“It’s not often you see a four-time world champion helping to break up camp, is it?” enthused a young, sweat-stained mechanic at Red Bull Racing on Sunday evening as the paddock at India’s Buddh International Circuit thrummed to the bustle of forklift trucks driven by hi-vis, yellow-jacketed crew members and Formula One prepared to move on to the next race. “I really wish people could this side of the guy.”
And there indeed was the recently recrowned Sebastian Vettel, aglow after consuming a large amount of his victor’s magnum of Mumm Cordon Rouge champagne, helping them out while savouring every moment of an historic triumph that, statistically at the very least, brought him on a par with legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as four-in-a-row champions.
Within Red Bull they adore Vettel every bit as much as McLaren used to adore Alain Prost and then Ayrton Senna, or Ferrari Schumacher and, once upon a time, Fernando Alonso.
He is their “secret weapon” (well, not so secret), who brings alive the wonderful machines conceived by the towering genius of Adrian Newey and detailed so intricately by Rob Marshall and his design team.
As Alonso’s relationship with Ferrari continues to crumble and Lewis Hamilton’s is still at a formative yet hugely promising stage with Mercedes, Vettel and Red Bull Racing are so interlocked you cannot see the join. “I love you guys,” Vettel told them on his slow-down lap. You can believe it.
“It’s an incredible achievement for such a young individual,” an admiring Hamilton said of Vettel’s remarkable success. “Sebastian is in a class of his own. He is on his way to becoming the greatest driver in F1, if not already. So big congratulations to him. I’m really happy for him.”
Of course, Hamilton could not resist issuing a warning, because he is a racer and he knows his own value, as he added: “We will keep trying. We will be hunting him down in the next few years…”
A fifth consecutive title? Vettel might not want even to speculate about that right now, but a betting man would not take a punt against it.
Video: Lewis Hamilton - Education ambassador for Save the Children
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies