Red Bull team principal Christian Horner calls Sebastian Vettel a "grounded superstar"
German driver is the youngest to win back-to-back world championships
The 24-year-old made his return to the track on Thursday at the Jerez test event
Horner is predicting a close battle for the drivers' and constructors' crowns in 2012
Expectations are high for Sebastian Vettel this year. And, as Formula One’s youngest double world champion, you might expect some of that success to go to his head.
But one of the men who knows him best, and whose job it is to channel the skills that have put Red Bull at the top of elite motorsport, is adamant that he is working with a “grounded superstar.”
Team principal Christian Horner is in no doubt that the 24-year-old German driver, who returned to the wheel in the third day of testing in Spain will continue to be a perfect role model.
“He is a great champion and a great ambassador for the sport,” Horner told F1’s official website. “He connects to his age group in a fantastic way as he has all the ‘features’ of a modern-day hero.
“He is fiercely competitive in the cockpit and very down to earth and approachable outside the car. People see his personality.
“He is a grounded superstar, if such a thing exists. That’s why his popularity has mushroomed so much over the last few years.”
The Red Bull Racing name is now established as F1’s dominant force despite this year being just the Austrian-owned team’s eighth in the sport.
Horner is pleased with the rapid progress the Britain-based marque has made, and challenged the team to carry their championship-winning form into 2012.
“2011 was an incredible year for the team and it is amazing what we have achieved,” he said.
“Defending both world titles obviously raises the bar again for 2012, and of course our goal and objective is to defend both trophies again. They look perfect on the shelf in our factory.
“Red Bull Racing hasn’t been in F1 long, which means that we are competing with teams with some phenomenal history and a lot of knowledge to fall back on. So we are taking nothing for granted.”
Horner anticipates a full-blooded battle for the drivers’ and constructors’ titles this season, which starts with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 18.
British team McLaren boast world champions in Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Jenson Button, who triumphed the following year with Brawn GP and was runner-up last season.
Legendary Italian marque Ferrari, who have won a record 16 constructors’ titles, will be led by Spanish two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.
“We know that McLaren is always a strong team,” Horner said. “They have two great drivers so they definitely will be pushing very hard.
“Fernando Alonso and Ferrari will also be strong opponents. So yes, they will be the usual suspects.”