At approximately 2:01pm on Sunday afternoon, four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel will be knocking on the door of 200mph in a carbon fibre rocket through the rolling hills of Northern Italy.
This is the Sebastian Vettel you know, or think you know. This is the Sebastian Vettel who dominated the world of racing in four consecutive season and has piled up 53 wins in his 258 starts across 14 years.
But he has an apology: “Sorry I can’t give you the yachts or models!
“It’s that sort of thing that people expect, but actually it would be quite boring. For me, I wouldn’t really enjoy that. I’m happy with what people consider boring.”
RadioTimes.com spoke to the German racing icon ahead of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix about life away from the track, out of the fast lane, and about his desire to explore Britain during downtime while racing for British-based Aston Martin.
Vettel spoke with a wide grin concealed behind his face mask, in a playful manner that contradicts the mounting scrutiny over his performances in Formula 1.
He said: “I think [British] people are just funny. I often wondered why that is, why there’s so many funny people, why there is just such a broad sense of humour.
“I came to the conclusion that – there’s a joke coming – the weather’s s**t, the food is s**t, so in order to still have a laugh, you need to have a very, very strong sense of humour otherwise life can be quite miserable.
“It’s not entirely fair because the UK is beautiful, and the weather is not that bad, and the food can be great, and so on.
“When I’m over, it’s quite a tough schedule. Normally, there’s quite a lot of things to do and I’m also very interested in talking to the people, the engineers trying to develop the car, trying to analyse the race, looking forward to the next race, spending time in the simulator, and so on.
“What I’m looking forward to is one day when I have more time is really to explore a bit of the UK with my family just to see all the places that, over the years, you’ve heard about.
“I haven’t been to Cornwall, I’d like to see that part. I know the South a little bit, which is beautiful. I haven’t really gone further north and the Midlands. Then there’s Scotland and Ireland. There’s plenty to see, but that takes more than just an afternoon off.”
For all Vettel’s position, a key driver in a Formula 1 team steeped in history, he remains humble and enjoys the quiet life away from the track.
He said: “People always get this glamorous idea of a Formula 1 driver that you need to do all these things and your life is basically accelerating, not just on track but also off track.
“Actually I quite like to be normal and do normal things, just spending time at home, enjoying the kids, spending time outside, go for a walk.
“Obviously, I haven’t been able to catch up with friends for a bit longer now. I really just enjoy the slower things and the boring things and they don’t bore me at all, actually. I quite like normality in this sense.”
Once various restrictions are lifted across the main locations in Vettel’s life, he’s keen “to see everybody at the same time again and have a have a drink” and to “just enjoy being” but for now, the heat is on to deliver on the track.
Vettel made a less-than ideal debut with Aston Martin at the Bahrain Grand Prix – the opening race of the 2021 season – which involved him starting from last place, two penalties and a crash, before finishing 15th.
But Vettel is relaxed going into the race at Imola, albeit eager to improve following a “difficult” start.
“Ultimately, this is what I love doing and I still feel that I have something left in me.
“It’s something that we, as drivers, we really, really love doing. It’s our passion. We’ve known it since we were children.
“There’s a time in life where you decide to do something else and that is also exciting.
“But for now I’m quite happy with the thrill in the car and feeling, sensing that speed and the forces inside the car, which obviously Formula One is at the pinnacle.
“All the other cars are exciting, but not as exciting.”
Vettel’s Aston Martin team are expected to perform well in a competitive midfield battle this season before new regulation changes in 2022 open up the floor for further gains.
Previewing the weekend’s race, he re-activated ‘racing driver Vettel’ mode, you could sense the determination to perform, to succeed, to win.
“It’s only the second race. I think our first race was a difficult one, we’re still learning about our car.
“Obviously, it’s a lot of things that are new, new to me and still, in a way, new to the team.
“We have the chance to do better here on a different track in different conditions. But yeah, I’m looking forward to it. We are prepared.
“Hopefully everything we’ve learned about the car in the first race we are able to address here, but also it’s going to be very close.
“A couple of tenths up or down can make a big difference on where we will start the race and also where we will finish the race. It’s exciting because we can make a difference.”
This is Sebastian Vettel.
Check out the full F1 2021 calendar including all the races coming up this season and how to watch them.