Being “backstage” at the Formula 1 Grand Prix for four days last week, the one person who stood out for me was Sebastian Vettel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an athlete so relaxed. He made time for everybody to have a little chat, take a photo, sign an autograph, on and on.
Most drivers didn’t seem to be going anywhere without their agent by their side and a bit of nervousness in the air. They too would allow for a few photos and autographs, but then they’d duck into their secluded areas as quickly as possible. Even at the eve of the race, when most drivers left around 5pm, Vettel walked out at the same time as I did, sometime after 7. Yes, I know, he didn’t win the next day, but being able to stay that calm in a sport that is mental as much as physical has to be an advantage.
It made me think if I know of a rider who is as calm before a race, but I can’t think of any. It’s not that they are all nervous wrecks, far from it, but Vettel was at a different level of serenity. The only time a cyclist claims to be that calm or “tranquilo” is if they have just been accused of doping. Have you ever noticed that, how the first response is often that they are tranquilo? How can that be, if you’ve just been accused of the worst thing possible in your sport? Was it no surprise? Would you not go out of your mind if you’d just been notified of a false positive?