2015 June 8

Sebastian Vettel's debut in a red turbo car

Sebastian Vettel sat in a Ferrari for the first time in the spring of 2014 – driving an unmistakable red car almost incognito at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. For those chattering at Turn 1 it was a bizarre image – the four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who had spent his entire Formula 1 career in a blue car up to that point, initially with Scuderia Toro Rosso, and then at Infiniti Red Bull Racing, was rolling out of Pit 10 at the Red Bull Ring in a red car. It was clear for everyone to see - the Arai racing helmet with the Red Bull logo peered out from the Ferrari with start number 28, with the blue shoulders of the overalls standing out amid the wide cockpit opening. It was Sebastian Vettel, no doubt about it, in the very car that Gerhard Berger had ridden to help define the sport’s turbo era of the 1980s, and with which the Austrian racing legend will drive again in front of tens of thousands of fans on 21 June at the Legends Parade in Spielberg.

Gerhard Berger’s biggest triumph with the legendary F1 car. Together with Vettel on the track in spring 2014 was Gerhard Berger. The car was the Ferrari F1 87c that Berger had dramatically raced to victory in at the 1988 Italian Grand Prix in Monza - just one month after the death of the company’s founder, Enzo Ferrari. Berger was the only driver able to beat the formidable McLaren Honda that year – a car which took 15 wins in 16 starts, with there rarely being an opponent harder to defeat in the sport. This car and this driver achieved the extraordinary, however, and became immortal with the Tifosi for it. Sebastian Vettel is well aware of all that, having constantly paid respect to those who have driven before him in Formula 1. Old circuits, old technology, and the stories of the sport’s past have always been able to excite him.

The quickest straight in Formula 1. Spielberg, the old Österreichring – you don’t have to say much more to someone like Vettel. Did the circuit really deserve its reputation as a place you needed courage, courage and even more courage? Gerhard Berger, who has completed countless races here since 1979, provides a case in point – the long Schönberg Straight, which leads slightly downhill, apparently used to be much longer but also used to undulate more: “We used to drive 350 or 360 km/h here with the cars of the time. The Schönberg Straight was the quickest bit of the Formula 1 calendar. It was the highlight for me.” And on the approach to the downhill Rindt turn: “You didn’t have the run-off areas back then. You needed to line the car up to the nearest centimetre to the crash barrier and then turn in.” Even the four-time World Champion is impressed by that. Berger’s Ferrari has little in common with the racing cars that he has known during his involvement in the sport – with an unusual sitting position that is less embryonic as in his current car, and almost feels up in the air. “I can see the mountains up there, all of a sudden,” Vettel says. Only the footwell appears narrower – with three pedals crowding the space, instead of the usual two. It is a bit tight on the right side of the cockpit too – with a six-gear manual gearbox in the H layout, a neutral gear and a reverse gear for cooling down. Even when trying it out in the pits, fifth and sixth gear were successfully employed.

Vettel enjoyed the wild ride in the Ferrari that is virtually his own age. The Ferrari V6 has just as much power as the cars of today, but drives very differently. It is less aerodynamic due to the wide tyres, but it offers more mechanical grip. Then there are no electronics, no computer, and no driving aids. Bums, arms and legs were the only way to control and adjust the car. Instead of a display and 30 buttons, the steering wheel is adorned solely with the famous prancing horse from Maranello. The Ferrari mechanics who started the engine for Vettel were working on the car back in 1988. For 25 years it has been in a museum, before it was thoroughly restored – with the spring day at Spielberg last year being the first outing of the legendary winning car from Monza. Ordinary mortals would probably not even manage to get a turbo Ferrari from the 1980s out of the pit and onto the freshly paved pit lane. Sebastian Vettel manages it at the first attempt, however, and proceeds to tear around the circuit in a lightning fast lap. It’s as if he was born in a Ferrari F1 87c back on 3 July 1987. Vettel has a real instinct for motor racing that only the very best in the business have. There is no sense of insecurity, no awkwardness in the gear shifts and certainly no spins to be seen, nothing. When Vettel returns the Ferrari F1 87c to the pits after a few very brisk laps, he looks genuinely excited, saying: “Wow! That was really good! I would love to drive on. That makes you want to go back in time and take part back in those days. You are crapping yourself a bit, to be honest. It’s such a blast though.”

A reunion at the 2015 Legends Parade. In 1988, when the car beat the McLaren Honda in Monza, Sebastian Vettel was learning to walk. In 2014 he sat in a Ferrari Formula 1 car for the first time. A year later he will return to the Red Bull Ring as a Ferrari driver for the first time. There will also be a reunion on 21 June, just before the 2015 Großen Preis von Österreich: as Gerhard Berger gets the engine of his Ferrari F1 87/88c to roar at the Legends Parade, just as he did last year. Also on the track with him will be the Formula 1 World Champions of 1983, 1984 and 1985 – in their original racing cars from back then. Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost have as many as ten world titles between them. Visitors to the F1 Village during the 2015 Formula 1 weekend in Austria can get a close-up view of the cars in which history was made. The legendary high-horsepower machines will then be in action at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday 20 June from 18:30 to 19:00 as a dress rehearsal. The eight international motorsport legends then make their big appearance in the turbo cars of the 80s on Sunday, 21 June, from 12:40 to 12:45, before the start of the Grand Prix.

2015 LEGENDS PARADE

Gerhard Berger (AUT) 1988 Ferrari F1-87/88c
Nelson Piquet (BRA) 1983 Brabham BT52
Jean Alesi (FRA) 1995 Sauber C14
Niki Lauda (AUT) 1984 McLaren MP4
Alain Prost (FRA) 1985 McLaren MP4/2b
Pierluigi Martini (ITA) 1986 Minardi M186-01
Riccardo Patrese (ITA) 1984 Renault RE50-03
Christian Danner (GER) 1987 Zakspeed 871/03

Tickets for the “Formula 1 Großer Preis von Österreich 2015” can still be bought on www.gpticketshop.com.

Formula 1 Großer Preis von Österreich
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