Christian Horner has been reflecting on what it was like to work with Sebastian Vettel behind the scenes ahead of the driver’s impending retirement.
The German driver took a number of years to win over many fans, especially in the UK, but has become renowned as something of a lover of British culture, especially music and comedy.
As he enters the last nine races of his Formula 1 career with the Silverstone-based Aston Martin team, Red Bull team principal Horner has been recalling his relationship with a driver whose public popularity has grown considerably over time.
What’s next for Sebastian Vettel?
Sebastian Vettel has plenty of offers on the table but he may choose to leave sport entirely and focus on off-track issues.
“I think the thing that stood out about Seb was, from the very beginning, you could see he was a very focused young man and his work ethic was totally Germanic,” Horner told reporters.
“He worked hard, he worked late and he had a great sense of humour, so fitting into a British team he embraced the culture immediately.
“He endeared himself across all areas of the business, whether he was turning up with chocolates for secretaries or learning the lingo in the garage – his command of Cockney slang became legendary.
“He was formidable in the cars we produced in that period of time. They were halcyon days in F1 – massive competitors, big teams we were up against and some outstanding successes.
“He, at that stage, was very focused on achieving not just success but achieving and going for records. They meant a lot to him.”
How is the Sebastian Vettel of 2012 different to the 2022 version?
Most people tend to mature a great deal over the course of 10 years and, says Horner, Vettel is not an exception to that rule – although, perhaps paradoxically, he has recently given in to the pull of social media after resisting for so long.
“He was a pleasure for us to have in our team,” said Horner. “We achieved some great things together. I think having just watched him grow from a boy into a young man, he’s a very principled guy. He has very strong beliefs.
“We’ve seen that in the latter stages of his career as he’s very much standing up for things he feels passionate about, and rightly so. His family is important to him. He’s a very private man. So pleased to see he’s become an Instagrammer recently!
“And while his F1 career comes to an end, he’s got a lot I’m sure he wants to do in his life. And I’m sure he will go on and do some great things. It will be sad not to see him around. But I think the timing is right for him.
“It’s not nice to see him running around in the middle of the field, he doesn’t deserve to be there. And I think the time is right for him to say ‘now’s the time for me to call time on F1’.”
How does Horner remember those halcyon days with Sebastian Vettel?
With great fondness, clearly. That run of four consecutive titles could not have ended in more dominant style as Vettel won the last nine races of the 2013 season, taking the title by a thoroughly commanding 155-point margin.
“He just got better and better,” said the Red Bull boss. “In 2009, we were a young team, as well as him, and we made a few mistakes.
“In 2010, he was the standout driver that year, had a lot of unreliability, and against the odds won the championship at the end of the year.
“In 2011, he built on that, 2012 was a super-tough year. He’d only won one race before we left Europe and then won, I think, four on the bounce to go head-to-head with Fernando [Alonso] in the final race in Brazil.
“By the time we got to 2013, he just absolutely dominated, and then nine victories in succession he achieved, that was for me his pinnacle year. He brought everything together and was just truly outstanding that year.”