IMAGE: Although Sebastian Vettel is still not remotely tempted by Twitter or Instagram, he has acquired a gaming rig. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel has never been one for social media or had much time for esports but even the four-times world champion has shifted his stance, however slightly, under Formula One’s coronavirus lockdown.
Although the 32-year-old Ferrari driver is still not remotely tempted by Twitter or Instagram, he has acquired a gaming rig. Just how much the German uses it remains to be seen.
Rivals, including his Monegasque team mate Charles Leclerc, who has thrown himself enthusiastically into virtual racing in the absence of any real life track action, can probably rest easy though.
“The truth is I didn’t have a simulator until a couple of days ago so I have not been tempted because I didn’t have the chance,” Vettel told reporters when asked in an online media session about any interest in esports.
“I have heard a lot of things about so I thought I might get one and try it, but I need to still set it up properly,” he added.
Leclerc, a two-times winner last season who also finished ahead of Vettel in the standings, won the virtual Vietnamese Grand Prix this month on his debut in the new Formula One esports race series.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and the Williams pairing of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi have also kept their hands in online as they wait for the season to start.
Seven Formula One races have been postponed so far and organisers are talking of a reduced calendar possibly running into January.
“Generally I’m not going to foresee a career in sim racing,” said Vettel.
“I think it’s more something to try for fun. I grew up with some of the stuff and I’ve been playing some games but to be honest since I had kids it’s not the first thing on my list to do,” added the father of three.
“I’m aware that some people take it very seriously and spend a lot of time there but I also enjoy doing other things.”
Vettel and former team mate Kimi Raikkonen, now with Alfa Romeo and the oldest driver on the grid at 40, are similar in that they both live in Switzerland and guard their privacy closely.
The Ferrari driver made clear he is not about to develop a Twitter following.
“I have not progressed on social media,” he said. “I didn’t have the time. It’s something I never started so it doesn’t feel like I miss it.”
Vettel set for new Ferrari deal before season start
Sebastian Vettel has indicated he could have a new deal done with Ferrari before the Formula One season eventually starts after being put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four-times world champion is out of contract at the end of 2020 but is keen to stay.
Ferrari have said Vettel remains their first choice to partner young Monegasque Charles Leclerc but reports in Italy have suggested they want an answer by the end of April to ensure potential replacements are still available.
“I think one of the key things right now for everyone, whether you are in sports or not, is to remain patient,” Vettel told reporters on a conference call.
“It obviously depends when we will have the first race and there is a high chance that we will have to make a decision before … because at the moment it looks like there will be no race before June or even July.”
The German was coy when asked whether the next contract would be for just one year now that major 2021 rule changes had been delayed to 2022.
“I think whatever the deal will be like will be whatever I and the team will be comfortable with. So in terms of duration, I don’t know,” he said.
Five of Formula One’s seven British-based teams have furloughed staff in response to the health crisis, with drivers taking a temporary pay cut.
“Obviously we don’t yet know how the season will look like and when it will start and how many races we will have,” Vettel said.
“But I have always kept whatever decision I made on this front with the team and myself and it will be the same this time. I’m not into using this point … as a sort of image polisher or anything like that.”
The German said that even if the season was reduced to 10 races from a planned 22 it would still be a valid championship.
“A season is a season whether its 10, 15, 20 or 25 races,” he said. “You still have to be the one who is most consistent.
“Obviously with fewer races every race is more important but in the end the championship would still be the championship.
“Ten races would still be a lot of things to get right”.