Aston Martin F1 Team fan Yannick Vega's F1 journey began as a youngster, at the height of the Michael Schumacher era, but when a young driver emerged from his Spanish homeland to take on the world and win, his fascination with Grand Prix racing – and his devotion to Fernando Alonso – grew into an admiration.
When a chance conversation with a friend led to a commitment to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Yannick channelled the qualities he most admired in Fernando – grit, determination, and resilience – to take on Africa's highest peak. And when he made it to the summit, he showed his colors by making the final ascent in an Aston Martin F1 Team shirt.
This is the story of Yannick's inspiring climb…
Climbing Kilimanjaro came about by chance
"A good friend and I share the same passion for mountains and nature, but we realized we had never done anything like that together. I was coming from Guatemala, where I climbed Acatenango, and he told me that I should try Kilimanjaro. And we said, 'OK, well, let's just do it.' We bought the tickets, and that was it."
You have to respect the mountain
"I wasn't nervous. You have the desire to do it well but knowing that you cannot necessarily control everything that's going to happen. I come from the mountains, not too far from where Fernando is from, near Oviedo in the mountains of Asturias. So, when I was opening the door or the window when I woke up in the morning, I had that big mountain in front of me, so it was normal – but still, you need to respect the mountain. That's the approach and trying to do everything correctly. You don't compromise."
Fernando was an inspiration
"When Fernando arrived in F1 there was something very strong, very deep in Spain, it was a big phenomenon, but I would say the years after his World Championship wins were probably the most… I wouldn't say enjoyable, but they were the years when we learned to appreciate what we had.
"It's the years you don't have a competitive car, the years he was going through more difficulty. In 2012 I was crying in front of my TV, seeing what he did with that car… I remember Malaysia and Valencia I think it was 2012, in the rain. I learned to appreciate that resilience through hard times."
The toughest part of the climb was right at the end
"There were some tough moments but if I had to pick one, it's the push for the summit, no doubt. On the fourth day, you wake up early and then you have to make it to the base camp before the summit. You arrive there at about 15:00. At 18:00, they bring you dinner, you have to sleep a little bit and then you go. You need to sleep but you can't because you're thinking about what you have to do: 'What's going to happen? Am I going to make it?' You overthink a lot.
"And then it's midnight and you're going up. You see all the little lights. Nobody's talking. Everybody's focused on everything, step by step, slowly, slowly. And in that moment, when you look in front of you, it's far, it's 01:00 and you still have five or six hours to go. You start doubting. That's a tough moment, but also a beautiful moment, because it's where there is a meaning to what you're doing."
Reaching the summit was emotional
"Everyone is focused on the summit and when you make it with a team… we're friends, like family, despite having been strangers before the climb – but when it's the summit push, everyone needs to focus on their own task. And the task is just one step after the other.
"Everybody made it from my team, and it was a beautiful moment to see them there. People often ask me what I felt when I reached the summit. It's hard to put into words. You become a bit emotional. It's just an incredible moment."
The parallel with Aston Martin F1 Team
"I wore my Aston Martin F1 Team shirt and cap from day one of the climb. People were asking questions. Some of them knew F1. Some of them knew Fernando. Some of them didn't know anything. So, I had to explain. I could share and I could explain through the camps at night, in the breakfast, in the evenings. It was beautiful.
"And obviously, at the top, I was wearing all of that stuff and everyone could see it. I reached the top of my climb, and I hope that Aston Martin F1 Team will conquer its climb and reach its own summit – the top of F1. I'm an optimist, but I believe the team will make it.
"Having reached my summit, I hope it can be a little bit of extra push or inspiration for the people working at the team. I'm sure it's not needed, but if it can bring something I just hope it's a little bit of extra motivation to say, 'We're going to make it and reach the top of Formula One.'"
The right path
"I've followed the transformation of the team through the years and today, with the investments, the facilities, everything the team is setting up, it sounds like it's on the right path to achieve its ambitions. It's not a case of whether the team is going to make it, it's a matter of when. The team is on an incredible journey – it's taking the right steps towards success – and it's great to be a part of it as a fan."
The highlight of the 2023 season: beautiful Brazil
"I wasn't there and I couldn't watch the race live, but the São Paulo Grand Prix was something unforgettable. I was in Africa and I was trying to connect to WiFi and trying to follow what was happening through social media. And then when I saw Fernando's fighting finish… I saw the emotions and the comments. I couldn't believe what he had achieved."
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