Sebastian Vettel: F1?s Valentino Rossi?

Sebastian Vettel is winning over fans with his charm - and speed

Sebastian Vettel is winning over fans with his charm - and speed

Valentino Rossi is the mega star of Moto GP ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ get this – looks happy to be an F1 driver. What a thought.

As Wesley put it on Monday:

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? ?ǣ 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.

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81 comments on Sebastian Vettel: F1?s Valentino Rossi?

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  1. patrickl said on 6th May 2009, 12:11

    Vettel does nothing for me really.

    He seems like a nice enough kid, but he seems way to shy and “normal” to be a “superstar”. Maybe later.

    Actually Vettel reminds me of Hamilton when he came into F1. Cheerful, open and friendly. Unfortunately F1 and McLaren quickly broke him down into another PR machine.

    • SamS said on 6th May 2009, 12:20

      agree with you about Hamilton, it is a real shame to see him now compared to 2 years ago, for such a talent to be so submissive now is a worry, not only for Mclaren but F1 too

  2. SamS said on 6th May 2009, 12:16

    I really rate Vettel, he is personable, and doesnt hide behind a facade like other drivers, Oz was one time where this rings true, how he wen to talk to Mario Theisson after his incident with Kubica is only testiment that F1 drivers are people that make mistakes, and he is a freshing breath of fresh air in the paddock. Although I want JB to win the championship, i wish Vettel all the luck in the world for this season and for seasons to come!

  3. DGR-F1 said on 6th May 2009, 12:17

    I think Wesley put it very well, the whole Red Bull philosphy in F1 is to have fun while competing, as in other sports. And surely that is why the drivers are there?
    Maybe the time has come with a new generation of drivers to see their true personalities and the end of the corporate garbage. With smaller independent teams, and no huge sponsors, things can only improve…..

    • I think Wesley put it very well, the whole Red Bull philosphy in F1 is to have fun while competing, as in other sports. And surely that is why the drivers are there?

      They also sponsor, support, nurture and have faith in a lot of young talent.

    • Kherubim said on 7th May 2009, 4:47

      Yeah, I think the team environment matters, Vettel would have appeared as a corporate drone if he stayed at BMW or was in McLaren. Ferrari, while giving a bit more leeway to their drivers, still require them to toe the company line when needed…

  4. Chaz said on 6th May 2009, 12:18

    Seems to me F1 superstardom can be a little fickle at best (e.g. too many are lauded as heroes for the occassional good drive), so I would say let the results and records mount up first before offering the usual superlatives. After all, look at Rossi’s record, it speaks for itself…

  5. Striay said on 6th May 2009, 12:23

    CHAZ IS BACK!!!!
    Kimi has the best character!!! I like Vettel as well!!

    • urw9 said on 6th May 2009, 12:29

      no he doesnt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • [Kimi] and two friends entered a powerboat race in the Finnish harbour city of Hanko while wearing gorilla suits. Again, he raced under the name “James Hunt”. They then won a prize for the best-dressed crew.

      In January 2005, at a London Mayfair strip club called “For Your Eyes Only”, Räikkönen allegedly stunned onlookers by cavorting with a lapdancer before launching into his own strip show

      What a guy.

    • Nick said on 6th May 2009, 22:02

      Kimi by far is the most interesting….seeing Button, Massa or Hamilton up there is a bore.

  6. urw9 said on 6th May 2009, 12:27

    kimi is the worst racer ever

  7. Tom said on 6th May 2009, 12:41

    Here’s one for you Keith: In the NFL they give fines and in game penalties for overly celebrating a touchdown. They aren’t allowed to use props or have planned celebrations. For instance, it was snowing and a player made a “snow angel” as a celebration, and was fined.

    • Ronman said on 6th May 2009, 12:54

      Seriously? i had no idea… what’s the fine when half the team huddles up and they throw a football like a grenade and then they all fall down? or is that just in the movies. not much NFL coverage in the Middle East I’m afraid.

    • Gman said on 6th May 2009, 20:45

      As a longtime NFL fan who has grown up watching the game, I must say that I agree with many of the anti-celebration rules the league has in place. While a racing driver doing some dough nuts comes at the end of a race, celebrating a touchdown almost always comes during a game, and in-game stunts are just classless, especially when done to taunt opposing players and fans.

      If you follow the NFL as I do, you’ll see there are PLENTY of entertaining and fun personalities at work in each of the 32 teams. Some have it as more of a part of their culture than others, but perhaps it should be noted that the teams with the least amount of screwballs- Giants, Patriots, Steelers, to name a few- are often the most successful.

      Ronman- I don’t ever remember seeing that happen in an NFL game, but if multiple players were involved, they would each get a decent fine.

  8. Ronman said on 6th May 2009, 12:56

    I think Vettel is definetly a rising star, and his attitude towards his involvment in F1 is fresh, so far. although a member of the RedBull academy his fresh outlook will remain part of his demeanor, unless he joins another team later on like Ferrari. he will ahve to learn to present a nice concise speaking language, and of course add For Sure to his rhetoric….

  9. robert Holt said on 6th May 2009, 13:27

    Vettel = Rossi

    ummm, no.
    seems like a nice enough kid, but as someone who watches bike racing aswell as F1 I believe there to be no comparison in terms of personality, Racing abilities or comedy. having ‘Kates dirty little sister’ written on one of your cars pales into significance next to writing ‘long live pussy’ on your overalls!

    • Clare msj said on 6th May 2009, 14:07

      The article didnt say Vettel = Rossi, it was comparing similarities. It also didnt suggest at all that Vettel’s racing abilities were a match to Rossi. It was merely stating that, of the current crop of F1 drivers, Vettel is possibly the most similar when it comes to being a breath of fresh air so to speak, a little less serious off track, and quite a likeable chap. F1 doesnt allow Rossi style antics, so noone will ever come close to him in that respect in F1 – but for standing out as being a little different and fun, Vettel I think does, of those in F1, resemble Rossi slightly.

  10. John H said on 6th May 2009, 13:30

    For me, it’s the constant moaning by, for example, Kubica and Bourdais that frustrates me. For god’s sake, your living your dream racing an F1 car – I would kill for this… cheer up!

    Alonso is probably the most charasmatic out of the current drivers I think – still likes to speak out now and again.

    Get Ant Davidson back on the grid!

    • S Hughes said on 6th May 2009, 14:34

      hitchcockm00, Lewis is brilliant with his fans! I’ve met him a couple of times at events so I know. Meeting his fans is something that gives him so much pleasure and he usually has to be dragged away by his “minders” for spending more than the allotted time with them. I wouldn’t be open with the media if I were him either, as they print a load of garbage, lies and whip up hatred against him in the process, particularly the British media. Why should he be open with them?

    • Striay said on 6th May 2009, 19:14

      i would give you one of those thumb up ‘thingys’ they have in youtube i they were available.

      Keith you should put these in place!

  11. S Hughes said on 6th May 2009, 13:31

    I don’t like Vettel at all. Lewis is still cheerful around his garage and the paddock when the media aren’t beating him up with a proverbial stick. Lewis has way more substance than Vettel. But we all have our own opinions.

    • S Hughes said on 6th May 2009, 13:34

      So far Vettel has 20,000 fans and Lewis has 376,000 but that may change, you never know.

    • hitchcockm00 said on 6th May 2009, 14:11

      Lewis has way more substance than Vettel

      How does he have more substance than Vettel?
      Smiling with your mechanics every now and then isn’t really the same as being open and friendly with the media and therefore your fans (who will mostly see you in the media, not in your garage).

    • S Hughes said on 6th May 2009, 14:35

      I posted this in the wrong place:

      hitchcockm00, Lewis is brilliant with his fans! I’ve met him a couple of times at events so I know. Meeting his fans is something that gives him so much pleasure and he usually has to be dragged away by his “minders” for spending more than the allotted time with them. I wouldn’t be open with the media if I were him either, as they print a load of garbage, lies and whip up hatred against him in the process, particularly the British media. Why should he be open with them?

    • hitchcockm00 said on 6th May 2009, 14:52

      He may well be brilliant in person, but Vettel is brilliant on camera as well, which is what makes people like him more than they like Hamilton.

      He should be more open with the media because if he wasn’t constantly towing the party line and making sure never to say the wrong thing then they would be kinder to him if he did make a mistake.
      As it is, because he’s so focussed on saying the right thing it’s always magnified when he says or does the wrong thing.

    • S Hughes said on 6th May 2009, 15:10

      hitchcockm00, in YOUR opinion, in YOUR opinion. There are hundreds of thousands of Hamilton fans out there who would beg to differ! I think Lewis looks wonderful on camera. Have a look at the 15 year old whizz kid. He hasn’t changed a bit, so you don’t know what you are talking about.

      He would be more open with the media if they didn’t print a bunch of lies about him. He used to have great interviews with Steve Rider on ITV – oh, how I miss those days.

    • Clare msj said on 6th May 2009, 15:12

      Hitchcockm00 you make a good point about being open with the media. The more open you are, it does seem the more forgiving they are on you. I think this does affect Lewis – not necessarily his fault, Mclaren drivers are notorious for being restrained (I am still sure this is why Kovalainen wasnt in attendance at the ROC last year when he has been for the last several years!)in what they say and do, but Lewis seems to do this to the letter, which doesnt always make him look so good with the fans. Vettel on the other hand seems at ease almost all the time in front of the media, even if he does say some odd things sometimes – you accept it as being just the way he is. Because Hamilton doesnt seem to act so natural in front of the media, anything odd he says gets blown out of context.

