Riding with Sebastian Vettel

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You can place it in the optimism camp but Ferrari are set to enter the US Grand Prix with a 10-spot grid penalty leveraging a new engine for the final three races. We’ve seen this before with Red Bull who were intent on taking a hit at a track they felt would not be their best opportunity in favor of a few tracks that may be.

I spent the morning with Sebastian Vettel and he gave me a few hot laps in a Ferrari F12 which was simply incredible. I’ve done the F1 two-seater at the same circuit and I must say that Vettel, in a F12 road car, was even more incredible. If anyone can take a 10-place penalty and make ground, it’s Seb.

Vettel said that it’s a bit of a hit here but the upside is that Ferrari are making even more progress and that’s a good sign as well as positioning them for potential victories at the remaining races.

Sebastian said he also doesn’t like a car that has understeer. He feels frustrated by it and having to wait for a car to do something is not his cup of tea. He said that he knows there are guys on the grid who like that and they can work with it but for him, it is a real hindrance.

Was coming to Ferrari a complete change in the way his driving style is and how the chassis works? Not at all, he was actually surprised at how little he had to change to accommodate the car. He said the car does what he asks it to do and that he was concerned initially but completely surprised when he got there and found the car to be very manageable.

So what’s he like? He’s actually a really nice guy. He interviewed me as much as I interviewed him. He was keen to know where I was from and once I had explained the giant arch in St. Louis, he understood exactly. He asked us what cars we drove, and when I told him about the FBC website, he said, “oh wow, well then you know more than me”. Clearly not true at all but very nice of him to say.

Vettel Ferrari F12

I asked Seb about the difference in working with Total at Red Bull and now with Shell at Ferrari. He was very fair about his praise of how hard Total works but said that Shell’s presence is so much more profound and how they work with the drivers, their research and how much input they ask for is a whole new level of commitment. He said that the drivers can feel the gains that Shell makes with their fuel and lubricants and I was a bit surprised by that.

Vettel Lovett Shell

Knowing how hard Shell works on their V-Power Nitro+ and PurePlus products, it wasn’t a complete shock that he felt their presence much more in the Ferrari system and in an upcoming podcast, you’ll understand more about how Shell’s new, extended relationship works.

Seb’s driving is incredible! His late braking, hard turn-in and ability to rotate the car was simply nothing I have ever experienced before. I can’t recall how many times I thought we were not going to make it and we did. Keep in mind that the track was wet and there were puddles and he had just a couple laps prior in which to acclimate himself to it. He’d never driven the circuit before. He then gave hot laps and was 10/10’s. I’ve not seen anything like it.

I know many may say well he won in the best car, folks I am here to tell you that it is all arm-chair philosophy, this guy is otherworldly my friends. He is in a zip code all his own and there is no doubt in my mind that I may have just been driven around a track by arguably the best driver on the grid.

One thing I noticed immediately was his reflexes. How quick he could make minute adjustments to the wheel. The economy at which he braked and turned was so far beyond my ability, I wasn’t even sure I could properly take it all in. It’s one thing to see it on the screen but when you’re in the car with him and feel what the car is doing under his control, well, that’s quite a different thing. When you can feel the car physically, and feel what it should be doing and what he makes it do…quite honestly it is difficult for me to describe but what I can say is that it is a defiance of your reality when it meets the reality of a man who has mastered a craft and disrupts your world with his. For a brief moment, everything you know about physics is systematically and violently re-written in what was truly a moment too fleeting.

I told Seb that I am probably the only guy here that would like to do the laps at 20mph because I had a lot to ask him. He smiled…and floored it! That’s Seb and I think the guy having the most fun today, was the 4-time champion himself.

I will hopefully get video for all of you soon but I wanted to share my experience as soon as I could. Not that I will ever forget it but that you might enjoy hearing what it really is like to ride with Sebastian Vettel.

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peter riva

Arghhhhhhh….

Re

“He smiled…and floored it!” LOL I feel your excitement from every sentence and am jealous as hell!

Re

You and Seb in this picture, right? :D
www dot gettyimages dot com/detail/news-photo/sebastian-vettel-of-germany-and-ferrari-poses-with-a-member-news-photo/493802482

Negative Camber

The pic is of Seb and Shell technology guru Guy Lovett who is the nicest person in F1. He’s brilliant and couldn’t be a nicer bloke.

Re

(I feel like spamming the comment box. Please, delete this comment once you’ve read it.) I mean the getty pic, not the one in the article. Let me try again. http://gty.im/493802482 Anyway I’m glad that someone who can thoroughly appreciate what the drivers do get the chance.

Chuck Voelter

that’s the pic that should be at the head of this article!!

Chuck Voelter

yay, fixed it :)

yoshif8tures

nicer than even Masa?!

Bacon Wrapped Sushi

Man oh man I’m so jealous. Sounds like a great time. Looking forward to the video. Thanks for sharing!

MichaelB

I think this just goes to prove my theory about winning championships…

You need three things to win a championship:
1. A talented driver
2. A solid and well performing car
3. A team whose trackside operations are spot on (in the pit and out)

You can win races occasionally with one or two of those three. But without all three consistently you’ll never win a championship. Seb was one of those three for Red Bull for many years, and with him as when Alonso was there, Ferrari just needs #2.

Johnpierre Rivera

What a great post NC. What a coup. We forget sometimes that drivers are human. I am guilty on many occasions of being very critical of Vettel and while being right or wrong is not really the point, the point is SV is a [human] driver and a talented one regardless of the machinery at his disposal. And he sounds like someone I would like to hang out with. Really nice to get some real insight in to one of this generations best drivers…
Thx Todd.

Paul KieferJr

Lucky. :D I’ve seen the speeds of those things…but I’ve never had the luck to experience it.

longshot

You lucky lucky bastard – really looking forward to that vid :)

adaptable1

Awesome! Must rank as one of the coolest things you’ve ever done?! I drove the Nurburgring once, and it was awesome…. but a lap of an F1 track in a Ferrari driven by a multi-F1 world champion….I wouldn’t stop smiling for days! Forza Ferrari!

Negative Camber

It was. A really incredible experience. I’ve had hot laps before but Seb was unbelievable.

Boyd McCollum

I am now officially jealous :). Great report of a great experience. I totally get that us folks on the sidelines don’t truly appreciate what these guys do (in any professional sport really) until you get in there. I just saw a piece with Martin Brundle driving the FI and doing practice starts then practice pit stops. You can hear the effort in his voice and he’s a former driver!

I’m curious, have you ever been driven around by Paul? Hope he’s not feeling put out by the praise for Seb! :)

Negative Camber

I have ridden with Paul and he is awesome! I didn’t ride in a Ferrari F12 with him but did in a Audi R8. Not quite the same car. :) When riding with Paul, you simply walk away saying, why the hell isn’t this guy racing in IMSA? he’s every bit the professional driver that are currently on the IMSA grid. In my mind, Paul is better than many on the IMSA grid. The cool thing about Paul is that he’s much more than just a driver, he’s a brilliant strategy guy too. He knows racing period. being able to… Read more »

Boyd McCollum

Obviously I have no experience of riding with Paul, but I’ve certainly gleaned the other stuff you’ve mentioned from the podcasts over the years – he’s definitely made me a more knowledgeable fan. (You’ve helped too Todd, but I’m still jealous lol Seb does seem like the happiest driver on the grid these days, though, even more so than Danny Ric! :)

The international

very kind NC thank you
I have no problem with Seb kicking my arse , would fully expect it (but would love to give it a go)

michael in seattle

I well remember driving with Bill Cooper at Bondurant Racing School at, then, Sears Point Raceway (@PaulF1B’s current home) and experiencing what you have so aptly described . . . except at a considerably lesser level. I can’t image what you experienced – oh lucky boy. Nice article. Wish I was you . . .at least for this moment in time ;-)

eggoman

PLEASE tell me you got an FBC sound bite from him!!! Oh yeah.. I utterly hate your guts now. I bet FBC monetary contributions drop after this…so ridiculously cool that you go to do this. Darn it.. the more I write the more….AARRRGGHH….forget it… I’m done. Enjoy your stupid awesome life…sigh.

Negative Camber

I did not! It happened so fast I couldn’t get him to do it. :(

yoshif8tures

oh what a shame…

Schmorbraten

Thank you so much for being so enthusiastic and open-minded about a guy that got so much armchair ridicule. That’s why I love F1B, there’s no taboo. Ok, except of four-letter words.

jakobusvdl

Fantastic Todd, this is great payback for all the time and energy you put into FBC.
Now be honest, have you tried putting the Vettel braking and turn in techniques into practice in your road car?

partofthepuzzle

Absolutely fabulous post, NC! thanks for letting your emotional reaction through, alone with analysis – it tempered my envy, (ok, green eyed, outright jealousy) a bit. Re: Vettel as a driver: IMO, anyone who doesn’t see his greatness doesn’t understand how to watch F1 racing in depth. For the doubters, just go back and watch the first lap of Brazil 2012. Vettel gets knocked sideways by Bruno Senna on the first lap, spins off the track, then comes to a stop in the middle of track, facing backwards with half field coming at him. With the championship on the line,… Read more »

runnah

What did he smell like?

I bet it was lavender.

Negative Camber

He smelled like victory. ;)

longshot

I can just imagine Wagner on the car stereo as Vettel blasted out some fast laps. So … where’s that much a-promised video??

runnah

Lewis must’ve snuck into the car before him. ;)

jiji the cat

I love the smell of victory in the morning.

Junipero Mariano

Did any people happen to wander on track? He seems to attract those kinds of people! ;)

Negative Camber

No, they didn’t believe it or not. Although there were some photographers walking on to the track when Seb was out and close to coming in and Shell, very safety focused, was having them removed from the pit area.

Negative Camber

Sorry for the typo, he hates understeer, not oversteer. Corrected.