So you thought the Frome Flyer pub and the bridge dedicated to Jenson Button were nice examples of a small town lauding its favourite son? Think again.
2010 champion Sebastian Vettel is returning (well, has returned, according to the timetable) to his native town of Heppenheim in Germany, a week after his triumph in Abu Dhabi, and a day after his tyre tests there. Heppenheim’s pretty close to Hockenheim, south-ish and west in Germany, not a million miles from the French border – but I wouldn’t say that too loudly while there!
According to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport magazine, the youngster will tour the city for about an hour on Sunday afternoon, with some 100,000 fans expected to line the streets. (Vettel made a similar visit in the run up to the race at Hockenheim in the summer, and is said to have told his parents he wanted to come home again as soon as possible.)
“As Red Bull desires, this event will be organized by everyone, and for everyone in the region,” local politician Matthias Wilkes told the paper, adding that Vettel’s team set the schedule.
“Vettel will turn up when appointed. It’s not like our little region could turn round and ask them to come a couple of days earlier or later! We have a huge task ahead of us, but we’ll get it sorted.
One of the issues facing the organisers is the terror alert that Germany has been obsessing about in recent days, although a ticking clock without explosives in Namibia seems to be about the only solid manifestation of all the concerns so far, thankfully. And Heppenheim really is a small place, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over your favourite driver’s safety, Vettel fans!
Alas, it’s not televised, and I couldn’t make it down at short notice myself.
I do know that the little town is very – and understandably – proud of its local boy, who has become only the second German F1 champion ever. There was even talk after the race on Sunday – thousands of ‘Heppenheimers’ converged on the ‘Europaplatz’ main square to watch on a big screen together – of erecting a statue of Vettel where Sunday’s procession will end. Considering that Schumacher’s fame effectively doubled the size and value of his native Kerpen, I’m sure something will come out of all this in time!
Alright, enough silly local colour. (And sorry for all the British English spelling, there’s a lot in here.)
In other Vettel-mania German news this weekend, Dietrich Mateschitz had some interesting things to say about his new champ – reported at motorsport-total.com. Apparently, Vettel would be free to break his contract if Red Bull suddenly built a dog of a car (really???), and he will also have to beat Webber fair and square in 2011 (really???), and – more believably – Daddy Dietrich is generally delighted to have him.
For as long as we can give him a winning car, he will drive for Red Bull. If we couldn’t do that, we’d let him go, even if he was under contract.
He and Mark Webber will still have equal rights in the future. Sebastian will have to prove his strength again next year. The bonus of being World Champion will not suffice by itself to achieve that.
I have come to realise that Sebastian is an exceptional individual during his time with us. He has a clear head, open eyes, charisma and what we would usually describe as ‘basic decency.’ (Grundanständigkeit is the German, I’m open to suggestions!) It’s impossible not to like him. Sebastian has matured into a real leading light during his ten-plus years with us. He’s improved in many areas. He can fascinate and motivate people on pretty much anything. He’s got no problem with admitting his mistakes, and is not shy to talk to the team about mistakes they have made. This openness drives the team forward.
Almost everyone (at Red Bull) has received at least one offer from the upper echelons. But I haven’t heard from anyone who’s really thinking about leaving. And certainly not now! The Dream-Team – you could almost call it that – is sticking together.
BMW might debate whether or not Sebastian has been at Red Bull for over 10 years! But I’ll avoid the snark as best I can manage – this is a day for celebration for the lad from Heppenheim.
And for Heppenheim.