      The easiest way I can describe it is if you are with a group of people, some you know and some you dont, a mate can say something a bit forward/personal to you and you wont find it offensive, but a stranger could say the same and you would feel uncomfortable?? When you are used to something you accept it, when you arent it seems odd. Thats how I see the difference between someone like Vettel/Rossi and Hamilton with the media. If that makes sense?? Pedrosa in MotoGP is a little more restrained like Hamilton – although he seems much more friendly and happy with the media this year!

      I know Hamilton spends time with the fans, I have seen him spend plenty of time on more than one occasion at Autograph signings and stuff, which is really nice to see, but there is still something which feels a little restrained with him.

    • in YOUR opinion, in YOUR opinion.


      He used to have great interviews with Steve Rider on ITV – oh, how I miss those days.

      rofl ahhhh jeez this is just too much… well those days are over now I hope you like pink shirts if not too bad!

    • hitchcockm00 said on 6th May 2009, 16:22

      S Hughes, yes obviously it’s my opinion, I never said it was anything else.

      He’s not a 15 year old whizz kid any more and he no longer comes across well in interviews most of the time.
      I’m not attacking him or necessarily criticising him. I’m just saying that he (or perhaps the team) has made the choice to be closed and guarded with the media and the result is that they become un-cooperative and print rubbish.

  12. Clare msj said on 6th May 2009, 13:47

    Hmmm, I had never thought about any comparisons between these two before, but I think I can see where you are coming from.

    Rossi’s following is really quite unique – I am a supermassive Dani Pedrosa fan, and have been for years – but I cant help but like Rossi also. Rossi taking a win in front of Pedrosa (such as the Spanish race at the weekend) never feels like a bad result, yet if it were anyone else, I would be that little bit disappointed. Rossi winning all the titles that he has doesnt seem to make people resent a domination like it did with Michael Schumacher. And I beleive that his ‘can get away with almost anything’ status is almost completely down to his personality. His post race stunts are ace, which is one of the reasons I am glad he never came to F1 – he would never got away with anything like that in F1, and it wouldnt be the same. He is very likeable, despite having numerous fierce rivalries with other riders, and you cant help but smile when he does well, even if he isnt your ultimate favourite, and Vettel I think is a little bit like that.

    Red Bull is one of my least favourite teams on the grid (odd given that I think their fun philosophy is a great asset to F1, and i dont have any problem with Toro Rosso – it goes back to Klien not getting a drive, and me not being a particular fan of Webber etc…)yet I really enjoyed Vettel winning in China, it made me smile, just because it was him, and even though he beat my favourites, I still thought it was a good result – just like I do with Rossi in the MotoGP. Theres just something about him. Vettel isnt quite as extroverted as Rossi, but he has the same sort of appeal. He’s fun, he makes jokes, hes a cheeky chappy and people can relate to him more, yet none of it makes him a slacker on the track.

    As for the press conferences this year, havent they been great! Button and Vettel in a press conference together are a brilliant combination – throw in Barrichello also and you have a great trio!! And given that at least one of them has been in almost every press conference so far its made for really quite fun watching. I think part of it is also that the people featuring in the press conference are really happy being there. It hasnt been the norm for them necessarily, so they are very much enjoying being there which I think really shows. Long may the fun press conferences continue! :D

    My goodness to I waffle a lot – I do apologise for the length of that!

  13. John Spencer said on 6th May 2009, 14:02

    I don’t know anything about bikes or about Rossi, but Vettel seems a world away in terms of personality apart from them both being generally cheerful. It will be interesting to see how life in F1 changes him.

    At the moment he can do no wrong, which is to say when he does do wrong, nobody makes a big issue of it. I wonder what the reaction would have been if Raikkonen or Alonso or Hamilton had got their braking wrong in Melbourne and rearranged Kubica’s bodywork.

    I’ve got nothing against the guy, and he does genuinely seem quick. But it’s difficult to say how quick. He had the measure of Bourdais last year, but perhaps Bourdais isn’t as good as his US reputation would suggest – the rookie Buemi is comfortably faster than him as well. Is Buemi another Vettel, or is Bourdais just a bit slow?

    Vettel also seems to be a touch quicker than Mark Webber, but how quick is Webber? He was quicker than DC and scored more points in 2008, but fewer points in 2007. And at Williams he didn’t dominate Heidfeld in the way Kubica did last year at BMW (I think).

    If there is any charisma lurking in Vettel (and who else on the grid can quote Monty Python?), I’m sure the combination of FIA regulations and sponsorship pressure will kill it dead as a Norwegian Blue.

  14. benno said on 6th May 2009, 14:26

    on ya ‘cool balls’.

    Don’t completely write Kimi off. He has some class, didn’t he enter in a snowmobile race days before Melbourne one year – under the name James Hunt?

  15. scunnyman said on 6th May 2009, 14:27

    Vettel seems a nice enough guy but time will tell i guess.
    On the flip side i remember a young Grman called Schumacher who sauntered around the pits like he owned them.

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