Red Bulletin: Welcome to America

By on Wednesday, November 7, 2012

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This month's edition of The Red Bulletin examines Formula One's return to the United States of America, ahead of a race in Austin on November 18th.

The waiter at Lavo on 58th and Madison Avenue is the quintessential good Manhattan waiter. He has picked up from contextual cues – namely, the four-person entourage that makes requests like: “Sebastian has a flight to catch tonight, he needs to be served first” – that Vettel is a very important person indeed. It is also evident by the slightly bewildered way that he brings Vettel’s dinner to him – eye contact? No eye contact? Speak to him directly? Don’t speak to him directly? Wait until he stops checking football scores on his iPhone or just barge right on? – that he has absolutely no idea who Vettel is.

He tentatively but efficiently brings Vettel a meal of steak, potatoes and vegetables. As Vettel drinks half a beer, he recounts his day. He’s in New York for a press conference for the Grand Prix of America, a race across the Hudson River in Weehauken, New Jersey that hopes to be included on the 2013 Formula One race calendar.

Vettel took several laps on the planned track – it’s a road course, like Montreal and Monaco – in a 348bhp Infiniti IPL G Coupe. Starting along the riverfront, the course has a 48m elevation change and Vettel thinks he’ll be able to hit in excess of 320kph on the straights. It also has an astonishing view of the New York skyline from the grandstands.

“There are a lot of fast, floating corners, and that’s what we, the drivers, really like,” Vettel says. “You need to have big balls. It should be real fun.” The police escort trailing behind him huffed and puffed and failed to keep up with Vettel as he blew over the speedbumps in the Infiniti at 130kph, uphill. After spinning a few donuts down by what would be pitlane entrance, Vettel unloaded his queasy passengers in front of the ferry terminal. But the day isn’t all about ditching the police and doing donuts. There are still the out-of-their-depth reporters who ask Vettel questions like: “Do you like being German?” (Vettel responded with a bemused “Do you like being American?”)

That morning, Vettel had left his room at the Rivington Hotel on the Lower East Side at 6am to wander the streets of downtown Manhattan. Vettel walked and walked and walked, enjoying the rare ability to be alone in the canyons of skyscrapers with just his thoughts and the early June sunrise.

“One person recognised me,” says Vettel. “It was a European tourist.”

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On this day
  • Ayrton Senna won the 1988 Japanese Grand Prix.
  • Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 Indian Grand Prix.