Valentino Rossi is the mega star of Moto GP – his immense personality is only dwarfed by the scale of his talent.
Few F1 drivers generate many column inches on personality alone. But Sebastian Vettel, now in his second full season of F1, could be the man to buck that trend.
Already this year many have remarked that the absence of the ‘usual suspects’ from the post-race press conferences, and the arrival of drivers like Vettel, has instantly made them more watch-able.
Vettel didn’t need to bring much to the party to mark himself out as an improvement over what had gone before. Watching Kimi Raikkonen grinding out the same vacuous PR garbage for the cameras, starting every answer with the inevitable ‘for sure’, was verging on painful.
Vettel, on the other hand, smiles, makes jokes, interacts with the others and generally – get this – looks happy to be an F1 driver. What a thought.
I am joining the ranks of Red Bull fans myself,they are fun, friendly and Vettel is the kind of guy you love to root for… seems a far cry from the stuffy people at some of the other teams.
In many ways, Vettel increasingly reminds me of Valentino Rossi. He re-named his latest RB5 ‘Kate’s dirty little sister’ – having smashed up Kate Mk. 1 in Melbourne. It’s not a million miles away from Rossi’s cheeky “Viva la figa” (“long live pussy”) inscription on his racing leathers. Vettel’s various crash helmet re-designs is reminiscent of Rossi too.
But the FIA would never let Vettel go unpunished for the kinds of post-race antics Rossi is celebrated for. Last year he celebrated his eighth Moto GP championship by slowing down post-race to have his world championship ‘paperwork’ stamped by a friend pretending to be a lawyer. He donned a T-shirt with the legend “sorry for the delay” plastered across it – it had been all of three years since he last won the championship, after all…
F1 drivers, in comparison, are directed by the rules to return to the pits as quickly as possible and must not hesitate for anything as frivolous as a celebratory doughnut. And where Rossi has been able to foster a following around his iconic number 46 (as NASCAR racers also do), F1 drivers are forced to chop and change their numbers each year.
Rossi’s personality isn’t the only reason he’s so popular of course: the other is the fact that he wins all the time. Vettel hasn’t got there yet but the signs are very promising. After all this is the man who won 18 out of 20 races in German Formula BMW in 2004. He knows how to dominate.
Moto GP may not have as many fans as F1, but so powerful is the cult of Rossi that he has more fans on Facebook – 1,332,072 at the time of writing – than any of the Formula 1 drivers.
I suspect more drivers would reveal their real personalities if they weren’t so tightly bound by obligations to their teams and sponsors – and the onerous FIA rules.
Could Vettel replicate Rossi’s gigantic following in F1? Might the overbearing FIA rules prevent him? Or will he find less room for the playful side of his character as greater success beckons? Share your thoughts below.