‘Seb stepped up to a new level’

Date published: December 6 2011

Christian Horner believes Sebastian Vettel’s impressive run this season has earned him the billing of “the best driver in the world”…

Christian Horner believes Sebastian Vettel’s impressive run this season has earned him the billing of “the best driver in the world”.

The 24-year-old dominated the world of Formula One on his way to a second Drivers’ Championship title in 2011, winning 11 grands prix and claiming a record-breaking 15 pole positions.

And although some detractors will always say it’s the car not the driver, Horner reckons Vettel’s hard work is simply paying off.

“In 2010 he had a tough year. He was publicly criticised for some of his actions, and unreliability cost him three wins. But he never gave up, and it all came right for him in Abu Dhabi,” Horner told Motorsport Magazine.

“Once the Championship was on his CV that pressure was gone, replaced with a new confidence, and he’s stepped up a level this year. Based on 2011, you have to say Sebastian is currently the best driver in the world.

“He works harder on his own performance than any other driver in the pitlane. He’ll be in the paddock later than anyone on Friday and Saturday night, even if he has pole, trawling through his data and Mark’s, soaking up information like a sponge.

“He has the speed, the racecraft, the intelligence and the technical sympathy to understand what the car is doing and what it requires. He can create strategic options and opportunities by the way he drives the car.”

He added: “It helps that he is a very nice young man. He’s a wise head on young shoulders, but he has a sense of fun, and he’s humble. He just sees himself as one of the team. He doesn’t have a manager, he’s a shrewd guy who does his own deals.”

As for those fastest laps that Vettel likes to set while those on the pit wall worry, Horner said: “He’s got a thing about statistics, likes to tot up the wins, the poles, the fastest laps, the percentages.

“I’m always giving him grief about fastest laps. He’ll be leading comfortably into the last lap, nothing to be gained by taking any risks, and on the timing screens the first sector goes purple.

“Rocky’s telling him to take it easy, stroke it home. Second sector goes purple. As he takes the flag, the third sector goes purple. So he’s got fastest lap.

“He’s doing all his celebrating on the slowing-down lap, and he comes on the radio: ‘Did I get fastest lap?’ Rocky says, ‘No, you missed it by a tenth.’ ‘I can’t believe that,’ he says, ‘that can’t be right.’ So then Rocky says, ‘Yes, you did get fastest lap. And you’re a bloody idiot.'”