Shaving and gaming. Live from Silverstone, my conversation with Sebastian Vettel

If we had to determine the most successful, most promising and, according to many, the best driver in the world, we’d probably pick this guy.

This four-time world champion is single-handedly responsible for the most boring era in Formula 1’s history. No, it’s not an insult. He just keeps winning so much that it’s becoming a bit boring at this point. At the young age of 27, he’s already on his way to becoming the very, very, very best driver of the most prestigious auto racing discipline in the world. He’s already broken a few records that will take a long time for anybody else to come near. He’s the youngest Grand Prix winner, the youngest world champion and he holds the records for most wins and most pole positions in a single season. Scary to think that he’s got many years of racing still ahead of him.

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Sebastian was the guest of honor for Braun’s conference organized to celebrate the launch of their new Braun Waterflex shaver. The event took place on the Silverstone track you can see in my previous blog post.

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The conference started off with an interview with Sebastian. The interviewer asked him a few questions. His responses had more smiles than they had words. Some journalist sitting next to me seemed really excited to see not only Vettel but also the interviewer. Apparently, she’s quite famous around these parts.

After the chat, all of us went to have fun with the simulators.

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I was unlucky. Instead of doing a bit of practice first, I sat straight behind the wheel, did my three laps and went to get some coffee and cookies, certain that I was awful at this game.

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That’s until I decided to look at the scoreboard. Turns out I was in 6th place. What the fuck? I was driving like I was trying to run over prostitutes in GTA V. I sat behind the wheel again and asked the staff to let me race again. They told me I could go on a practice run, but my result wouldn’t change my ranking.

‘No problem’ I said, certain I wouldn’t win the thing anyway.

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I did the three laps.

I wasn’t pleased with my performance. I had to hit the brakes about four times and I felt like I could be a few seconds faster. I asked about my new result. They told me that only Vettel had a better time. Not bad for somebody who keeps confusing the gas and brake pedals. I think I missed my calling.

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The meetings with Vettel took place in a very tiny and very warm room. The gathered journalists were allowed to ask two or three questions each. What’s interesting is that we were forbidden to ask any questions about Michael Schumacher. Every other topic was fine. I had a bit more time with Vettel, because I let all the journalists go in front of me so I was the last one. We could really focus on the conversation without having to worry about the Formula 1 fans ogling Vettel.

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Most of the questions (if not all of them) have been provided by you, the readers. I tweaked some of them a bit. And I had to omit some questions that I actually liked (like the question about how he feels when he’s driving and he sees the rear lights of a Mercedes (Vettel has been losing recently).

Do random thoughts pop into your head during the race, like wondering if you forgot to turn the stove off, lock your front door or reply to an important email?
There’s no time for that. You need to drive as fast as you can, pay attention to what’s happening around you, talk to your crew. During the race, I shut down all thoughts that are not directly related to the race.

In the past, Formula 1 drivers was more involved in the driving process. Today, the introduction of new technologies and new legislation simplifies things a bit. If you had a choice, would you rather be racing in the more interesting eras, like the crazy and reckless 1970s?
I don’t think about these things. The previous eras were interesting, but modern Formula 1 is interesting, too. We tend to look at the past and glorify it saying that things were better, but it’s not always true.

The safer it becomes, the more boring it is.
That’s true, but we can’t please everybody. No matter what changes are introduced, some people will welcome them while others will criticize them. It’s always been that way.

So you don’t long for the days when you could refuel during the race?
I’m sure it made things interesting for the spectators and I’m sure it’s easier to drive a lighter vehicle, but I don’t want to focus on what changes we should introduce to Formula 1. I’m just a driver.

In two weeks’ time, you’ll be competing in your motherland. What are your plans ‘till then? How do you spend your free time?
I don’t do anything special. I don’t spend it online, that’s for sure. I’m not on Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media platforms. This week, we’ve got practice runs on the Silverstone first and then on the simulator. I’ll spend the remaining time trying to relax and focus on my next race.

Kimi is considering retiring after the end of the next season and possibly making a return to off-road vehicles. Do you sometimes think about your retirement, or is it too soon?
Kimi has already retired once. You never know with him. For me, it’s way too soon to start thinking about it. I want to keep racing for a long time, because I don’t feel I’ve achieved everything I planned.

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Vettel is either very shy or very well trained by his PR team. It’s easy to notice how he tends to avoid controversial subjects and distinctive opinions. He often repeats that he doesn’t want to hurt, judge or defame anyone. He smiles a lot to hide his personality. He’s a nice guy, there’s not much you can hold against him. Sometimes though, when he’s annoyed with a question, he’s able to show that he knows what he wants. He seems like the type of person that doesn’t like to be contradicted. I like it, because I’m the same way.

I realize that a thirty minute meeting is not enough to determine somebody’s character. I hate it when people judge me after a 5 minute conversation, which is why I’ll shy away from making any further judgments. What’s clear is that he’s incredibly focused on his profession and that his entire life revolves around racing. It was hard to believe but when I handed him my phone and asked him to take a selfie, he told me that he has no idea how to do it.

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