, cause I go to a shop and I speak to the owner or whatever and I don’t know him and I get to know him and that’s the impression I get. I don’t know if he is good or bad. I have to find out. And when people know what you do for a living then it’s always like they put you in a box and I’m getting put in that box and I don’t enjoy being put in a box. I don’t regret, plus I think it’s a huge privilege. First of all finding something that really fulfills me and that I love doing. I said earlier, the weekdays and weekends is the same. I don’t have that Friday and Monday feeling. Actually I still like Sunday but it’s not a struggle to get up and motivate myself because I generally like what I do. I think that’s a huge privilege. I think there’s a lot of people out there that unfortunately maybe they’re not brave enough or maybe more so they’re pushed in a direction where it’s very, very difficult to get out of so in that regard I feel very, very privileged. Plus obviously, let’s be frank, I got to a point where I am financially independent and it gives me the chance to try lots of things and get into lots of things. My life is a privilege”.
What are the long term goals now?
“Happiness. Sounds dull but I think it is. The long term goal. Obviously short term I am changing team next year, getting a bit more back on the track. As much as it is difficult to expect things, I obviously have things in my head and in my mind that I want to achieve and I measure myself against. I think that’s normal, also being competitive, that’s normal. But being happy, growing, learning and basically never stop learning. I’m quite open to a lot of things so maybe is the answer equally it could be absolutely not because I’ve fell in love with something else, like Jody. Not saying I’m gonna do that but that’s why ultimately it’s being happy, being content with who you are. It’s easy to say but much more difficult to achieve. How many people do you know when you talk to them or when you ask them “how are you?” and they say “I’m fine” they actually are generally happy with they’re lives. [How are you Seb?] I’m fine, I’m brilliant! I also have my struggles and my problems and my worries. We are all human but that would be the goal if you meet me in, I don’t know, in 30 years that I can say I am satisfied”.
Are you proud of your place in F1 history?
“Not yet! I don’t look at it that way but one day probably yes. Already now I have many, many great memories which I wouldn’t wanna miss so I guess those things add to pride at some point and sort of pride that I don’t need to go out and tell everyone about but just for myself I know that it’s there and I’m happy with it. But equally I’m not stuck in that moment and I’m happy to move on”.
Does Seb think green will suit him next year?
“Yes, I think so! I think red is very difficult. I think red suits everyone because it’s Ferrari but if you speak to actually somebody who knows something about style and fashion then I think red is a more difficult match to make so… I’m looking forward to it. Despite the colour! I think mostly the people and the task, so looking forward to it”.