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Why Vettel didn't find it surreal to race with 'hero' Schumacher

Sebastian Vettel was able to share the track with his idol, Michael Schumacher, during his F1 career. However, the experience was not one that Vettel found strange.

Sebastian Vettel has explained why it was not a surreal experience to race against his childhood hero Michael Schumacher in F1. Vettel entered the sport in 2007, which came after Schumacher's retirement from Formula 1 at the end of 2006. However, the seven-time World Champion made a comeback with Mercedes in 2010, coinciding with the beginning of Vettel's back-to-back championship winning years at Red Bull. Vettel says that Schumacher was and still is his "hero", but admits he did not find it strange to later share the track with him in Formula 1 after getting to know the legendary driver away from the circuit.

Vettel reflects on racing Schumacher

"I got to know him more and more. If I had not got to know him and then raced him straight away, that would have been surreal," Vettel told the Beyond The Grid podcast. "I never felt as if it was surreal, because I raced Michael the person, my friend. I forgot sometimes that he's the Michael I admired when I was a child growing up, because then you get to know somebody and you see the person first before the stats. "It was just nice to race him, and sometimes I had flashbacks just of my childhood and actually realising it's him." Vettel frequently teamed up with Schumacher at the Race of Champions, and was left impressed by how the former Ferrari driver adapted to the different types of cars used during the event. "Even though it's for fun, [seeing] him in a go-kart, him in any type of car – for me, it was something special to witness, because it just looked better than all the other drivers I've seen so far," he added. "There was something else. Maybe that's just me admiring him, but I think there was also something special."

How Schumacher impressed Vettel

After watching Schumacher from afar as a young fan, Vettel was able to gain an insight into his approach when seeing him racing up-close. "Obviously, when I watched on television, it was far away," the four-time World Champion explained. "But when you start to see him live, and when he was in a go-kart, or like I mentioned the Race of Champions in some of these other cars, trying to wrestle the circuit, there was just a sort of relaxedness about it when he was in the car, and it just looked natural. "Whereas – I haven't looked at myself from the outside – but, with other drivers, you always got the impression they're fighting the car, fighting the tyres, fighting the track. "With Michael, he was fighting these things, but it never looked rushed. It never looked out of control, even when he was breaking too late, did a mistake, lost a lot of time, [he] still looked in control. "I don't know if that's just worshipping him and because it was my childhood hero, or [if] there was something else."

RESULTS 2024 F1 Spanish Grand Prix - Qualifying