That Time I Requested Sebastian Vettel to Signal a Blue Flag

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Picture: Elizabeth Blackstock

Again in 2016, Sebastian Vettel bumped into an issue. The previous four-time World Champion had made a swap to the Prancing Horse, however his Ferrari was eternally topic to what he thought-about to be some ill-timed blue flag maneuvers. As he spend the season shouting into the staff radio about a competitor not receiving a flag, I made up my thoughts: I used to be going to have Sebastian Vettel signal a blue flag.

If you happen to obtain a blue flag in racing, which means you’re slower than the automobile behind you and wish to maneuver over. On the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel howled “blue flag! blue flag!” over the radio as he was caught behind Kevin Magnussen’s slower Renault. Earlier within the season, in Hungary, he had confronted the identical downside.

In my thoughts, this was the proper alternative. I used to be heading to the 2016 United States Grand Prix, and I used to be additionally a fan of a very good shitpost. So I ordered a tiny blue flag off the web and introduced it with me to the Ferrari autograph session throughout the race weekend.

Now, it’s not simple to obtain an autograph from a Components 1 driver, however I used to be 20 years previous and deeply decided. On the US GP, autograph periods passed off in one thing of a mosh pit: Followers squished in opposition to a steel barrier, and F1 drivers have been paraded behind it for about 5 minutes at a time, signing autographs. In an effort to observe by on my Twitter promise that I’d get Vettel to signal that rattling flag, I arrived to the observe as quickly as gates opened on Friday and rushed proper to that mosh pit to camp out for the day. I used to be decided. And several other hours later, my dedication to the bit paid off:

When he signed the flag, Vettel made a face, then laughed and told me he liked my sunglasses. As he moved down the line to sign more autographs, he continued to giggle.

It was one of those situations where, had it been a different driver, the reaction could have been worse. But Vettel found the humor in what was undoubtedly a frustrating situation.

And as the years have passed, I think the ability to laugh at himself and to grow have been some of the things that endeared me to Vettel. See, I was never the biggest fan of the German driver; I first started watching F1 in his final year of domination with Red Bull, and I absorbed a lot of the distaste other fans held for him because of that, informed in large part by his stubbornness and hard-headed determination to win at any cost. Later, he made off-color comments about grid girls, which remains one of my biggest red flags in motor racing.

Vettel, though, has stepped back and observed the situation. In the same way he could laugh at a fan teasing him, he’s been able to look at his career and his place in the world and use what he learned to change his ways. His recent turn to activism has displayed that above anything else, and the very fact that he’s stepping away from F1 in part to reevaluate his contributions to climate change have shown that he’s a man willing to change his mind. His decision to mentor younger drivers on their entrance to the sport shows he’s matured. And while he was never exactly my favorite driver, Vettel has managed to endear himself to me as his career has evolved.

I’m sad to see him go — but I’ll always be grateful to have at least one fond interaction with one of F1’s modern legends.

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