Sebastian Vettel’s career has been one of the best in the entire history of Formula 1, and the fact is that the German is the third with the most victories thanks to his 53 wins, which have earned him four times world champion.
However, his golden era in the Grand Circus could have been very different had he accepted an offer in his early years in motorsport’s top flight, as current Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer has revealed.
The American worked as director of strategy and business planning for Honda in Formula 1, and ensured that Sebastian Vettel was available on the transfer market for two weeks in his first steps in the sport.
The now head of the Enstone team has always had a very good relationship with the German driver, and played a key role in his signing when he left Ferrari in the 2020 season to go to Aston Martin.
At 35 years old, Vettel announced that he would retire at the end of this course, but in the beginning he was close to joining another interesting project that did not end as well as expected.
When Szafnauer was asked for his best anecdote with Vettel at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Alpine boss revealed that there was a moment when he almost signed the then-young Red Bull and BMW academy driver to start at Honda , and only the sports director, Gil de Ferran prevented his arrival.
“Seb [Vettel] came up to me and said: ‘I have a period of two weeks’, and it was a young man who was, I don’t know, 19 years old or something like that,” he recalled. “There’s a two-week period where the contract was up with Red Bull, and I think with BMW, so are they interested in signing me?”
“Back then I was an unknown, but I said to myself: ‘yeah, this guy is good!’ Two weeks to go!” Szafnauer continued. “So he went to Gil [de Ferran], and I told him that we had two weeks to sign Vettel.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got my eye on him,” de Ferran replied to the American, to which the current boss of the Enstone team said: “What do you mean you’ve got your eye on him? We have two weeks.”
“We didn’t sign him anyway,” said the Alpine director, who watched as the German driver made his Formula 1 debut for BMW at the United States Grand Prix by replacing the injured Robert Kubica, before securing a seat in time. complete with Toro Rosso that same year.
That paved the way for the German, who would become the youngest driver in history to win a race in the highest category of motorsports and later repeat the same with the world title in 2010 with Red Bull.
Otmar Szafnauer would leave Honda in mid- 2008 , which turned out to be the Japanese’ last campaign in the Grand Circus as a team. At the end of the season, the firm from the country of the Rising Sun disassociated itself from the structure and made way for Brawn GP , which won in 2009 with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello before becoming Mercedes from 2010.
The American official and Vettel maintained a good relationship until in 2020 they began to talk about his signing for Aston Martin in a famous car trip to a gas station at the British Grand Prix.
Szafnauer revealed that the German brought homemade bread to stay with him in the UK to explain the four-time world champion driver’s ways: “During COVID-19, he felt more comfortable without going to hotels, and thought he could catch the virus”.
“He spent time at our house every time he came to England, because everyone was doing tests, so we were sure we didn’t have COVID-19,” he said. “And every time he came, he would bring homemade bread that he made in Switzerland in a little backpack, and I remember the kids staring at him, but they loved what Seb brought.”
“Every time he came back he had to bring homemade bread. Brilliant! Who else does that?” he concluded.