Sebastian Vettel’s sporting life may have all the hallmarks of a Hollywood blockbuster, but if the 25-year-old German had his way, he would prefer to star in a Monty Python sketch or an episode of the cult comic series Little Britain.
Though he takes life in the spotlight in his stride, often with an amused grin, he has never allowed it to go to his head. His family, his friends and his fun are still more important than his fame.
Vettel, the son of a carpenter, joined an elite of legends in Formula One’s hall of fame on Sunday when he became the sport’s youngest triple world champion, but after five years on the roller-coaster of glory he remains largely unchanged.
In steering his Red Bull car to three back-to-back world championships, a feat fulfilled in his 101st Grand Prix, he confirmed his status as motor racing’s ultimate record-breaker.
Making his debut in 2007, breaking records as a 19-year-old wunderkind and known as much for his love of British humour and relaxed nature, he was still able to stroll around the paddock without being mobbed.
The boy from Heppenheim, who has two older sisters and one younger brother, was that rare breed — a German who understood English jokes, laughed at John Cleese and old Monty Python sketches and taped episodes of Little Britain, his favourite show.
His recorded collection at his Swiss home is often raided in rare off-duty moments.
But he also loves motor racing and understands its demands, glamour and history, characteristics of his outlook that have remained with him these last two years of mounting success and glory.
For Vettel, much as he loves his speed, his machines and his fun, the huge salary, lavish lifestyle and public spotlight are not big motivators. He races rather for the thrill and love of the experience. In his words, it is all about “passion”. And it is the same passion that controls him now as that which has seen him revel in his racing throughout his life since first gaining a taste for speed and thrills.
Born in the decidedly ordinary German town of Heppenheim, on July 3, 1987, Vettel is the youngest triple champion. Vettel has done it all and is the youngest achiever of many Formula One landmarks: youngest to take part, to race, to score points, to win and to triumph as champion... And so on.
His level of success has been extraordinary. In becoming a true triple champion, it should be measured by noting that it is a feat that eluded many great racers of the past including Australian Jack Brabham, Briton Jackie Stewart, Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna.