Leading the field
In he strides, purposeful, confident, smiling, but obviously with something serious on his mind.
“Jenson, come on, let’s go now.” Our four-time world champion turns to the cliquey gangs of his gossiping peers, and with a summoning wave of his right hand forthrightly beckons them to follow.
All at once, save for one predictably overly affected trying-too-hard-to-be-cool megastar, the class of F1 2015 dutifully do as requested and follow their leader.
Two minutes later, atop the Sunday morning Drivers’ Parade trailer, and a touching and respectful caps-off minute’s silence for the recently deceased English IndyCar driver Justin Wilson has been observed by – almost – all of the group.
Now I don’t know whose idea it was to so poignantly and appropriately honour their fallen colleague, but I do know who took control and led the field.
Sebastian Vettel is really impressing this year. Sure, his high speed tyre blow-out at the recent Belgian Grand Prix resulted in some ill-advised, emotionally fuelled ranting, but that understandable outburst aside he’s been a model of how a superstar multi-title-winning racing driver should be.
Speaking as a photographer fortunate to have worked at every race of the German’s stellar F1 career, I have always been puzzled as to why he’s never quite received the level of praise and respect he undoubtedly deserves.
Bouncing into the 2006 paddock with a Friday morning BMW Sauber drive, Seb made all the right moves, quickly impressing seasoned observers with his pace and professionalism.
A few short years later and the awkward-looking teenager had grown into a world championship-winning adult, utilising to frightening effect the chance he’d been given of driving for a team so utterly attuned to his needs and hell-bent on domination.
In this fickle world of a ‘we-build-’em-up-and-then-knock-’em-down’ mindset, it should come as no surprise that as soon as Sebastian had helped develop the Adrian Newey-designed, Renault-powered, Red Bull-run super-cars – adapting his driving style to so perfectly extract every ounce of performance from the hot-exhaust-gas diffuser-blowing racers – the very same people who had lauded the coming man were now knocking him down for being ‘lucky’.
Argh, the utter fallacy of luck… There really is no such thing.
Four crushing world championship wins in the bag and Sebastian is now leading the Scuderia’s Mercedes-chasing charge. Granted 2014 didn’t deliver the silverware that Vettel had become accustomed to, and we saw a slightly less chirpy and more moody side to the champion, but really, isn’t that to be expected? Only very, very few top sports stars continue to dominate year after year after year. The emotional highs and competitive edge has surely to drop as a result of so much success, only to be rekindled when a new challenge presents itself.
Save for being a professional photographer documenting F1 race weekends I have no relationship with Sebastian. Never having worked for any of his teams or sponsors that’s understandable, but as an observer, I’m impressed. Impressed by his demeanour, fascinated by his lack of a star-studded life trappings, pleased to hear – from colleagues who know him well – that Vettel trawls Tokyo back-street vinyl record stores searching out rare grooves. Impressive and uncommon enough for any F1 driver but, even more so given that he's German!
On the grid, in the paddock, away from the track, Sebastian is and appears to remain true to himself, his upbringing, his family and his friends.
It’s good to see, and such a contrast to some of those he races against.
Credit where credit’s due…
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