It was a photographer's nightmare. Hundreds, in pink bibs, had positioned themselves just below the podium, around a square cordoned off by white ribbons, large enough to hold three F1 cars.
Having completed their parade lap around the Buddh International Circuit, Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and Romain Grosjean’s Lotus parted the photographers and came to a halt, with just enough space between them for the victor's vehicle. The cameras held their triggers, waiting for Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.
Just then, they heard the man and his machine growl towards them down the straight, and growl right past them. They ran helplessly, tripods in tow, towards where Vettel eventually parked — in the middle of the start-finish line. But by the time their shutters went snap-snap-snap, all they captured was puff-puff-puff.
‘Hungry Heidi’ had vanished like Harry Houdini. In a ball of smoke.
In front of a roaring grandstand, the 26-year old spun four doughnuts (each spin costing him approximately 600 euros in fines), raising an enormous cloud of exhaust smoke. As in a circus act, Vettel reapeared as the fumes settled, standing atop his beast. He then knelt in front of it, and bowed. Then he took off his helmet, peeled off his gloves and revealed his soul.
“I’m way too young to understand what this means,” he said later, at the press conference, between chugs from a jeroboam (3 litres) of champagne. “When I’m 60 I might understand, but then nobody will care about all of this anymore. But I will, I will care. It’s difficult to realise that this is something nobody can ever take away from you.”
In the 60 or so minutes that followed, Vettel went from philosophical to emotional to eventually revealing a vulnerable side never seen before.
For far too long in Vettel’s career, it wasn’t clear where the machine ended and where the man began. Quite like his unerring Red Bull, Vettel had a quest for infallibility. He followed the rules, parked in the right places, smiled for the cameras and said the right things. But on Sunday, when he found the perfection he was