“The introduction of
the delicate control
Pirellis has played
perfectly into Vettel’s
hands this year”
SEB’S TOP WRENCH
Vettel’s lead mechanic Joe
Robinson on the champ
you’ll frequently see his inside front just
reaching the point of under-rotation as
he arrives at the apex. Ideal.
Chinese Grand Prix, when a driveshaft grease leak meant he
could afford only one run in Q2 and Q3, and blitzed to pole
regardless. This year’s format has made the tasks very clear,
but difficult: secure pole, pull out of DRS range of the following
car before lap three, pull out of range of the undercut before the
first stops, measure out the tires’ performance very frugally,
using them hard only for these specific tasks.
This was pretty much a template for the first half of his 2011
season. The first to fully understand the new requirements, he
then simply set about meeting them…flawlessly. The same
focus enables him to build the jigsaw through the practices of
what will be required to take pole, even to the extent of
sometimes pushing over the limit (as in Turkey and Canada),
so that it’s precisely keyed in by Saturday afternoon.
The introduction of the delicate control
Pirellis has played perfectly into Vettel’s
hands. The softer compounds tend to
overheat – particularly on the downforce-heavy Red Bull RB7 – through long-duration corners. The key to countering
this as far as possible is to minimize the
time they are under lateral load.
Vettel’s way of getting quick direction
change early in the corner – by being
relaxed with sudden oversteer spikes –
does exactly what’s needed. This relieves
the front tires of having to build up the
cornering forces over a longer period. He
also has the feel and throttle control to
minimize wheelspin, thereby protecting
the rears. These traits have been core to
his increased advantage over teammate
Mark Webber this year compared to last.
Vettel’s at his most impressive when
presented with a tough, specific task.
Think back to qualifying for the 2009
IMPROVISATION AND MULTI-TASKING
The guy is highly intelligent and carries that with him into the
car. It allows him not only to uncouple separate aspects of the
demands – like pulling out of undercut range yet using the tires
sparingly – but also to recognize and respond to new demands
as they arise. For most of the races in the season’s first half, he
would have to alternately switch his KERS on and off through
different stages of the race because of the system’s tendency to
overheat. This involves also adjusting the brake bias and driving
style – yet these changes were effortlessly smoothed over, with
no betrayal of vulnerability for the opposition. Every trait of his
performance suggests he has much spare mental capacity.
The outside world only rarely sees the intense greed for success
that fuels Vettel’s performances. But the crew sure gets to see
it when something goes wrong. He has an almost animalistic
fury, particularly when he feels he’s allowed something
achievable out of his grasp. It’s a trait of most of the top
sporting athletes throughout history. It’s a stark contrast to his
normally sunny demeanor, but there’s no conflict in that fact;
it’s merely a betrayal of the force that drives him forward. It’s
used and directed by that keen intellect and together with his
physical skills it makes him a totally formidable competitor.
What’s Sebastian like to
In a word, inspiring. He is so
professional that he raises the game
of the whole garage. But he’s just one
of the guys, too. He’s funny, and has
the guys around him in fits of laughter.
How important are those inspirational
qualities in the success he’s had?
Everybody realizes he’s something
special. All drivers are, but we are
particularly blessed. When he talks,
people listen. You look back through
history at the greats and you see a
lot of his traits in many of them. It’s
his professionalism and his work
ethic, but also his connection with
the guys on the shop floor.
When the crew has to work on the car
late into the night, is it good to know
he’s working on data?
He puts in a lot of hours. That is
noticed in the garage and it gets
more out of us. If he is pushing that
hard all the time, so are we. It’s a
motto in the garage – never lift! He
personifies that mentality. There’s
never a moment when you think he
could have gotten more out of the car.
Vettel shares a similar driving style with Hamilton.
(ABOVE) The winning sometimes looks easy,
but Seb pays as close attention to detail
as his team (ABOVE RIGHT).
The public perception of Vettel was
colored by flashpoints with Webber
last year. Some think he’s petulant
and demands preferential treatment.
Have you ever seen that side of him?
It makes me smile when I read things
like that. Maybe some members of
the press are a bit keen to stir things
up. In the media, you’d have thought
what happened in Turkey last year
[Vettel and Webber collided while
racing for the lead] was the end of
the world but, in the garage, there
wasn’t even an effect.
Has he improved since winning the
championship last year?
From the outside, you might say that,
but I don’t think he’s going any
quicker and or that there’s any more
confidence. It’s just that everything
has jelled from the start with the car.