Soon after Michael Schumacher retired in 2006, a new home talent stepped into the very big shoes Michael had just vacated. In 2008, Sebastian Vettel’s talent was visible to everyone. Later, his four titles confirmed it.
The situation reminded me of our neighbouring country. Jochen Rindt brought Austria to F1 prominence in 1970. After Rindt was killed, becoming the only posthumous champion in F1 history, Niki Lauda followed in his footsteps. Austria embraced their new star. However, Germany still hasn’t fallen in love with Vettel. Outside of Germany this causes surprise. Vettel is a more easy-going person than Michael. More emotional. More open to talk about his profession. But less willing to talk about his private life. Hence he is not featured on our TV channel RTL, nor in the country’s biggest tabloid. Vettel has his supporters among hardcore fans, but not within the wider F1-watching community.
Schumacher had the advantage of being first. There has to be two generations in between, then people would accept a ‘new Schumacher’. Schumacher divided the fans into people who loved or hated him, not by what he said, but by what he did. He was either outstandingly good or outstandingly rude on the circuit. Vettel is, in many ways, too clean. He received most respect when he proved he could be as tough as Michael. When he said that team-mate Mark Webber did not deserve to win in the ‘Multi-21’ affair in Malaysia 2013, Vettel got the credit. “That’s what Schumacher would have done.” Michael Schmidt, chief Formula 1 correspondent for Auto Motor und Sport rapid changes. But soon the Gestione Sportiva was launched into a recovery plan by Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and others, who had played a key role in Michael’s two drivers’ titles with Benetton. This gave Michael the strength and condence to plug through ve years of waiting, before clinching the rst of his ve championships with Ferrari in 2000.
Schumacher knew things would get better. Vettel doesn’t have that luxury as Ferrari’s 2015 technical line-up is all-new to him – with no familiar faces from Red Bull. This makes Vettel’s ability to gel with the technical staff even more impressive, creating a working rapport that has been absent for a while at Maranello.