Vettel sorry to see 'idol' Schumacher go
|By Jonathan Noble||Monday, September 25th 2006, 15:43 GMT|
Most Formula One drivers would rather eat glass than offer a compliment to their rivals, but rising youngster Sebastian Vettel is not ashamed to admit to sadness at the imminent departure of his 'hero' Michael Schumacher.
Having broken into the sport as a BMW-Sauber third driver in the same season that Schumacher has decided to hang up his helmet, Vettel is only too willing to talk about his feelings on the retiring Ferrari ace.
"He means a lot to me," Vettel told autosport.com. "He was my hero when I was a little kid and I was always looking up to him.
"And he is still my idol. It's not just because he won the seven titles, and maybe eight before he goes, but it is more the way he has done it.
"Racing is his life and he does not care about the statistics. He goes for every race like it is his first, and if you win it is the best thing that happens to a person in their life."
Vettel's rise to F1 brought him into contact with Schumacher in the past - with the Ferrari driver visiting several of the youngster's races as he set about winning German and European kart titles.
"Michael came to some of the race events to wave the chequered flag at the end," recalled Vettel. "It was the biggest thing when I was a kid.
"I was driving for the guy who really supported him in his early days, so that was where the link came from. But imagine having the F1 world champion waving the flag and giving you the winner's trophy at the end. It was a big moment."
Vettel is in no doubt that Schumacher's departure from F1 will change the sport in Germany – where it has never been more popular than now.
"We will have to see how it goes," he explained. "In Germany, F1 stands for Michael Schumacher. What he did for the sport in Germany was fantastic and it was very good for all of us young drivers who came up the ladder. For sure he opened up some doors for all of us.
"His decision surprised me, because I thought it was impossible that he could stop. But obviously it is up to him.
"For me personally, though, it doesn't change anything. I have my goal – and my dream was always to race in F1. Now I have the opportunity to test on Fridays, which is fantastic, and the next step will be to race one day."