Vettel has Germany dreaming again

German Formula One fans, heading to the Nuerburgring with their cars and camper vans loaded with beer and sausages, will be drinking to the success of Sebastian Vettel this weekend.

The party will really kick off if, as locals hope, the 22-year-old Red Bull driver becomes the first German to win his home grand prix since seven times champion Michael Schumacher retired in 2006.



Like Schumacher, Germany's greatest motor racing talent of the modern era, Vettel is a winner. He is young, fast and sure-footed in the wet. He also lives in Switzerland.



But in many respects, the engaging youngster from Heppenheim has more in common with Italy's extrovert MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi than Schumacher, the great he hates to be compared with.



Vettel, the only man other than championship leader Jenson Button to have won this season, may have attracted the moniker 'Baby Schumi' early in his career but he could never be described as a typical German racing driver.



He has a penchant for British humour, from Monty Python to Little Britain, lapsing into Cockney rhyming slang and the occasional Birmingham accent along the way.



He even expressed a momentary twinge of regret at not being an Englishman when he won at Silverstone in front of cheering crowds last month.



Vettel addresses his car as if it were a woman, calling the current one 'Kate's Dirty Sister' because it was livelier than the regular 'Kate' that he wrote off in a crash at the season-opening race in Australia.



Back in his early days in the junior Formula BMW series, Vettel could be seen on the top step of the podium sporting an afro wig and shades. He has carried that natural exuberance, and the cheeky grin, over into a Formula One paddock short of spontaneity.



"I am who I am," he said before the start of the season. "I don't try to be anybody else or act in any way. I've always been the same idiot."



ROUGH DIAMOND



In Malaysia, he raised a schoolboy snigger when he described how he coped with the humidity and searing in-car temperatures: "I've got a bag with dry ice in it, which I put next to my balls, so at least they stay nice and cool," he said.



Asked last year why he had a steady girlfriend (whose mother is half-English) when he could play the field as a Formula One driver, he replied: "I was never the kind of guy to change women like his underwear."



Vettel has an enthusiastically old-fashioned approach to the business of racing. He even gets by without a manager, negotiating his own deals and speaking for himself.



Something of a rough diamond at first, particularly in 2007 when he crashed into current Red Bull team mate Mark Webber in Japan behind the safety car while the Australian was running in second place, he is polishing up nicely in a car that plays to his strengths.



"I'm not really a fan of all these psychological tricks and mind-set and so on," he said when asked about the importance of beating Button in front of the Briton's home fans last month.



"All I try to do is squeeze the car out every single time, every single lap and to do the best I can."



That can backfire, as it did in Melbourne in March when he crashed out after fighting to defend second place from Poland's Robert Kubica.





FIVE GERMANS



Germany is not short of Formula One drivers, their five on the current starting grid giving them more than any other country, but Vettel is the only winner among them.



Nick Heidfeld's BMW-Sauber are struggling for pace. Adrian Sutil's Mercedes-engined Force India team have yet to score a point.



Nico Rosberg has finished no higher than fifth for Williams in eight races this season, despite regularly lapping quickest in practice, while Timo Glock's Toyota is still chasing the leaders.



Vettel, the youngest of them all, has delivered in a fast-improving car that looks increasingly able to match Mercedes-powered pacesetters Brawn even if he is 25 points adrift of Button with nine races remaining.



With three career wins, the youngster who raced go-karts as a kid at Schumacher's Kerpen track near Cologne already ranks as the joint third most successful German since the championship started in 1950.



Schumacher is up in the stratosphere with 91 wins but Vettel could soon have more victories to his credit than all the other Germans combined.



Ralf Schumacher, Germany's second most successful driver, left the sport in 2007 with only six wins from 11 full seasons. Vettel has made only 34 starts so far after his debut with BMW in 2007 before moving swiftly on to Toro Rosso, with whom he won in Italy last year.



The youngest driver to win a Formula One race, to score a point and start on pole position, Vettel has time on his side but has always been in a hurry.



He was given his first go-kart as a three-year-old and in 2006, at 19, became the youngest driver ever to take part in a grand prix weekend when he took part in Friday practice in Turkey for BMW-Sauber.



On Sunday, he will try to make it two victories in a row for a team that had won nothing before he arrived.



"We're working very, very hard, the team is very determined and we know where we want to be, we want to win," he said after Silverstone.



"It won't be easy but we are totally up for the fight. The season is still very long, anything can happen."



News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness