How Sebastian Vettel escaped ‘annoying habit’ to become F1’s most popular driver

Sam Cooper
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, celebrates his first F1 title. Abu Dhabi, November 2010.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, celebrates after winning his first of four World titles. Abu Dhabi, November 2010.

Christian Horner has described the “really annoying habit” that Sebastian Vettel had which made him disliked in his early F1 days.

The German may have retired last year as one of the most popular members of the paddock but that reputation was not always the case.

Back in his Red Bull days, Vettel’s seemingly cocky attitude and his dominance of the sport made him a disliked figure by some fans, especially those rooting for his rivals Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

One man who has always been on Vettel’s side is Horner and said the “annoying habit” Vettel had of wagging his one finger in the air rubbed people the wrong way.

“I think everything evolves in time,” he told the Talking Bull podcast. “Sebastian used to when he get out of the car, he’d shove his finger in your face. [He had] this really annoying habit of shoving this one finger.”

Annoying gestures aside, Horner also pointed to the fact that all serial winners come to be hated by a certain section of the fanbase including with Hamilton and now Max Verstappen.

Horner noted that was the case with Vettel but also he was a very private person in his earlier years.

“I think whenever you have serial winners in any sport, I think it’s easy to lose that popularity and Sebastian was a very private person, he didn’t give anything of himself personally. He never let people see who he really was.

“I think as he got older, he got more comfortable with expressing himself and people seeing his character and his values and they began to love that and he became hugely popular by the end of his career.”

It was not just those on the outside of the Red Bull garage who did not have the highest opinion of Vettel with the German’s rivalry with his own team-mate Mark Webber becoming one of the fiercest in this century. recommends

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The phrase ‘multi 21’ has been etched into any F1 fan’s mind and goes back to a moment at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix when Vettel ignored team orders to snatch the lead off Webber.

Thankfully for Horner, such tensions have not really arisen between his current driver pairing but the Red Bull boss insisted it was never written in a contract that a driver would have to accept being number two.

“It’s always great having both at the sharp end, [it] is exactly what you want as a team or as a team principal and I think that you just become very conscious about just making sure that both have the same opportunity because you want it to be about what they do on the track.

“There’s no number one driver within any contract that we’ve ever had. It’s always been about what they do on the track and that’s the way we want it to be.

“So we we are scrupulously fair in terms of the way that we treat the drivers in terms of the upgrades, how they’re distributed, the parts, the weight of the parts, you name it, even to who drives out the garage first for a qualifying session [that] alternates from weekend to weekend.”