x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Vettel: No ambitions to threaten Schumacher's records

The Red Bull driver believes the seven Formula One titles of his German compatriot Michael Schumacher is 'far out of reach'.

Michael Schumacher, right, congratulates Sebastian Vettel on winning the world championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit last weekend.
Michael Schumacher, right, congratulates Sebastian Vettel on winning the world championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit last weekend.

ABU DHABI // At the tender age of 23 years and 134 days Sebastian Vettel became Formula One's youngest champion last Sunday in Abu Dhabi.

He also became the first German to win the title since Michael Schumacher picked up the last of his seven championships in 2004 with Ferrari.

As he reflected on his success yesterday, Vettel was quick to dismiss his chances of matching or overturning his idol's records in the sport, despite the fact that he could have a long future ahead of him, given his youth.

"What Michael did was an incredible achievement," Vettel said. "Knowing how difficult it is to get one title after a very long, rough season, with ups and downs, to compare anyone with Michael's success is quite difficult.

"We will see what happens but at this stage Michael's record is far out of the reach and it is not what I focus on. I will take it year by year, step by step.

"I do not think you can approach Formula One with the approach that I want to beat this or that record."

Schumacher, 41, and Vettel have a close bond and have often been seen talking in the F1 paddock this year.

After three years away from the sport, Schumacher came out of retirement with Mercedes GP this year. He was one of the first to congratulate Vettel after his victory at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Vettel first met his hero when he was eight and racing in karting, and he admitted he was in awe of a man he would go on to race against this season.

"I have always said I have been looking up to Michael since I was a little boy and I still am," he said.

"It is not so much for the number of races he won. Of course, his success is very important. It is much more his style and how he did it.

"The first time I met him was in Kerpen at his home track when I was karting. There was a championship held and I think it contained four races.

"At the last race he came to the track. He was already world champion. I think it was 1995. He handed over the trophies to all of us, all the kids.

"That was the first time I met him and you know as a young kid you meet your role model, you don't know what to say, you don't know how to act, you are just looking up. It was nice."

Schumacher dominated F1 in his first spell in the series, winning a record 91 races and taking 68 pole positions.

It was his period of dominance with Ferrari, when he won five consecutive titles through 2004, that particularly stuck with a young Vettel.

"The ability to form his own team [at Ferrari] and then to build something that was able to dominate a couple of years in Formula One was something special."

gcaygill@thenational.ae