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15 years later: Mike Krack on Sebastian Vettel's F1 debut

Four Formula One World Drivers' Championships, 53 wins, 122 podiums, 3,074 points, 57 pole positions and 38 fastest laps. In the 15 years since his first F1 race, Sebastian Vettel has achieved plenty in his glittering F1 career.

Sebastian Vettel

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

When Robert Kubica's spectacular shunt at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix forced the Pole onto the sidelines for the United States Grand Prix, the BMW Sauber F1 Team was left looking for someone to fill the vacant seat. That someone was Sebastian Vettel. At just 19 years of age, Seb finished eighth to become the then-youngest driver to score a point in Formula One. The rest, as they say, is history.

But when a fresh-faced Seb strolled into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway paddock on 17 June 2007, could he have imagined he would go on to achieve what he has in Formula One – could anyone? As Chief Race Engineer for BMW Sauber at the time, Aston Martin F1 Team Principal Mike Krack is uniquely placed to provide an insight into the race that announced Seb's arrival on the world stage.

Why did Seb get the call-up, Mike?

The discussion was heavily focused on Robert and if he was allowed to drive after his accident a few days earlier in Montreal. It was a frightening accident. We were all so grateful that Robert was not only OK, but able to make a swift recovery. He's more than a great driver, he's a great person, and he was very close to team.

When the FIA decided that Robert wouldn’t be allowed to drive in Indianapolis, the decision was made to run Seb. He was already familiar with the team and the car after testing earlier in the year, so the installation went smoothly. 

So everything went smoothly?

Well… [Pauses.] There were some complications. Not only was Robert unable to race but his race engineer wasn't in Indianapolis; it meant that the chief engineer of the test team had to be Seb's race engineer that weekend. But it turned out to be a good fit because he had a lot of experience, had worked closely with Seb in testing and could provide excellent support. 

All I remember, with a few exceptions that were understandable given the situation, was Seb and the team doing a really good job – better than we were expecting.
Mike Krack
Sebastian Vettel

What else do you remember about Seb's grand prix debut?

To be honest, I really don’t remember much detail from the weekend. [Laughs.] All I remember, with a few exceptions that were understandable given the situation, was Seb and the team doing a really good job – better than we were expecting. We focused on delivering a solid weekend and tried to minimise errors and mistakes – we didn't look to make any risky decisions or moves that would make us look like heroes out on track.

What were your impressions of Seb when you first worked together?

I first worked with Seb about a year before he made his F1 race debut. He drove the third car in free practice at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix. He was very, very young and had no experience, but he always delivered good results. Outside the car, he was very friendly, and his sense of humour was refreshing to our Swiss-German stiffness at BMW Sauber. 

Seb is the same friendly guy he always was – and he's certainly kept his good sense of humour! He has this combination of impressive work ethic – something he always had – and self-confidence.
Mike Krack
Sebastian Vettel

Did you think Seb would go on to achieve what he has in Formula One?

Honestly, no. At that point in his career, I didn't. But now, looking back, the success he has had is no surprise. I think his intelligence and self-awareness allowed him to reflect and develop as a driver and as a person. In my opinion, it wasn't until 2008, when he was with Toro Rosso, that he really started to make a lot of progress.

What is it like working with Seb again at Aston Martin F1 and has he changed at all?

Seb is the same friendly guy he always was – and he's certainly kept his good sense of humour! He has this combination of impressive work ethic – something he always had – and self-confidence, as well as natural speed and experience; it makes him a great asset to the team. We're on a journey at Aston Martin F1 and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with Seb as we climb together.

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